What Does Oxidized Beer Taste Like (and Is It Safe to Drink?)

what does oxidized beer taste like

Ever wondered what does oxidized beer taste like? Well, the taste of oxidized beer depends on the type of beer. 

To be honest, most people would just call it yuck and call it quits.

But we won’t go down that road. Instead, let’s dive deeper into that mug and examine the nuances and whether it’s safe to drink or not. 

Oxidation can cause a darker beer to take on tastes comparable to rotten fruit or sherry, and with light beers, the hop and malt flavors may be stripped away and replaced by wet paper or cardboard flavors.

But that’s not the only concern. Oxidation also impacts the quality of your beer, causing it to be less stable, resulting in a less fresh-tasting beverage.

As if wet paper weren’t enough!

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What Causes Oxidation in Beer?

Oxidation in beer occurs when oxygen molecules react with the molecules of flavor components, leading to the breakdown of the flavor components. The result is a release of unpleasant byproducts.

According to the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), oxidation is considered a fault in beer. But what does it mean for your taste buds?

Eventually, all beer will become stale because it contains oxygen. But craft beer and homebrew are particularly vulnerable. Most small brewers lack the necessary equipment to prevent excessive oxygen from entering the beer during brewing process and packaging.

In addition, a warm environment accelerates oxidation. Therefore, homebrews and craft beer with high oxygen levels often get stale quickly due to being left in an unrefrigerated storage area at the wholesaler and retailer.

In dark beers, oxidation will typically produce sherry or rotten fruit flavors. Not so bad, eh?

Lighter-colored beers lose hop and malt aromas over time by oxidation. Their taste could be similar to soggy cardboard or paper. 

Indian Pale Ales are particularly susceptible to this since the hop flavor is very delicate.

Over time, an IPA’s malt and hop flavors deteriorate, leaving behind a tasteless, harsh, and bitter liquid.

How Can You Prevent Oxidation in Beer?

There’s not much YOU can do about oxidation as a humble beer lover.

But homebrewers or craft beer producers can prevent oxidized beer by getting rid of oxygen after fermentation. Generally, it is advisable not to let any air into the aerate wort after oxygenation when pitching the yeast.

As the yeast gobbles up oxygen to grow and prepare for fermentation, oxygen is essential. Yeast’s oxygen consumption declines when yeast begins to work, so avoiding aeration is crucial. 

Make sure that the wort is not splashed or agitated after fermentation, especially when it’s racking. Maintain a full airlock. You should ensure that fermentation containers, kegs, and bottles are entirely airtight. Purge fermented wort from kegs, bottles, and fermenters with CO2 whenever possible.

Is it Safe to Drink Oxidized Beer?

two glasses of beer
Ouch.

Your nose might disagree but yes, it is safe to drink oxidized beer once (or if) you get past its unpleasant taste

Oxidation can be beneficial for homebrewers, especially early in the brewing process. Aerating your wort correctly on the brewing day can be crucial for successful homebrew since yeast needs oxygen to grow.

Take a few minutes to stir or shake and rock your wort rapidly after it’s boiled and cooled, then move it into your primary fermenter. 

You should build a frothy head on your wort at this early stage, as pitched yeast needs air to grow and takes away oxygen during fermentation. To help this process, you can purchase aeration devices.

Following your yeast pitch and the beginning of fermentation, you will want to avoid agitating and shaking your beer too much.

Few beer styles can (NOT ALWAYS) benefit from prolonged exposure to oxygen. They are typically dark, high in alcohol, and malt-centered. Barleywine, old ales, imperial stouts, etc., are some examples. 

Melanoid in dark beers becomes oxidized to produce sherry-like flavors that pair well with dark malts and do not work well with Pils-colored beers. 

It is, however, not a reason to intentionally add oxygen to your beer. You’ll probably pick some up on the way.

In summary, do all you can to avoid exposing your beer to oxygen after fermentation. Reducing the time your beer gets oxygen exposure will help it maintain its freshness.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know a beer is oxidized?

Oxidation flavors can vary widely. Generally, there will be a dull taste, where what was once bright, fresh, and clean will seem muted, dusty, and bland. The stench of wet cardboard and paper is more pronounced and offensive, but it isn’t always the case.

In other words, what you thought was bad beer might simply be oxidized.

How long does oxidation of beer take?

Because these reactions can occur without oxygen, this procedure is also known as “oxidation without molecules of oxygen.” The effects are not detected until approximately three to four weeks have passed.

How do you fix oxidized beer?

Unfortunately, once oxidation has taken place, there is no way to reverse it. So, the best way to fix oxidation is to just – prevent it.

What does infected beer taste like?

Bacteria that cause beer spoilage invade the beer and compete for sugars with cultured yeast. In addition to soy sauce, vinegar and solvent are other flavors that smack of infection. Some of the more common flavors include sour or buttery flavors (diacetyl).

Now THAT might upset your tummy. But contrary to the popular opinion, expired beer won’t kill you or even make you sick.

Skunked beer (oxidized or not) is just skunked, and you’ll either be able to drink it or not.

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