When hops in beer are exposed to strong light, a chemical reaction occurs resulting in a funky tasting beer. If you’ve ever opened a beer, poured it into a clear glass and left it outside in the sun, you have experienced the process dubbed “skunking.” The chemical compound produced during the reaction released a smell similar to the one skunks produce.
A technical brewing projects director at the Brewers Association Chuck Skypeck has owned and operated breweries for 21 years. He said the cause of this reaction wasn’t really understood until around the 1960s. When hops are under strong light, a photooxidation reaction occurs, creating the compound 3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol.
To prevent this process from happening, beer brewers use darkly tinted glass. That is why most beer companies use brown glass bottles today. Skypeck said “It’s a simple reaction that creates what most people see as an undesirable flavor, … So, anything that shields the beer from that will preserve its flavor, so it is served as the brewer intends.”
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