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Monday, April 22, 2013

Beer Sold at the Grocery Store is Fair Game

In response to my mass market tasting, part one, Jack writes:
re: lightstuck Stella and Beck's
For fairness, you should seek non-abused beers for comparison. Eg, a bottle from the middle of a light blocking cardboard carton box or canned beer.
Absolutely not.   I made sure to purchase the beer at a high-volume grocery store (Freddy's), but I bought the samples in a manner I could afford (twenty half-racks, just to get one beer from each that's not lightstruck, is crazy).  Where possible, I tried to determine how fresh the beer was, though not all breweries make that easy.  And come on: American breweries have figured out that if you're going to package your beer for appearance, you use hop extracts that lack the compound that gets lightstruck.  If you're going to sell me a bottle of beer in a green bottle, you can't say it's "unfair" of me to have noticed that it's skunked.  There is a lot that is out of a brewery's hands once a palette of beer leaves the brewery, but not that.

Indeed, it's naked contempt for your customers to sell them beer in a green bottle.  The brewery knows it's going to get skunked, but makes a calculation that the customer can be won over by a big ad campaign, anyway.  I want to give every brewery a fair shake.  I strongly reject the false correlation of brewery size and beer quality.  But if you don't want beer writers to excoriate you for selling skunked beer, don't sell the damned stuff in green bottles.  It's very fair for me to taste the beer the brewery puts on grocery shelves. 


  1. I couldn't agree more. If it's on the shelf, it's subject to scrutiny, and that goes for any beer. None of this nonsense about whether or not it's fair to the brewer. On the contrary, it's unfair to the consumer to have to take such things into account.

  2. I must have had hundreds of bottles of beer from green and clear bottles. I don't think any were light struck. Maybe it just happens to ones that have been hauled all the way to America? For me it's never been an issue.

  3. And thankfully, Pilsner Urquell is fairly available in cans.

  4. That is a very weak argument that brewers often use. "you should review fresh, well taken care of, better if they are on tap at this or that pub" instead of something you buy at a supermarket.

    In my opinion, the production process of a beer does not end until it's in my glass. If when it gets there a beer is in bad shape, the ultimate responsibility is always the brewery's, who, for whatever reason, do not care enough about that critical step in the production process.

    PS: To Chris, I've bought at supermarkets here in CZ beers that were lightstruck, a couple of times even in brown bottles!

  5. Absolutely right. If brewers want to be stupid about packaging, they deserve to take the heat. We are under no obligation to seek out so-called "fresh and unspoiled product." Honestly, I'm not sure if I've ever had an import in a clear or green bottle that wasn't skunked to some degree. Ye gods.

  6. re:'under no obligation to seek out so-called "fresh and unspoiled product"'

    When I put down ~$9 U$D for a 6er, I take the trouble to seek "fresh and unspoiled product".

    My first choice is canned beer.
    It may not be as aesthetically pleasing and canned beer carry bad baggage for the steel can days; but, an aluminium can is a little keg [with a little Bisphenol A; no apparent problem unless you are a prepubescent girl]. Light and atmosphere tight and robust enough to tolerate most clumsy drops.

    My second choice is a high volume beer emporium.
    Pilsner is my beer of choice. I have had degraded Victory Brewing-Prima Pils purchased at a second tier Boulder beer emporium. But, I am mindful that pilsners drinkers suffer the vagaries of a limited / minor market. The lesson I took from that is: purchase out-of-state pilsners only from large, high volume beer emporiums.

  7. Jack, you're absolutely right about the best way to find good beer. When I'm just trying to find tasty beer--rather than review it--I also go to extra lengths to try to find stuff that won't be skunked. At this point, if it's Bayern pils, I'll buy it in the bottle, but most every other pils I prefer to buy in cans. Cans rock.