There’s a belief, held by some, that fresh beer will morph from drinkable pleasure into foul-tasting rat poison if left in heat. These people believe a cold 6-pack needs to stay a cold 6-pack. It’s the reason why Igloo coolers are carried to breweries and ice packs are tossed in bags for beercations. But is any of this necessary? Will your beer get skunky, or even taste any worse, if it’s left out? Will the sauna that is your trunk destroy your precious brew?
We decided to find out.
We purchased two 6-packs of Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale, a local beer for us that arrives fresh at nearby bottle shops. It’s an approachable and drinkable pale ale with just enough of a piney hop presence to allow us to detect whether the aroma changes.
Then we tossed one 6-pack in our office fridge and kept one in the trunk. We gave it seven days. During those seven days, temperatures rose to 97° F.
We didn’t know what horrific liquid would emerge from the back of our car after the week passed, but we drank it find out…
We’ll be honest, our hypothesis was the beer would taste pretty much the same. Maybe some of the hoppiness would fade, but that would be about it. Light, not heat, is really the cause of skunked beer… or so we thought.
We poured the beers side-by-side and the brew that was in the trunk had a slightly darker appearance. Even when cold, the beers were noticeably different. The one that was in the trunk smelled maltier and, to our surprise, there was just a bit of a skunky note, like someone poured just a few drops of Heineken in there. Don’t get us wrong, it was totally drinkable, but there was absolutely a difference. Next to it, the pale ale that had remained in the fridge tasted livelier than any Yards Pale Ale we’d ever consumed. The trunk beer lost the piney notes and gained a just a little Pepe Le Pew. The taste was just not as exciting.
Will leaving beer in your trunk turn it into rat poison? No. In fact, overnight or for a few days in mild weather, it’s probably not going to change at all. However, if you leave a somewhat hoppy and fresh beer in your trunk for a week, there will be a difference—especially if there was a heatwave. While we still consumed the 6-pack that sat in the trunk of our car, we can’t say it was our favorite drinking experience.