No Skunky Beer Here!

One of the biggest challenges facing any retail store where beer sits on the shelves is avoiding beer becoming light-struck, or “skunked.”

What is skunky beer?

Beer that has been skunked is simply a beer that has come in contact with UV rays, which causes alpha acids (the chemical compound in hops that adds bitterness to your beer) to break down and create a sulfur-based chemical (3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol). That produces a mercaptan smell that can be off-putting. It smells (and even tastes, to a smaller extent) like skunk.

In fact, the chemical created in this process is almost identical to what you find in skunk spray.

Photo credit: beeriety.com

Photo credit: beeriety.com

 

Note that light is the only thing that can skunk a beer. Storing beer at room temperature or changing the temperature of a beer from warm to cold will not skunk a beer, though these are common misconceptions (and still probably not ideal for your beer).

Beer that is in clear bottles has no UV protection, and green bottles only block about 20% of the UV rays, which means that these beers, if left under sunlight or fluorescent light, will start to become skunked within a day. Brown bottles, however, protect against about 98% of UV rays, and canned or kegged beers block out 100% of UV rays.

Thus, the issue that bottle shops face. They need beer to be out on the shelves, and they need light for people to see. At The Glass Jug, we’re taking a few measures to help prolong the shelf-life of our bottled beer inventory and help you, our customers, be more confident in the quality of the product you are purchasin, and avoid opening up a beer that smells like a skunk.

What are we doing?

For starters, our space has a great wall of windows in the front of the store. We like this, as it makes the store feel warm and inviting. So to keep this atmosphere without putting any beer in danger, you’ll notice that we never store any beer in the very front of the shop. That area will be reserved for seating and enjoying beer. Also, due to the orientation of our space, we will never see direct sunlight come in through these front windows. We are also going through lengths in laying out the store to make sure that the beer closest to the windows are in cans, or at the very least, brown bottles.

So, while we can’t (and wouldn’t want to) turn off the sun, we can fix the larger issue that most retail stores face – fluorescent light. Our space, as it sits now, has lots of fluorescent light fixtures, so we’re going to rip them all out. Let’s be real – fluorescent light kinda sucks anyway, even if it didn’t skunk your beer.

We will be replacing all of the fluorescent light fixtures with brand new LED fixtures. This is better for the environment, more energy efficient, longer lasting, and produces very little UV rays, of which only a very tiny percentage are emitted.

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The goal is to light our space in a way that is still warm and inviting, without worry of compromising the quality of any of the beer you come to buy. And, obviously, we think it’s pretty cool that it’s more energy efficient and good for the environment.

 

3 Comments

  1. Asheville Steve

    Haha I love the little infographic that you included in this post. It paints the perfect picture– i.e. tasting a skunky beer is not a pleasant experience. I also really appreciate that you took the time to clear up a few misconceptions, I’ll admit that I used to think that taking beer from cold to warm and back to cold may mess with the flavor.

  2. Calvo

    We have a new cooler with LED lighting….since the purchase we have had many instances with skunked beer….it states here that LED will prevent this….other than turning the inside lights off, I’m not sure of the best course of action….

    I was going to paint the bulbs to reduce exposure(it works well for toning down indoor neons)….if so….what would be the best color to paint bulbs?

    1. Chris Creech

      Sorry for the slow response. If your cooler has glass doors and your inside lights are not LED, then you’re likely skunking the beer from those lights (not the lights in the cooler, itself). We love our LED ceiling lights, so I would advise investing in good LED lighting throughout your space. It’s a much better long-term solution than painting the bulbs.

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