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Binny’s Mailbag: Re-refrigerating Beer

We’re bringing back the Binny’s mailbag with a question as old as bottled beer itself. Somehow, we hear this question over and over again.

 

Binny’s Mailbag –

We have two cases of bottled MGD and Stella that are left over from a party. They were refrigerated and very cold. We took them out and they are room temperature. Can we re-refrigerate them? My husband says that re-refrigerated beer loses its quality. Is that correct? We would like to only re-refrigerate some of them and keep the rest at room temperature until needed. Will they be all right?

– C.O.

 

Hi C.O!

 

Your beer is fine. You can absolutely re-refrigerate beer with no worries. Even fancy-pants unpasturized craft beer. Once again, beer can go from fridge cold to room temperature and back to fridge cold with no ill effects.

 

What can we do to dispel this old wives’ tale? We aren’t entirely sure how it started, but it seems to be intertwined with an advertising campaign waged decades ago by the littlest big brewer in Colorado. Something about being brewed cold, and transported cold, and the myth spread.

 

Beer is as shelf-stable as most other nonperishable food items. Similar to, say, a can of creamed corn? You wouldn’t want either to sit around forever, but a few temperature changes won’t hurt. Sure you can affect the taste with extreme temperature fluctuations, but the minor change from fridge to room temperature (from ~37 to ~74) isn’t going to ruin a shelf-stable product.

 

Beer’s real foe is light. We’ve heard it said that temperature change causes skunkiness. This isn’t the case. Skunky beer is the result of a chemical reaction when acid compounds in hops break apart and recombine with other chemicals to form MBT, a mercaptan or thiol. Light is the catalyst for this reaction, and since green glass allows the most light through, green bottles are sometimes (unfairly?) associated with skunky beer.

 

If you’re super geeked and want to age craft beer, then the lesson is that you want to store your beer in a dark, temperature-stable environment. But then you’re talking about cellaring bottles for months or even years.

 

We are tempted to do some science of our own. Idea: buy a six pack of beer to test. We’ll leave three bottles cold in the fridge, one in a dark cupboard at room temperatere, one on a sunny windowsill, and one outside in this hundred-degree heat. Then we’ll chill them all and compare. Then again, that would cost us two beers, which would be silly. Convince us to do this thing in the comments.



20 thoughts on “Binny’s Mailbag: Re-refrigerating Beer

  1. How about adding another temperature change? Of those 2 last bottles, leave one in the fridge & one in the cupboard — and then put them both in the freezer for long enough to get them below 32 degrees but not frozen. Then let them warm up to fridge temps & try them. This simulates buying beer in the winter & leaving it in the car all day or overnight. :)

    • I think if you did that the beer would lose it’s fizz and go flat. I have done this a few times by accident, putting a couple of beers in the freezer to speed up the cooling and have forgot about them, when I took them out they were liquid still, but when it hit the air half of it turned to ice, it’s a wierd effect, but that’s what happened. I then put them back in the fridge and later when they were back to liquid I opened one and didn’t hear the pop of the fizz and when I tasted it I couldn’t drink it, it had gone flat.

  2. How warm can a beer get before it starts to adversly affect the quality? In this summer heat, is prolonged time in the trunk of my car going to ruin my beer or should I opt for a cooler for the long road trips?

    • Honest answer is, there’s no exact number we can give. There’s a lot of chemistry involved, and each beer is different. We know a guy who left a case of special beer in his trunk after a trip in this 100+ degree heat, and it turned out fine.

      That said, beer is too precious a resource to risk it. If you have a cooler, it can’t hurt to take that extra step of precaution. Heat CAN damage beer, especially over time, and coolers are cheap and plentiful.

  3. We agree, Nelson. We aren’t talking about heating beer here, we’re talking about the small, short-term temperature fluctuation that happens when you take beer out of the fridge and then put it back in.

    It is noble that Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada use refrigerated trucks, but they should take a closer look at their distributors, distributor trucks, and retailers to see if the product continues to stay cold. Most of it doesn’t, and most of it stays safe and pretty tasty.

    We’ll reiterate that it is best to store beer in cool, dark, vibration-free and temperature-stable environment.

  4. I do not wish to pick apart what you said because it is mostly true, but there is something you are missing. We are all well aware of the staling effects heat can have on beer what you are neglecting to address is the effect of cooling and warming a bottle of beer. Specifically you are producing positive and negative pressure which can act as a vacuum and cause air to be drawn into the bottle thus causing oxidation to occur. As long as you store the beer cold and drink it somewhat quickly you shouldn’t detect any off flavors. Also I believe it was Charlie Bamforth from UC Davis who said, beer ages twice as fast for every 10 degrees celcius the tempature rises. So the point is, don’t let your beer get warm.

    • We’ve heard this a lot since posting this post. We’re having two conversations here.

      The myth we’re trying to dispel is that beer goes BAD. Like spoiled milk. It does not.

      Yes, beer ages more quickly, mostly through oxidation, at higher temperatures. A day on a warm shelf will not noticeably affect the taste of your beer. A week may, a tiny bit. A month warm, and yes, you’ll notice a difference. It depends. Plus, some people prefer the affect oxygen has on beer. Not me though. I like fresh beer.

      But again, the myth that beer goes bad the instant it warms up to room temperature and then can never be cooled down again is patently incorrect.

  5. Pingback: Ask Casey: How Should I Store My Booze?

    • Yes, probably. If/when it freezes, it will expand and blow the bottle. Of course, alcohol does not freeze at the same temperature as water, so high-alcohol beverages may survive. We know a guy who left a bottle of Dogfish Head Old School Barley Wine in his freezer for almost a week. He found it, unfrozen, and “it was awesome.”

  6. I have to disagree. I’ve had on several occasions let beer get warm after a party or dinner. Beers were in a cooler with ice and left over night and through the next day; or beers were in the fridge, taken out and not put back in. There is a definite difference in flavor. Sure its all drinkable, but if your palette is refined – you wouldn’t drink it, especially if you had some of the same beer in the fridge.

  7. I work at smart and final and can tell you Samuel adams sierra Nevada arent delivered cold at least all our beer are delivered room temp. And sit in our backroom till neeeded

  8. I have a six pack in freezer now that’s been riding around in back of my truck in a cooler for about two months, it’s 101 today here in central Texas, it’s almost august it’s been in water, and about a week ago i dumped the water, so it’s just been bakeing in the cooler in the back of my truck, I’m fixn to grill and it’s hot !!!! It’s been in freezer 5 mins now, in about 20 more mins I’ll have an answer for all to know!!!! By the way it’s miller lite cans

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