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Why Does My Beer Smell Like a Skunk?


It does not take the well trained nose of a beer aficionado to determine if a beer has gone bad or not. No sir; upscale brew connoisseur and backwoods drunkards alike know that there is only one word to describe the putrid scent of beer gone rotten – and that is “skunk.”

A skunked beer smells horrific and tastes even worse; drinking one is akin to wrapping your lips around the sphincter of a wild animal with a violent stink gland. Not even a desperate alcoholic in the bible-belt depths of desperation and Sunday will knock back too many of these foul beverages before considering a sullen ride on the sober wagon.

In the past, the brewing industry blamed hops, a sulfur compound and flavin for causing this despicable reaction in beer. It wasn’t until 2001 that scientists discovered that it was, in fact, a chemical reaction of hop alpha acids and light that caused skunky beer – not heat or oxygen. The chemical reaction that happens when light gets into beer produces a compound referred to as 3-MBT, which is similar to what a skunk sprays as a defense mechanism. So essentially when you drink a skunk beer, you are literally sucking on the rear end of one of Pepe’ Le Pew’s less charming relatives.

To avoid skunk beer, scientists say you should stick to beer packaged in a keg, cask or can. However, you can also do what we do: drink it hard, fast and continuously. Trust us, your beer will not have enough time to get warm, much less go bad.

Next: Become an Expert With the Beer Flavor Wheel


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