4 Off Flavors That Can Mess With Your Beer

Have you ever dropped your hard-earned cash on a 6 pack of your favorite beer only to get it home and find that it just tastes totally off? You just experienced what brewers and beer experts refer to as an off-flavor. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Today we will be examining the nature and causes of the four of the most common off-flavors that can mess with your beer. We are talking about the most tragic of circumstances when good beer tastes bad.

Beer is a chemically complex beverage. It undergoes a series of physical and chemical transformations. Because brewing, storing, and shipping beer is such a complex process there are a lot of steps that can go wrong. Bacterial infection, exposure to oxygen, and even exposure to light can turn a delicious beer into a foul one. Today we are going to examine four of the most common off-flavors in beer. And go over how you can prevent each of these things from ruining your good brew. Also, feel free to check our 5 Best Tips to Instantly Improve your Home Brew beer for some beer inspiration advice.

A glass of beer and a skunk.
Credit. https://www.thrillist.com/drink/nation/how-to-tell-when-your-beer-has-gone-bad-skunky-beer

1. Skunkiness

A disgusting skunk smell of your beer is caused by ultraviolet light hitting compounds from the hops. Almost every beer in the world contains some hops and the alpha acids from hops give beer its bitter bite. When ultraviolet lights hit those alpha acids they begin to break down and produce sulfurous compounds. Sulfur tends to make some really smelly chemical compounds.

Preventing skunking is as easy as keeping your precious beers out of light. The kind of container of beers also makes a big difference.

  • Cans keep out 100 % of ultraviolet light.
  • Brown glass keeps out 85 %
  • Green glass only 20 %
  • Clear glass lets all the light in.

2. Oxidation

A bottle and a glass of oxidized beer.
Credit: https://www.kissmybrew.com/oxidation/

The cause of oxidation is very simple. The beer is exposed to oxygen either through a broken seal or improper storage. Beer is filled with all sorts of delicious chemicals and flavor compounds. But oxygen reacts with those compounds causing the beer to taste stale. If you have an oxidized beer it will likely be tasteless or even taste like cardboard.

Unfortunately, oxidation is inevitable as any small amount of air in the beer container will eventually have its way with your beer. Given enough time. The easiest way not to drink stale beer is to drink your beer fresh. Don’t keep it for years. Drink it now.

3. Diacetyl

Beer tasting set up with 4 beer samples on a wooden plate
Credit: https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g297654-d6892942-i292803293-The_Irish_Village-Pune_Pune_District_Maharashtra.html

Diacetyl is a compound that gives the beer a fake butter flavor and a slick mouthfeel. It is caused by oxygen reacting with alpha acetyl lactate which is a normal byproduct of yeast metabolism. Normally years reabsorbs it and breaks down alpha acetyl lactates if given enough time. But if a brewer doesn’t give enough time it can remain in the beer. Then as soon as you open it and drink it, it breaks down into a slick buttery mess.

4. Lactobacillus

Three glasses filled with different colors of beer.
Credit: https://invisiblesentinel.com/products/beer-quality-tests/brewpal-hop-resistant-pediococcus-and-lactobacillus/

Lactobacillus is a strain of bacteria. In fact, it’s the same strain used to turn milk into cheese and yogurt. Lactobacillus eats the sugars in the unfermented wort but instead of converting them to alcohol, they convert them to lactic acid. The lactic acid in small amounts can give the beer a sour flavor. But in more significant quantities it gives beer cheddar cheese or sour milk flavor that is very unpleasant.

Despite the cheesy places that lactobacillus can take a beer, sour beer styles such as Berliner Weisse are growing increasingly popular. A small amount of lactobacillus plays a big role in those beers.

It’s important to note that some people are more sensitive to certain off-flavors than others. If someone tastes something strange in a beer that you cant detect take their word for it. Off flavors are often very subtle in today’s commercial beer. Cheers.

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