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Most beer drinkers can relate when it comes to tales about beer gone bad when left out and what happens when it gets skunky. This has started a bit of a myth that cycling temperatures have an effect on beer’s freshness, but it is as you read—a myth. After all, even during the brewing process, beer is subjected to boiling, cooling, and periods fermenting outside of a refrigerator. Let’s not forget imported beer, which goes through several temperature changes before it even arrives at the store.
If beer went bad because of temperature cycling, the whole world would be drowning in skunked beer. So, that brings about the questions: does beer go bad if left out opened or unopened? Can refrigerated beer be left unrefrigerated?
Let’s figure it out.
What Makes Beer Go Bad?
Beer goes bad for a number of reasons, but it’s not temperature cycling—or the rise and fall of ambient temperature—that does it. When beer goes bad, it is often the result of three things: oxygen, bacteria, and light. The only time when beer is affected by temperature and goes stale is when the heat is extreme.
If you’re thinking, “But wait, wouldn’t light exposure also increase the temperature?” Well, yes, but it’s not the temperature that’s the culprit. Your skin and beer have one thing in common: they both dislike UV rays. The chemical compounds in hops will react to ultraviolet light, turning beer skunky.
So, you don’t have to worry about your warmed beer tasting foul. What you truly have to worry about is leaving your bottle of brew out in the sunshine while you’re gardening or opening the can and forgetting about it. This means that if you just got a home delivery of fresh beer or picked up a six-pack for a party but there’s no room in the cooler, there’s no reason to sweat. Simply find some place out of the sun to store the beer.
Because, as we said before, extreme temperatures and direct heat that is upwards of 80-plus degrees F (26+ degrees C) could start messing with your beer’s freshness.
What Happens When Beer Warms Then Gets Re-Cooled?
There are a couple of routes we can go with this answer. First, as mentioned above, a chilled pack of beer can sit out on the counter for a bit, maybe even get a little warm, and then be put in the refrigerator later without any real penalties. You won’t notice any diminished flavors. The bitterness and aromas will remain the same.
If you decide to bring a cold pack of beer home then store it without refrigerating it, the beer won’t last as long, but again, the flavor will be fine.
But what happens if the place that once cool beer is stored gets hot? Well, very warm temperatures will start affecting the quality of the beer within a few days. For instance, malts will become sickeningly sweet, or some beers get the flavor of soggy cardboard. Either way, not the best outcome.
In short, beer can come to room temperature and be fine. Just don’t expose it to extreme heat or direct sunlight or oxygen for too long.
Does beer go bad if left out? In most cases, no. You can store beer in a cool, dark place for months. What you cannot do is store beer somewhere hot or in direct sunlight. So, there is no reason to fret over temperature cycling. Your beer will be fine!
FAQs on Beer Going Bad If Left Out
Even when you pull a chilled six-pack from the freezer section of the store and bring it home, you can leave it unrefrigerated for some time. In fact, when commercially bottled or canned beer is left in a cool, dark place, you can count on it being fine for several months or years. As long as the room is not above 95 degrees F (35 degrees C), your beer should keep for a while.
Now, if the beer is opened, that’s another matter entirely. If beer is exposed to air, it will go bad much more quickly than if it is left unopened and unrefrigerated.
That depends. How long was the beer left out for? Is there still a little fizz? Was the beer left exposed to light or somewhere warm? Depending on your answers, you may be able to drink it. You do want to avoid beer that has been left out and is now skunked. This means that the beer has been exposed to sunlight and has a poor odor or tastes like cardboard. You should also avoid beer that has a cabbage or sulfuric scent. You won’t get sick from drinking bad beer, though, so if you accidentally take a sip of skunky beer, don’t worry.
Yes. Once opened, beer has a shorter lifespan. Even if you leave an opened can or bottle of beer in the fridge, it will still go flat. This happens because the carbonation in the bottle or can leaves the beer within 24-48 hours.
Most beers will last beyond the expiration date printed on the packaging. You can store beer at room temperature (in a dark, cool place) and have it last for about 6-9 months after the best-used-by date. You don’t have to refrigerate beer to store it.
Videos answering does beer go bad if left out
If you’ve still got questions about whether beer will survive outside your fridge, check out this video!