Separating bad beer from faulty beer

With the craft beer boom in full swing, we often hear about how much incredible beer is out there. The quality bar has been set pretty high as microbrewers continue to innovate and refine brewing practices. But what we don’t hear very much about is how common bad beer is out in the market.

Let’s be clear: Bad beer is not the same thing as “beer I don’t like.”  Not liking a beer is a matter of personal taste. When you judge a beer to be “bad,” you’re saying that it wasn’t brewed properly and it is exhibiting some fault. Faults can occur at any stage of the brewing process. They can be the result of poor quality ingredients, insufficiently sanitized brewing equipment, exposure to light, or any number of other factors.

The easiest fault for most people to pick up on is referred to as “skunking.” A skunked beer will have a pungent, skunk-like, or rubbery aroma. Skunking is the result of a chemical chain-reaction that occurs when light interacts with isohumulones, which are bittering compounds from hops. This chemical reaction can start in a matter of seconds and is most pronounced in hoppier beers. Once the reaction is in motion, there’s no stopping it. If you’re going to drink beer outside and don’t particularly enjoy the aroma of skunk, ditch the clear pint glass and stick to brown glass bottles or cans which can block light.

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