How To Tell if a Beer Is Oxidized

How To Tell if a Beer Is Oxidized

If you don’t like beer that tastes anything but fresh, you might not like an oxidized one. However, oxidized beer is not shunned by everyone–in fact, it even plays a significant role in the brewery business. Let’s find out how to tell if a beer is oxidized, plus more, in this article.

What Does Oxidized Beer Look Like?

Exposure to air makes a beer’s clear form turn dull and cloudy. When beer gets chemically combined with oxygen, it darkens in color. Its appearance can become burnt or rusty, taking on an orange hue. This is common during fermentation, which is process beer brewers are very familiar with (yeast requires oxygen to grow). In some instances, oxidized beer can be purple or brownish. 

What Does Oxidized Beer Smell Like?

You can tell a beer has oxidized when it doesn’t smell the same as when you first bought them. It usually gets its scent from its taste. With a stronger aroma, an oxidized beer may smell papery, heady, fruity, or sherry-like. It’s far from rotten or contaminated, which is what a spoiled brew would taste like.

What Does Oxidized Beer Taste Like?

Along with appearance, an oxidized beer’s taste often changes from fresh to stale. Others have described it as something musty, similar to wet paper or cardboard. Ingredients, though, will determine whether it will be bland or fruity. There are brews that may taste citrusy or sweet, like caramel, when oxidized. 

How Long Does It Take For Beer To Oxidize?

The oxidation process is sometimes referred to as oxidation without molecular oxygen since it can occur without oxygen. It takes a lag period—often 3 to 4 weeks—for the compounds created (aldehydes) to start showing their effect. Because oxidation is sped up by high temperatures, the majority of craft beer kept at wholesale and retail locations without refrigeration will quickly go bad. The brewhouse, packaging, and even inside the bottle during storage are all places in the brewing process where oxidation may take place. 

Because air exposure can improve beer on rare occasions, slow and smooth oxidation may add complex flavors, enhance the richness, and give years’ worth of preservation. Certain brew styles even benefit from prolonged exposure, especially those that are high in alcohol content or malt-centered. 

Is It Okay To Drink Oxidized Beer?

Apart from its smell and sherry-like taste, oxidized beer is not harmful. Unlike spoiled beer, oxidized beer has simply been exposed to air for a while; it may have lost its original flavor, but it hasn’t been exposed long enough to be rotten. Both taste and smell are not foul, just a bit unpleasant and flat. Not-so-old beer simply acquires a dull taste, but it won’t make you sick. Flat beer may still upset your stomach a little, so be extra careful if you don’t want that. Always make sure that your beer is oxidized, not spoiled.

Do not add oxygen to your beer on purpose because oxidation must happen naturally during fermentation. Further exposure will compromise the beer’s shelf life and shorten it drastically. Your beer will stay fresh for much longer if you limit the amount of time it is exposed. 

How To Prevent Beer Oxidation

If you brew beer at home, rack it into bottles with care to prevent sputtering or generating air bubbles. Bottle lids that absorb oxygen are recommended by many homebrewers. A well-suited racking cane and a bottling bucket are also ideal tools to use. Store your beer in a location with controlled temperatures, particularly one that is cool. Understand that some beer styles may be more seriously affected than others as bottled beers can’t help but oxidize over time.

Kegging a beer may be a much easier way to prevent the impact of oxidation, especially if you’re attentive to other parts of the brewing process. The beer will stay fresh if you purge a keg with CO2 before and after filling it with homebrew.

How To Tell If Beer Has Gone Bad

Beer is prone to a wide range of issues, very much like any other alcoholic drink or food made with natural ingredients. These problems might develop from the very beginning of the brewing process. Spoiled beer may smell like spoiled eggs, sulfur, sewage, urine, or skunk. Regular sun exposure can cause a beer to become “skunked.”

When beer becomes stale, it begins to oxidize slightly and develop an unpleasant urine-like odor. This is the result of beer having significantly outlived its shelf life. When it comes to taste, expired beer may have an aggressive flavor similar to butterscotch, soy sauce, solvent, or vinegar. While others have an apple or freshly cut grass flavor (meaning acetaldehyde is present). It often has a glossy, round mouthfeel to it as well.

It should be very obvious if the flavor you are experiencing is not intended, in spite of there being a ton of unique beer flavors available today. Other typical flavors that can suggest a rotten beer include boiled cabbage, sewage, spoiled eggs, sulfur, or an excessively sour taste.

Can An Oxidized Beer Be Fixed?

There is, unfortunately, no solution to restore beer that has already oxidized. It is impossible to undo oxidation once it has started. The best course of action is to just avoid oxidation altogether.


You can tell a beer is oxidized if they have a dull, orange-like appearance, musty taste, and aromatic smell. It doesn’t look as clear as it has before and may appear cloudy. Plus, it may taste similar to wet paper, cardboard, fruity, or sweet (depending on the ingredients used). Far from spoiled, beer that has been exposed to air for a short time is not foul despite its quite unpleasant taste and scent. You can prevent oxidation by storing your beer in bottles with oxygen-absorbing caps and keeping them somewhere cool. Drinking oxidized beer is not at all risky as long as you know how to tell exposed and skunked beer apart. Beer oxidation is inevitable and irreversible, so it can only be avoided early on.

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