The myth – “Beer will be ruined if you take it out of the fridge and let it warm up to room temperature. “
Variations on the myth:
- If you let beer warm up to room temp and then chill it again it will be ruined.
- If you let cold beer warm to room temp it’ll get skunked.
We heard this myth or some variation of it at The Four Firkins many times a day. It is easily the most common beer myth and it seems to be getting more popular and widespread no matter how many people we tried to convince that it’s not true.
The fact is, taking your beer out of the fridge and letting it warm to room temperature has no noticeable effect at all.
You could take a beer in and out of a fridge ten times, letting it warm each time, and there’s no way you’d be able to tell in a blind taste test if it had been treated as such. Most beer at the retail level has already been through two or three temperature fluctuations before it even got to the store.
Two things happen to beer as it gets old. Firstly: Proteins from the malt fall out of solution, the same proteins that give the beer a beautiful head of foam will eventually clump and become nasty looking floaties if left long enough. Secondly: Oxidization will occur. The interaction of oxygen with the beer over time causes it to have a grainy, wet cardboard flavor. In some beers it comes across as a sherry of crayon like flavor. Heating the beer will speed up both of these processes but the small temperature change from the cooler to the room is not enough to make either of those things happen immediately. You would have to do it dozens, if not hundreds of times.
We’re not talking about “Skunking” here. “Skunked” or “light struck” beer is beer that has been penetrated by ultraviolet light. The U.V. light breaks down the hop molecules and produces a chemical off aroma and flavor that actually smells like a skunk. Only U.V. light can cause this reaction. It’s nothing to do with temperature.
Extreme temperatures will ruin beer, although misunderstandings about this are also abundant. Leaving your beer in the car on a hot summers day while the car is stationary and the windows are up will destroy your beer very quickly. The inside of a car can get up to 130 degrees in about an hour on a hot day. It’ll kill a dog; ruin yogurt and most certainly destroy your beer. It’ll be undrinkable and you’ll have wasted your money.
Ironically many of the people who tell us they won’t buy beer from our cooler because they are afraid it’ll warm up and get ruined see nothing wrong with leaving it in the trunk of their hot car all day!
The lack of understanding regarding beer and how to treat it is a cultural problem that has existed since your grandfather was paying $3 a case.
What is going on? How did we get so confused?
Big breweries and their advertising campaigns seem to be the culprit. Early claims that pasteurization made beer almost indestructible are the biggest offenders. Constant talk of “Ice cold beer” and images of snowy peaks or bottles of beer in ice have been another common theme.
More unusual campaigns focus on things like, “Tripel hopped”, “Dark brewed”, “Cold filtered” or “Brewed with alpine spring water”. All of these concepts and others are either outright fabrications or meaningless statements. They attempt to make a beer seem different somehow, when in fact, it’s not.
It appears the decades of beer commercials have worked. Not only have they convinced most Americans that a beer should be freezing cold and flavorless, they’ve left us all so misinformed about the product that we’ll believe anything!
It’s time to take back the beer knowledge. The next time you hear someone complain that the beer will be ruined if they take it out of the fridge you’ll be able to quietly explain to them, “Hey, that’s not actually true, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”