The review for today was filming, everything set up. New lights, my old Laptop back to filming duties, beer in hand. “Thank you for watching the February 7th edition of The Year of Beer... Today I'll be reviewing Flying Dog's Classic Pale Ale.” I cracked it open, poured it. Finger of head, lovely amber color, the smell didn't strike me terribly, but I didn't think anything of it. I should have. The taste cued me instantly. Sour, bitter, but not in a hop-laden way. This was the work of a beer skunk.
What exactly happens when your beer goes bad? It could be age, but generally the factor that goes into it is light. The isohumulones, which come from hops, collapse due to the UV coming through the bottle and some of the remainders bind with sulfur particles in the bottle to create that skunky sensation. The only fool proof method for preventing your beer from skunking is to have it 'bottled' in something that lets absolutely no light in. Most breweries use brown bottles (such as today's poor fallen soldier) which block out most light, but not all. You'll see other breweries like Delirium use totally opaque bottles reminiscent of the old stoneware bottles of the past – or you can use a can.
Yeah, yeah, say what you will but the can is really very efficient. Drop your preconceived notions of good ole boys sitting on their back porch popping natty-lights or whatever; or of popped collar frat boys screaming at each other and cracking keg-cans of Heiny. Think of it this way – aluminum blocks all light, it's cheaper to produce, and you get just as much of a return on recycling. In fact, there are already several craft brewers making use of cans instead of the classic bottles. One of the biggest names in this new movement is Surly Brewing (who, by the way, has probably the coolest names for their beers. Ever).