[ ed: We have covered this issue before. But Vav's explanation is worded so well that we couldn't help but post it here on the Binny's Blog. It's a common question. ]
I just bought a case of Petrus Aged Pale Ale. I opened it up when I got home and noticed it was cold. I thought this was probably a mistake since most people buying in bulk would want it warm so they can cool it at their leisure. I called to see if I could exchange it, and the guy said I could but the beer would be fine. Basically it’s a myth about the warming/cooling of beer that leads to aged taste or skunkiness, and exposure to light matters. I was confused, having thought that was a factor.
The beer is absolutely fine for a number of reasons. Bear with me. There’s a lot of science coming up.
“Skunking” is a specific occurrence in beer, not a catch all for when beer goes bad.
Beer uses hops as its bitter component to balance the sweetness of malt. When hops are added to the beer during the boiling, they release Iso-Alpha Acids, which are the main components in hop oil. During the boil alpha acids isomerize, or transform into different molecules, which are very bitter. These, along with other hop oils, remain in the beer, contributing hop aroma. Some of the oils are quite volatile, and will break down when exposed to ultraviolet light. The reaction is quite fast: literally a matter of minutes and the isohumulone will break down into a chemical similar in makeup and aroma to the chemicals that come from a skunk’s anal scent glands. This is why beers from certain big European breweries smell skunky: green glass offers almost no protection from light. Clear bottles offer no protection. Brown bottles offer great but not perfect protection. A fun experiment is to grab a four pack of either Pilsner Urquell or Beck’s in cans. Pour a couple ounces into a clear glass, and put it on a sunny windowsill for two minutes. Then pour a few ounces into a second glass and smell the beer in both glasses. The difference will shock you.
Some beers like Corona and some Miller products use hop extracts that have been chemically altered to prevent skunking, even in clear bottles. So that’s where skunking comes from. In fact, we also call it Light Struck.
Still with me? Go grab a beer and then come back. There’s more…
What could be more tempting than sneaking a peek at somebody’s mail? Here’s your chance to see the kinds of letters we get every day. Have a question of your own? Email us at email@example.com. firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
I am extremely concerned about whiskeys being called bourbon, yet being aged in sherry/wine/brandy casks. Isn’t there a strict law about what can and cannot be called bourbon?
Yes and no. The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits (pdf) covers what needs to happen to whiskey before it can be called bourbon:
- It has to be made from at least 51% corn.
- It has to be aged in NEW, charred oak barrels.
- It can’t be distilled higher than 160 proof and can’t be put into a barrel for aging at higher than 125 proof.
- It has to be bottled at 80 proof or higher.
Bourbon that you see with sherry or port cask aging is FINISHED in those casks. These bourbons generally spend several years in the legally required new charred oak barrels, and then are finished in refilled port, sherry or whatever barrels for a short time, usually 3-9 months. Angel’s Envy is a great example of this – a bourbon that saw years in charred oak barrels that then sees extra time finishing in port casks, giving it its characteristic gobs of round fruit.
Here’s another peek into Binny’s Mailbag:
Can you give me a champagne/sparkling wine recommendation in the $10 – $15 range? I would prefer something that is not too dry.
Sounds like Prosecco would be right up your alley. This light, delicate sparkler from northern Italy tends to be not as dry as true Champagne. A favorite of ours is the Nino Franco Rustico. It’s always a value, and you’ll see extra savings this month when you use your Binny’s Card.
You would probably also love the Gruet Extra Dry - a stunner of a value, this is made in New Mexico (of all places!) by a French family. This is also just $12.99 with the Binny’s card in December, and is just off-dry with very fine bubbles. They make it using Methode Champenoise, the same processes used in Champagne.
We’re back with another question pulled from the Binny’s Mailbag.
Hi, my name is Grant. I was curious about certain types of wine Binny’s has, more specifically wines you don’t have but might be able to get. I just went to Argentina and they have very good wine, but it’s difficult to get some like “Ciclos” brand and a few other brand names. Is there a way for Binny’s to order them somehow?
Sounds like you had a great trip! Argentina has so much to offer.
As for the wines you were able to try there, for Binny’s to be able to order or carry a particular wine, it has to be imported into the U.S. and also carried by a licensed Illinois distributor.
If there are specific wines that you would like to get, please let us know the full name and we’ll be happy to see if it is attainable. You mention Ciclos, which looks like a label from Argentina producer Michel Torino – a producer who we did carry years ago – so there is a chance.
By the way, if you are thinking about a visit to Binny’s this weekend, all our stores will be sampling staff-pick favorites from Argentina this Saturday, November 10th, from 1-4pm. For free! Hope to see you there!
Thanks for the question,
We’re back with the Binny’s Mailbag. Go ahead and take a peek:
Do you guys sell any non-alcoholic wines? And are they any good?
We certainly do! And yeah, they’re all right. This time of year, it never hurts to have an extra bottle or two of sparkling juice or N/A wine to make sure nobody misses out on the holiday festivities.
If you’re looking for wine for fans of wine, the best we’ve had are from Ariel. They offer the most “wine-like” experience. FRE by Sutter Home is also good in a lighter, fruitier style. Both start as fermented wine and then have their alcohol removed, as opposed to an unfermented grape product trying to taste like wine.
Of course, we have you covered when it comes to non-alcoholic beer, too.
And don’t forget about the kids. We always recommended sparkling juices and ciders to stand in for alcoholic bubbly. Make that special toast fun for everyone!
Thanks for the question!
- Binny’s Mailbag
Who wouldn’t want to sneak a peek into Binny’s Mailbag? Here’s your chance:
I gave the Binny’s in Glen Ellyn a try after hearing so many positive things about the store. I was impressed with the selection of beers and was happy to see a 24 pack of Labatt Blue cans. I picked up a case and drank some of them over the next couple days noticing Labatt doesn’t taste as good as I remembered.
There was a promotion on the front of the case for Labatt rewards points with details inside the box. I checked the print inside, and was shocked to see the promotion was for 2010-2011! Being that we are in the tail end of 2012, I couldn’t believe the store is selling 2 year old beer! I noticed there were a lot of staff in the store asking customers if they need assistance finding anything – which is great. However, I think it would be wiser use of employee resources to have someone check the inventory every few years to check the coolers. I thought I would bring to your attention this very disturbing find.
We checked this out right away, and we believe it isn’t a case of old beer, but old packaging. We checked the inside of a package we have in stock, and it indeed lists a promotion that starts in 2010 and ends in 2011.
However, we also checked the code dates stamped on the packaging of flats and on the cans inside the flats we have in stock. It reads “G172.” The first letter stands for the month. Since G is the 7th letter in the alphabet, this beer was canned in July. The second two numbers stand for the day of the month, so July 17th. Finally the last number stands for the year, 2 for 2012. So the beer that we currently have in stock was canned on July 17th, 2012, which is well inside of its freshness window.
We hope this makes sense. Labatt should probably hire a new graphics/packaging guy.
As for Labatt Blue not tasting as good as you remember, that’s probably subjective.
Who wouldn’t want to sneak a peek into Binny’s Mailbag?
I read on the UGC de Bordeaux website that there will be a Binny’s tasting on January 23rd, 2013, which I assume is similar to what there was earlier this year for the 2009 vintage. However, I don’t see any announcement on your website or blog. Any idea when this will be official and allow us to purchase tickets to?
The announcement and ticket sales for the January 23rd Union des Grands Crus Bordeaux Tasting should come later this year. We’re looking forward to tasting another great vintage with our customers and friends from Bordeaux. It will be held at the Drake this time around, which is an absolutely gorgeous venue for this great event.
Please check back to binnys.com for more information in late November or early December. We’ll see you at the UGC Bordeaux tasting!
Another question from the Binny’s Mailbag:
Do you carry Luscious Vines wines in your stores?
Sorry, but it looks like Luscious Vines Wines are only available east coast right now. We’ll watch for them to increase their distribution footprint into the state of Illinois, but until then:
If you like LV reds, you would probably love Serena Red or Malvira Birbet. Both are red and lush and lightly to medium sweet. If it’s white you’re after, if you haven’t tried some of the Italian Moscato d’Asti wines we have, I think you would find some favorites too. This category is more popular than ever.
Hope this helps. Please let us know if we can check on any others for you.
Thanks for the inquiry!
- Binny’s Mailbag
The Binny’s Mailbag is back again, with a question about one of our most popular wet hopped ales:
This years Two Brothers Heavy Handed tastes much different that in past years. Are they using different hops? I really don’t care for this years taste.
Great questions Steve! It looks like your Palate is on to something.
Every year Two Brothers does several different batches of Heavy Handed, each one wet hopped with a different hop varietal. We believe you probably got your hands on Heavy Handed wet hopped with Willamette hops since this is the current version of Heavy Handed in our stores. You may want to avoid hoppy beers in the future that feature this hop varietal.
We would suggest you check the lot number on the back of your bottle (likely #2512), and the next time you stop by Binny’s, check the lot number on the backs of the bottles we have in stock. If they are different lot numbers, give the beer a shot. It will be a completely different beer, even though the bottle will look exactly the same.
Here is a nifty list Two Brothers supplied us that details which hops coincide with which lots. Enjoy!
Once again, we’re offering you the chance to peek inside our mail. Let’s open up the Binny’s Mailbag:
Dear Binny’s Mailbag -
I just returned from Aruba where I purchased duty-free Scotch. Just to let you know, Binny’s prices for many scotches are below duty free prices, some quite a bit.
We try to always keep the most competitive prices. We’re glad to hear it shows. And we’re not just a low price – we’d love to see them pack this kind of selection into a little shop in an airport!
Hope you had a great time in Aruba. Is it possible to not have a great time?
Well that was short. Maybe we have space for another mailbag question.
Dear Binny’s Mailbag -
I was once served a Belgium blonde beer that had a peeing cupid on the label. There was a very interesting story involving the town and the Germans during WWII. Can you tell me the name of the beer and if you carry it?
First, that peeing cupid is Manneken Pis, a famous statue in Brussels. It’s been there since the 17th century. And though he is no cupid, the statue depicts a urinating child complete with fountain stream.