This is one the most-asked questions in our tasting room. Is it ok for cold beer to warm up? Will that affect the flavor? Shouldn’t I just buy warm beer if I have a long drive home? We’re happy to report that letting cold beer come to room temperature has no effect on its flavor.
At Allagash, we store almost all of our beer cold. The main reason we do this is because ultimately cold beer will stay fresher, longer. That being said, it is an old pervasive myth that cold beer, when warmed to room temperature, will go “skunky” or bad. Skunking is a reaction caused by light interacting with a chemical compound found in hops and has nothing to do with temperature. The technical off flavor name of skunky beer is “lightstruck” and is most common in beer packaged in clear or green glass.
Certainly, higher-than-normal temperatures for an extended period of time can have a bad effect on a beer’s flavor. Heat actually doesn’t create a specific off flavor itself. Instead, it acts to speed up the process of oxidation. Oxidation causes some beers to develop a stale, cardboard-like flavor, accompanied by a note of sherry. More malt-forward beers can even develop a sweet, bready, and toffee-ish flavor. A beer’s “hoppiness” will also dissipate with extreme heat. The bitterness hops impart in the beer will stay in the mouthfeel, but any of those piney, citrusy, or floral hop aromas won’t stick around for long in a too-hot beer.
What is too hot? Think of it this way: as the temperature of your beer goes up, the effects of oxidation increase exponentially. So a beer sitting at 60 degrees Fahrenheit will retain its original flavor for much longer than a beer sitting at 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Our advice when you’re taking home cold beer? Put it in a shady spot inside your car to keep it from heating up in the sun. A blanket always helps. That’s about it.
So grab as many cold beers as you want during your next brewery visit—wherever that happens to be—they’ll still taste great when you get home.