Beer Storage: Surviving the apocalypse and my trunk

There are two issues that often weigh heavily on my mind: (1) What is my zombie apocalypse contingency plan; and (2) in the case of a large scale nuclear exchange, what’s my safe drink of choice in the post-apocalyptic world? Of course, has zombie apocalypse contingency plans pretty thoroughly covered. But what kind of cold one will I be able to crack after a long day in the Thunderdome?

Fear not! The Federal Government has answers. Back in the 1950’s, as part of Operation Teapot, the Nuclear Defense Agency tested the effects of nukes on beverages, including beer. Apparently, beer fared pretty well. Hell, as long as it didn’t get smashed in the explosion, it was pretty much good to go.

To be fair, the tasting “volunteer” did note some off-flavors in the beers that were close to ground zero. However, beer that was at least a quarter mile from ground zero had no discernible taste difference and low enough levels of radiation to be suitable for “emergency consumption”. In fact, beer a mere 4,700 feet from ground zero showed no appreciable radioactivity.

Sorry. Get your radiation elsewhere, big guy

Which leads me to my experiment. After my butter-bomb experience with Samurai Krunkles, I got curious about other off-flavors, particularly off-flavors arising from poor storage and oxidization. (Paper, lipstick, sherry, metallic flavors…sounds pretty kinky, actually.)

So, I took two New Belgium Red Hoptobers and stored one in the trunk of my car, subjected to the August heat for two weeks; and I stored the other in the friendly confines of my fridge. At the end of two weeks, I cooled-off the trunk-stored beer in the fridge, then tasted the two side-by-side.

I picked Red Hoptober because I knew it was fresh, and I got a good deal on it. After all, I was intentionally ruining it…or so I thought. During the two weeks, it was regularly in the 90s, which means it reached at least 140 degrees in my car. Red Hoptober didn’t give a shyte, though.


The fridge-stored beer may have tasted a little fresher, while the flavor of the car-stored beer seemed to have been dulled slightly. But for the most part, I really couldn’t see, smell, or taste much difference.

So, other than being a big fucking let-down, what have we learned? Well, beer seems pretty damn resilient…at least when the beer is heavily-hopped and has a solid malt character. When it gets hot again, I may try again with something more delicate, like a noble-hopped pilsner. Until then, feel free to store your beer in the car (for not more than 2 weeks). Or don’t.


12 thoughts on “Beer Storage: Surviving the apocalypse and my trunk

  1. An interesting test indeed. I was actually worried about that when I was moving a few weeks ago. It was a fairly warm day and I had to leave a few boxes of beer in the car while packing and unpacking. Ultimately, it doesn’t seem to have affected anything. Of course, I didn’t get the side by side comparison you did.

  2. Quite an interesting experiment! I would have expected there to be more of a difference, so that’s certainly nice to know. I’ve considered similar experiments, but more along the lines of exposure to light (particularly with respect to clear/green bottles), and long lengths of time (some of my homebrews have definitely fallen apart over long periods of time). I would be that high temperatures for a longer period of time would be problematic too…

    • I actually had two bottles in the car and two in the fridge. I was going to leave one in longer than 2 weeks. But the Haybag poured one of the fridge ones for me before I got home from work one night. I guess I can’t complain about a beer waiting for me when I get home. I bet the experiment will work with a Euro Pilsner.

      I have heard light will skunk almost immediately. That would be an interesting experiment.

      • There was an episode of the Basic Brewing podcast where an experimenter found a difference between his brews after he left one sit in the coils of his fridge for a year, I believe. If I remember, the brew was OK, but noticeably different.

        I think the worst is when the beer is changing temperatures. I tried taking some across country once during a summer road trip and the hot/cold of day and night f’d it up something fierce.

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