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What effects could heat have on beer and how long does it take? Is it ok to ship beer without an icepack during the summer? Can it survive the heat of a parked car for a few hours?

Someone out there has to have done a side-by-side experiment on this (whether intentional or unintentional).

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good question. Now I'm worried about the beer I sent to a competition –  Nathan Koop May 26 '11 at 17:28
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I have not tested this but this is what i would guess. First off for the shipping i think it would get bad in the heat while shipping (plus it is illegal to ship beer). I think heat in general will make it bad because you still have yeast in the bottle and by exposing it to higher temperatures you will get off flavors produced by the yeast just like you do when you ferment at to high a temp. If your going to leave it in a car I would suggest leaving it in a cooler with ice. So my recommendation would be to keep it within fermenting temps or lower at all times because i suspect it wouldnt taste that good after a short time at elevated temps.

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It is not illegal to ship beer. It is illegal to ship beer via the USPS, but UPS, FedEx, etc. allow it. Whether or not you can ship it into or out of your state using a private courier varies from state to state. –  JackSmith Jun 2 '11 at 12:55
    
Yes shipping beer through USPS is illegal. In fact no alcohol can be shipped through the USPS period. Now for UPS and I believe this is true for Fed Ex as well you need to enter into an agreement to ship alcohol. Only licensed shippers can ship beer through UPS. I also just looked into Fed ex briefly and it appears you can only ship if your licensed as well. So technically unless your licensed you can not ship beer period. Now if you send it through UPS and Fed Ex will you get caught? Probably not but your not supposed to. –  Rob Jun 3 '11 at 10:12
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Heat does not cause skunkiness. That's due to exposure to light. Heat will accelerate the staling process, producing oxidized flavors among other flaws. In general, a short period of time in the 80s will not fatally damage beer, but the higher the temp and the longer the time of exposure, the worse it gets.

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Seconded. The rule of thumb is every 10 degree C increase in temperature doubles the rate of staling. (Source: Dr. Charlie Bamforth has stated this several times, such as on Brew Strong). So if your beer takes one year to stale at 0C, it will take 6 months at 10C, 3 months at 20C, etc. A hot car can easily reach 45C (~115F), which would require about a two weeks to stale, assuming it stales in one year at 0C. There's more at play than just temperature, but this is a nice general rule to keep in mind: colder is better. –  JackSmith May 26 '11 at 18:06
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Furthermore, "stale" isn't a binary condition. At 115F, it won't be fine for two weeks then suddenly be stale. It will start getting worse immediately, and at some point will cross the fuzzy "undrinkable" threshold. –  JackSmith May 26 '11 at 18:07
    
The beer in question is a Hefeweizen, which probably makes matters worse since they are a "drink fresh" beer. –  Room3 May 27 '11 at 12:59
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I left some homebrew in a hot car for a few hours (2) and it became terrible. Filled with off flavors and all kinds of skunky-ness. I can't say how long it takes, but generally is isn't a good idea.

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