Skunkiness as an intended flavor?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by BowWowWowYippyYoIPA, Feb 9, 2015.

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  1. BowWowWowYippyYoIPA

    BowWowWowYippyYoIPA Initiate (0) Dec 30, 2014 California

    I recently attended a beer seminar which had a speaker from one of the largest beer distributors in the US. One of the things she spoke of was skunkiness in two of the brands that distributor carried. The first brand was Corona, and she spoke of when Corona first started to can their beers, consumers were taken aback because it didn't taste like the product they had come to identify. As a result, sales of Corona cans dipped, to which Corona responded with UV lights along their canning lines, in effect; intentionally skunking their beers. A similar phenomenon can be observed from when Pilsner Urquell first started distributing to the US. Their marketing department suggested that they should use green bottles because of the over-whelming success of Heineken, both because green bottles were viewed as a sign of "premium" beer at the time, and because US consumers seemed to appreciate the skunky favor (Pilsner Urquell has recently switched to brown bottles for US markets).

    My question is this: Although skunkiness is generally viewed as an off-flavor (even though it is not a flavor at all, and only sensed through scent), should it be considered a desirable characteristic in certain styles of beers if some breweries are intending to impart it on their product? Long before I was ever into craft (I hate the term, but use it for lack of a better term) beer, I always thought that the skunk character of Corona was part of its identity. You may hate it, but if it is an intended part of the process, then shouldn't it be considered a desirable characteristic?
  2. BeerBob

    BeerBob Savant (914) May 30, 2002 Nebraska

    I dislike light struck beer and will not drink beer that has been pre-skunked. There is one brand in particular that I have stopped drinking because of this.
    So the answer to your question is no, this should be considered a flaw, not a desirable characteristic.
  3. Redneckwine

    Redneckwine Disciple (304) Dec 3, 2013 Washington

    Good point, but the answer will always be "it depends". Like most things, desirability is in the eye of the beholder.

    Some people love a wild ale that tastes like taking a pull off a bottle of vinegar; many do not. Some people love their taste buds scorched off by a 120 IBU IPA; a whole lot don't. The same goes for a stinky, skunky old bottle of Corona. One person's desirable is the next person's disgusting.
  4. Relik

    Relik Initiate (117) Apr 20, 2011 Canada

    Some beers in my opinion usually Euro lagers in green bottles have that oh so familiar light struck presence. Due to the import status and higher price point people assume its how the beer is intended to taste like.

    I doubt it was originally intended as a part of the profile of the beer and a by product of packaging and there for a flaw. But a flaw that has now become part of their identity and it works well for them.

    Should it be considered a flaw? Yes, because its easily prevented. The "desirable characteristic" is just a by product of poor education.

    Id probably drink a lot more Euro Lagers if they were in brown bottles. And Lord knows i drank my weight in Sol and Dos Equis in Mexico last year ( both in cans and on tap and didn't notice any skunk but might of been too sun drunk to care)
  5. joe12pk

    joe12pk Disciple (322) Mar 20, 2014 Michigan

    I've only had Moosehead in those green skunky bottles. Now I have a single can of it that I bought yesterday. There's something perverse in my head telling me that it won't be as good as the skunk version. The mind is very malleable.
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  6. BowWowWowYippyYoIPA

    BowWowWowYippyYoIPA Initiate (0) Dec 30, 2014 California

    I am asking this in the hope that people will set aside their predispositions and merely view the creation of 3-2-1 as an intended byproduct of certain styles. You may not like it and find it abhorrent in any respect, but I am asking you to take an objective standpoint. If the brewer intends to skunk their beer, shouldn't this be considered a desirable characteristic (under certain styles)? Discretion is the better part of valor, and intention is the better part of skill. If one is intending something to taste a certain way, then how can one of the most prevalent characteristics of said something be described as a flaw?
  7. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (4,006) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    I remain unconvinced that any brewery deliberately exposes any of their beer to UV, in part because the only evidence ever produced by people who make this claim is that it was told to them by someone else, and I still have vivid memories of playing, and watching/listening to others play, a childhood game sometimes called "whisper down the lane." (Also sometimes called Telephone or Chinese Whispers.)
    frazbri, lambpasty, machalel and 2 others like this.
  8. BeerBob

    BeerBob Savant (914) May 30, 2002 Nebraska

    The driving factor being that beer once light struck becomes difficult to enjoy. The hops and malts become masked by the skunk like odor.

    That being said, the beer is now unbalanced with the skunk odor, and not nearly as enjoyable.
  9. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (4,006) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    machalel likes this.
  10. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,832) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Has anyone had a skunked Corona from tap or out of a can?

    The statements on PU choosing green bottles in the US don't ring true, as they were probably in green bottles in Europe to begin with. There were many beers in green bottles in Europe when I lived there, including PU. After buying a nasty skunked case of PU, I switched to the cans which were not skunked. PU on draft was also not skunked.
  11. ZebraCakez

    ZebraCakez Initiate (0) Nov 8, 2014 Massachusetts

    I've never wanted a Corona more then I do right now. :grinning:
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  12. Andy311x

    Andy311x Initiate (47) Apr 28, 2008 North Carolina

    Is this True of False?

    If I am drinking a beer poured directly from a can or a keg, the beer cannot be light struck initially.
  13. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,776) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Seriously? I'd like to see the study that came up with that stat.
  14. Ranbot

    Ranbot Defender (644) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    That abbreviation made my chuckle, in "light" of this discussion of skunkiness.

    (For those who don't get it... the exclamation "Pee-yew!" is commonly used when one smells something bad or stinky.)
    Pantalones, Shroud0fdoom and Phocion like this.
  15. TurkeyFeathers

    TurkeyFeathers Initiate (0) Jun 22, 2014 New York

    Never had a Molson Golden ( green bottle ) that didn't taste skunked
    drbenderdo likes this.
  16. Premo88

    Premo88 Poo-Bah (1,952) Jun 6, 2010 Texas

    Yes ... @Redneckwine nails it here. Very well put.

    I'm big-time now into the good beer and almost (not quite) refuse to drink BMC stuff. So consider me a skunk-free snob. However, I admit that drinking a Baltika No. 7 recently and running into some skunk notes did not offend me. The skunk was much more on the nose than the flavor; in fact, I'm not sure I honestly ever tasted that skunk smell. Also, the skunk aroma hit me up front then disappeared, so it wasn't as if I was downing/smelling skunk for 30 minutes straight.

    But I kind of liked it. Seriously. Can't say why, but the skunk almost came off as good green/grassy notes mixed with a citrus lemon thing. Probably it was just me, and I'm not sure how often I'd seek out some good skunk. But I can see why some might like it.
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  17. FRANKIE65

    FRANKIE65 Initiate (0) Dec 12, 2014 Canada

    I've said it before...might as well be drinking straight from a skunk's thanks
  18. Ranbot

    Ranbot Defender (644) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Somewhat related to Corona's skunkiness... there are many urban legends explaining why a wedge of lime is added to a Corona bottle, but the only one that ever made any rationale sense to me is the lime covers up the skunkiness common with their clear bottles.
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  19. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,698) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    @BowWowWowYippyYoIPA, permit me to address your broader question of whether an off-flavor if created intentionally should be considered a desirable characteristic with the instance of dimethyl sulfide (DMS) (vs. the instance of skunky flavors).

    Rolling Rock is well known for its flavor of excess DMS levels; DMS is often described as being a creamed corn or cooked vegetable flavor. When AB purchased the Rolling Rock brand name in 2006 they started brewing Rolling Rock at the AB Newark, NJ brewery and the AB brewers had to ‘learn’ how to brew this beer such that the levels of DMS would be high enough to have the off-flavor of creamed corn. I was informed that it took several batches before AB got the levels ‘right’.

    I am not aware of any other beer that has the off-flavor DMS levels of Rolling Rock.

    For fans of Rolling Rock the DMS off-flavor is definitely a “desirable characteristic”.

  20. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,832) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    You can taste sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami (savory). Flavors are a combination of taste and aroma. When one has a big sinus issue, one can only taste the above, the other flavors that depend on aroma disappear until the sinus condition clears up.
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  21. Ranbot

    Ranbot Defender (644) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Also diacetyl is an off-flavor (similar to buttered popcorn) for most beers, but for some English beer styles low to moderate amounts of detectable diacetyl is considered to-style and desirable.

    Now cue the Shipyard haters...
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  22. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,832) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Other off flavors that are desirable/acceptable in some beers are lower levels of Diacetyl in some, and Phenolics in others such as Hefeweizens and Belgium beers. The yeast that is used for Hefeweizens or the phenolic Belgians have what is called the POF gene, which stands for Phenolic Off Flavor.
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  23. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,698) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    There is also perceptible diacetyl (albeit at at low level) in PIlsner Urquell (PU). I have seen other folks report that they pick up diacetyl in other Czech brewed Pilsners but I personally have only perceived it in PU.

    Generally I am not a fan of perceptible diacetyl but I enjoy drinking PU.

    Ranbot likes this.
  24. Hop-Droppen-Roll

    Hop-Droppen-Roll Initiate (0) Nov 5, 2013 Minnesota

    Corona. A lager so delicious, we have to intentionally mess it up to get people to like it.
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  25. Hookstrat

    Hookstrat Initiate (136) Jan 15, 2006 Iowa

    Yes and I think it definitely contributes to the flavor, at least to that which we experience off the shelf. I've done the experiment with my own home-brewed lambics and have concluded that you cannot quite achieve the Cantillon or 3F profile without using shit tons of old hops, bottling in green and exposing to light. I like my sours both ways (green or brown bottles), but there is a cheesy-skunky hop bite that only comes from aging in green glass.
  26. tylerstravis

    tylerstravis Meyvn (1,052) Feb 14, 2014 Colorado

    I personally dig a nicely skunked pilsner.
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  27. pat61

    pat61 Poo-Bah (5,858) Dec 29, 2010 Minnesota

    Lambics use 3 year old oxidized hops and I am not sure that they would get skunky to the same degree as beers made from relatively fresh hops (i.e. dried hops =that are not oxidized).

    I have heard rumors that Americans think the skunky flavor of Heineken is normal. About a third of the population does not notice the flavor and I suppose that some people after buying a premium beer refuse to believe that they have been ripped off and so they learn to like the flavor and aroma. Along with the aroma I get definite skunky notes on the palate.
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  28. LuskusDelph

    LuskusDelph Aspirant (255) May 1, 2008 New Jersey

    Just curious...was the Baltika 7 you drank packaged in a green bottle??? I've only ever seen it in brown bottles, which would generally save it from skunking.
    I'm not being snarky here (I promise)... but are you possibly mistaking grassy hop notes for "skunking" (it's a surprisingly common mistake, actually).
    steveh likes this.
  29. Hookstrat

    Hookstrat Initiate (136) Jan 15, 2006 Iowa

    Yea I know the hop source and schedule for a traditional lambic, because I have used it many times. Anyone who thinks or tells you that hops are only used in lambics for their antibacterial effect and do not contribute to flavor is uninformed. If you take a bunch of 3-yr old aged hops and smell them or make a tincture of them you will quickly realize they are not inert with respect to flavor. Now, make a lambic and bottle half in green glass and half in brown glass (as I have done), age the bottles next to a window for 6-12mths and then compare them (as I have done). Let me know what you think.
  30. JDW4195

    JDW4195 Initiate (0) Sep 24, 2014 Florida

    Yeah, intentionally skunked beers are extremely popular right now. You find them at every nickleback concert at hipster know-it-all university. It's called an IPA
  31. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (2,833) May 30, 2005 Michigan

    Skunkiness should absolutely never be considered a desirable flavor characteristic in a beer, but rather it is a horrible brewing flaw. Any breweries that do it intentionally should see their beers go unsold on the store shelves, and any consumer who says it's desirable should be forced into retraining their palate. That's just an absolutely horrible flavor!
  32. parrotsnest

    parrotsnest Initiate (0) Aug 16, 2010 Washington

    "Depends." I think a beer like Fort George Vortex IPA (and Resin) tastes pretty skunky, maybe more along the lines of "dank." though. I really enjoy both of these beers and I think it sets them apart from others. I know it's stupid, but if I found out they were intentionally skunking their beers, I wouldn't like it as much.
  33. Premo88

    Premo88 Poo-Bah (1,952) Jun 6, 2010 Texas

    1. yep. it was a green bottle. it also had a weird pull-top bottle cap that I've never seen on any other bottle from any company. but, yeah, the green bottle led to the skunk, which leads to ...

    2. i'm not mistaking grassy hop notes for skunking. i'm saying, yes, the skunk smelled like skunk in the green bottle beer that got drilled by light, and this skunk smell did remind me of grassy hops (and onions) -- does that make sense? in other words, I didn't think there were any grassy hop flavors/smells in this beer, because other than that skunkiness, there weren't. in fact, once that skunk aroma left, it was almost all sweeter, lighter malt.

    honestly, i never tried a Baltika beer before a month or so ago, but I've seen them for the longest time, and I thought they all came in brown bottles. but i think some are Baltika bottles are now brown, some are clear and this new pull-tab bottle cap bottle is green.
  34. fearfactory

    fearfactory Aspirant (296) Aug 12, 2012 Massachusetts

    I have a friend who has only drunk Stella or Heineken for years, nothing else, won't even try any I offer. He swears he has no idea what I'm talking about when I mention "skunked", and disses other bmc beers. I believe he has trained his palate to accept this smell and taste as a mark of quality.
  35. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,094) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Charlie Papazian told the same story in the 3rd edition of his The Complete Joy of Homebrewing
    but I don't buy it (the tale, or Corona). Isn't it a popular home beer science project to take a bottle of Corona from a closed pack, expose it to light, and compare it with one from the closed pack to "prove" how a beer becomes light-struck? Why would they bother if both are pre-skunked? Seems it would be easy to compare a can with those two beers (and throw in the steinie quarts in brown glass labeled "Familiar").

    And how would a UV light system work on a canning line? Is the piping made of glass? A high speed canning line of the type a multi-million barrel brewery like Modelo would own doesn't leave much time between filling and the lid dropping onto it.

    Yeah, I agree that it's the most likely origin - but I saw people putting lime in canned Mexican beers (Tres Equis and Tecate, in particular) when I lived in L.A. in the mid-70s- when the Corona exported to the US was still in brown bottles. The big boom in imported Corona in the familiar clear silk-screened bottles didn't happen until the 1980s, imported by Barton Brands and Gambrinus.
    #35 jesskidden, Feb 9, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2015
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  36. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,776) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Doesn't he also have instructions on how to build up sludge in your brew kettle in order to brew the perfect U.S. spring bock? :grinning:
  37. kerry4porters

    kerry4porters Zealot (541) Dec 31, 2012 Arizona

    so does this mean Ill never be able to try an unskunked corona
  38. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,094) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Don't recall that one specifically :wink:, but his early editions were "shakey" on beer history and profession brewing technique, IIRC. I wonder if some homebrewers with a number of his older editions can "trace" that story, if it continued in future editions, explained, etc.
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  39. 57md

    57md Poo-Bah (3,031) Aug 22, 2011 Pennsylvania

    I don't think that the people at Heineken would use the term "skunky" but that scent/flavor seems to me to be the trademark that they strive for and celebrate.
  40. Andy311x

    Andy311x Initiate (47) Apr 28, 2008 North Carolina

    Has anyone had Chateau Neubourg Pilsner? I believe you can only get it in the US in Atlanta. I've only had it on tap, so as I understand it, "light struck" is out of the question. Its aroma has more skunk than any other beer I've had. I can't imagine it's not intended.
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