Beer and sunshine: not all it’s cracked up to be

Sunlight can create off flavours in your pint when drinking outdoors

Lightstruck beer is one of the downsides to sunny weather and drinking al fresco. Apart from warming your pint, sunlight can also interact with certain hop-bittering compounds to create off-flavours.

So if you’re out in the sun enjoying a particularly delicious pint and have to leave it down for a while to flip a few burgers on the barbecue or to run to the shop to get emergency ice creams, the taste might be slightly different when you return. It’s a lovely juicy and hoppy aroma and flavour, for example, might be a little skunky. And that’s when your beer’s been lightstruck.

Some say this effect can take place over a matter of minutes – though there’s a few differing opinions. While out in the garden recently, I noticed a beer starting to change over the course of about 20 minutes.

But is the taste that bad? Sometimes it’s bearable but the longer it’s left in the sun, obviously, the more intense the off-flavours.


Many beers are packaged in brown bottles to protect against the effect of sunlight (green and clear glass do not). But one of the best ways to avoid lightstruck beer is to drink from a can – and there’s plenty of good craft ones on the shelves these days.

And Union brewery is based in Bavaria and their straight-up Unfiltered Lager comes in a strikingly straight-up plain white can. Described as an “old school lager”, it’s quite sweet and grainy on the aroma, slightly hazy with a touch of bitterness. It’s crisp and drinkable but not quite as interesting as its “bursting with flavour” claim on the label.

Brutus, by Wicklow brewery O Brother, is a little more eye-catching. This double IPA has plenty of piney, resinous character, a solid hit of bitterness and overall is a tasty, well-balanced beer. And like the beardy character on the label, at 9.1 per cent, it’s got muscle.