Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Letters & E-mails: Is it OK to “re-chill” beer?

By William Brand
Thursday, August 28th, 2008 at 9:10 am in Uncategorized.

William – I have a couple questions, if you could give me some advice.

Say I go down to Costco and I pick up one of the Sam Adams Variety boxes. I think it’s a whole case worth of beer. I know that ideally I shouldn’t store my beer in the fridge too long with all the light in there and all. I dont really drink a whole case of beer every week so would it be best to just leave it in the box in my pantry or something. Maybe I could throw a couple in the fridge in the morning before I leave for work so they’re nice and cold when I get home in the afternoon. Is this OK? or should I get them into cold as soon as possible and keep them there? How would they stay fresh longest? Should I just stick to six packs to keep ‘em freshest?

Also. if I had a cooler full of beers for a Sunday BBQ or something, and at the end of the night, or the next morning I should say, these beers became warm after the ice melts, is it ok to throw ‘em in the fridge? Is it ok to “re-chill” beer after it’s gone warm for a day? Or when it warms up after being ice cold, has something happened to it that would affect the taste?  – Jesse.

Great questions, Jesse. Yes, it’s OK to “re-chill” beer.   Beer is a bit like bread, It can take a little bit of heat.  But sustained exposure to high temperatures will kill beer fast.  Light lagers,  your  BudMillerCoors and their watery light buddies are very delicate and die rapidly.  They really can’t take high heat or sustained, bright light.  That’s why the big beer company distributors change out their light lager stocks in retail outlets fairly rapidly.

Bigger beers, those with high alcohol and especially those that are bottle conditioned can take more punishment.  But basically, all beer should be stored in  a cool, dark, dry place until it’s time to drink.

There’s nothing wrong with storing beer in a refrigerator. Personally, I always store my beer in a refrigerator, which I keep at about 40 degrees, in other words, not ice cold.  The trouble with storing beer un-refrigerated, even in a relatively cool place,  is that  here in California it gets really hot most days in the late afternoon. Unless you live in the fog belt or keep your house air conditioning set on “chill”, I think a refrigerator’s the best way to go.

About light. It’s true that light kills beer, but we’re talking about continued exposure to direct sunlight or  to constant artificial light on a store shelf.  Unless you open the fridge constantly, the beer remains in relatively dark conditions.

Also, my rule is, if it’s corked, I store it on its side so the beer in the bottle will keep the cork moist. If it’s capped, I store it upright, so beer sloshing against the crown cap won’t loosen it or somehow allow oxygen to seep in.  (Photo: My beer fridge.

This is an open forum. Comments anyone?

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  • Drew

    Nice post, William!

    The only thing I’ve heard that’s different from what you said is regarding storing corked beers on their side.

    Taken from http://beeradvocate.com/beer/101/store

    “Another real good reason for not storing a beer on its side is that long exposure to the cork (especially non-taint treated natural cork) can impart cork flavours within the beer. The alcohol in beer draws out that mouldy/musty character of the cork and in fact can taint the beer. In our opinion this doesn’t add any wanted complexity to the beer. Natural cork can also harbour certain fungal bacterias which are believed to create an off-flavour compound called 2,4,6, Trichloroanisole or simply TCA, which renders its victim lifeless and dull to the taste.”

  • Chris

    William,

    I’m interested in the issue of whether to store corked beer upright or on its side. I’d be interested to hear your reaction to the Beer Advocate article, as it’s unclear to me after reading your initial post and the BA article which way to store them. Thanks.

  • Dan S.

    I investigated the same issue a couple of years ago when I decided to start getting serious about aging beer. I read the various articles and discussion forums on the web and consulted a couple of professional brewers. The consensus was that upright storage had more potential benefits and that cork moisture isn’t a compelling reason to lay corked bottles flat, especially of the humidity of the storage area is kept at a reasonable level (around 60%) and the temperature stays fairly constant
    My beer storage solution is a large upright freezer with adjustable shelves (via craigslist) and an external temperature controller to keep it at 55 degrees. Beer is kept upright in cardboard wine boxes for big bottles and six-pack carriers for small bottles. I also wired up a computer fan to circulate the air inside to keep a more constant temperature in all areas of the freezer. Relative humidity is pretty stable around 50-60%. The one time it dropped low, I just brought it back up by putting in a cup of water for a few days. Of course, the longest I’ve aged beer is two years and those that I’ve tasted have aged well. There are very few beers I’d age longer than a few years, so I’m pretty happy with this solution and have high hopes for the few that I intend to age for much longer.
    Oh, for those who are interested, the power consumption for this freezer at 55 degrees + fan (going constantly) is about 2.5 kwh per week (measured with a Kill-a-Watt) when the ambient temperature in the garage is about 80 degrees (most of the summer).

  • http://www.beernewsletter.com/blog William Brand

    Just checked out the Beer Advocate post. Hmmm. I don’t know what to think. The oldest beer I’ve ever tasted was a Ballantine Burton Ale, made in 1946 and bottled a few years laer. It had a crown cap (with cork lining on the inside) and tasted like sherry. Wonderful beer. A full case of the beer was found in a molding cardboard box in a root cellar in New England. That’s a good argument for upright storage.

    Most brewers I’ve talked to say upright for crown caps, on the side for corked beers. But the Beer Advocate argument seems solid, doesn’t it.

    I rarely keep a cellared beer longer than five years and I’ve never found an off flavor when I opened them. But then, I have little experience in this area. The oldest bottle of beer I own is a Thomas Hardy’s Ale from 1987. It’s been long stored in a pantry in Berkeley. Sometimes on its side, sometimes upright. God knows if it’s survived in any shape at all. I’m saving it for a special occasion, don’t know what.

  • http://www.beernewsletter.com/blog William Brand

    Oh yes…one more comment on the Beer Advocate article:

    “Many vintage beers are kept on beer shelves for quite some time before being sold. Don’t you think beer stores would shelve their corked beers like wine, if they were meant to be laid-down like wine?”

    That’s hogwash. One. Retailers put beer up right so consumers can see the labels and maybe buy the beer. 2. Most beer retailers and especially their clerks don’t know enough about beer to give a damn which way the beer is stored.

  • http://www.beernewsletter.com/blog William Brand

    Just read Dan’s post. Sounds like good advice. I probably am keepng my fridge too cold as well. Will have to adjust that

  • Temo

    William,
    Nice Blog.
    Do you know if there will be a fee for the beer tent at the Slow food nation?
    or how does that work?
    You pay the entrance fee and go wild “beer testing”?
    Or you have to pay for each beer?

    Thanks
    Temo

  • http://brewedforthought.wordpress.com Mario (Brewed For Thought)

    On the cork issue, look at a bottle of Chimay, it has an image specifically telling you to not lay the beer down. I trust Chimay. I keep all my corked beers upright.

    As for storage, I keep my beer unrefrigerated. As long as you’re using something not in contact with the outside of the house, you should be ok. A closet in the middle of the house will stay cool, especially if you keep it closer to the floor. I simply have an old coffee table with storage underneath in my den and it keeps the beers dark and even on hot days when the den is warm, the storage area is cool and the bottles cool to the touch.

  • http://www.beernewsletter.com/blog William Brand

    To Temo… posting the answer separately so everyone will see it.

  • http://www.beernewsletter.com/blog William Brand

    To Mario..yeah, that’s what I did for years, a shelf in our pantry in Berkeley which was fairly cool and dark most of the time. However, there were some very hot days, even in Berkeley. So when wew moved out into hot weather country, I started refrigerating everything.

  • http://brewedforthought.wordpress.com Mario (Brewed For Thought)

    So William, can we get a rundown of all those beers in your fridge? I see some Liberty Ale, Anderson valley 20, and some Rogue bottle I can’t identify. What else is in there?

  • http://www.beernewsletter.com/blog William Brand

    You have sharp eyes Mario. I’ll do a ;post on it in a minuted.

  • Scott N

    “I know that ideally I shouldn’t store my beer in the fridge too long with all the light in there and all.”

    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070921181130AAGa5Pr