Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 16
When your beer really stinks
Dec. 21, 2000
Few beer tasting terms are more descriptive or straightforward than "skunky."
Quite simply, a skunky beer emits an aroma it didn't have when it left the
The smell is the product of the chemical reaction that takes place in the
bottle when bright light strikes the hops, creating what's technically known
as "light struck" beer. The reaction is stronger with paler and hoppier
beers. The resulting chemical is identical to that in a skunk's defense
system, and light-struck beer puts off one of the most powerful aromas
Green and clear bottles do little to protect a beer from skunking, and while
dark brown bottles are much better they are far from perfect. Because many of
the best known imports come in clear or green bottles consumers have come to
associate a skunky aroma with imported, often more expensive beer. That
doesn't mean their brewers intended them to taste that way.
The brighter the light and the longer bottles sit in that light the stronger
the skunky smell will be. Even dark brown bottles won't guard a beer from the
bright fluorescent lights popular in grocery stores and many other beer
retail outlets for very long.
You don't have to settle for that beer. In some stores you'll see six-packs
sitting on tops of cases. Don't grab that one, but get your beer from inside
the case. A sealed case is even better. If you want beer from the cooler
don't be shy about asking if there are unopened cases in the cooler and
buying a six-pack from one of those.
Buying beer that has been kept out of the light gives you a better chance of
getting a "skunk free" beer. It's up to you to keep it that way -- mostly by
continuing to keep it out of direct light -- until you drink it.
CAVE-CONDITIONED HENNEPIN ALE
Brewed at Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, N.Y.
Michael Jackson's tasting notes:
Hennepin has a very spicy aroma; a firm, smooth, palate; and a lemony dryness
in the finish. In the caverns, I found the beer drier than other bottlings I
had sampled, with more depth of flavor, a more delicate balance, and a softer
carbonation. My guess is that Hennepin would hit its stride at three months,
and comfortably develop for at least a year. The brewery's stronger, richer,
dark Ommegang might well enjoy five years or more.
FULL SAIL WASSAIL
Brewed by Full Sail Brewing Co., Hood River, Oregon
Real Beer tasting notes:
Truly a Winter Warmer, with a fruity nose, full malt flavor, chocolate and
roasted undertones. Long hop finish. A beer to be sipped by the hearth (6.7%
alcohol by volume). Full Sail also takes the mystery out of pairing this
style of beer with food, offering a full array of choices, from entrees to