It’s happened to the best of us. You put a beer in the freezer to cool it quickly and forget about it. Or maybe you leave a case of beer in the trunk or garage longer than anticipated. Either way, you may find yourself with frozen beer. Is it a loss, or is there something you can do to bring it back to drinkable?
Frozen beer is best brought back to drinking temperature gradually by putting it in the refrigerator for a day or so. Frozen beer can distort the shape of the can or even crack a glass bottle. Though you should never drink from a cracked or broken bottle, even a distorted can may sometimes be rescued as long as the CO2 hasn’t begun to escape.
Read on to find out more about how to safely defrost frozen beer and what’s happening inside that can.
Can you defrost frozen beer?
If you find yourself with frozen beer, fear not. It is possible to rescue it!
The best way to defrost a beer is by putting it in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours. This will keep it at an appropriate drinking temperature, but let it thaw and return to an appropriate drinking temperature slowly.
Alternatively, you can run cool water over the bottle until the beer inside returns to liquid. Depending on how frozen it is, this can take just a few minutes, or closer to an hour.
Will frozen beer explode when thawed?
Rapid changes in temperature, particularly from cold to hot, cause materials like glass to expand. If this happens too quickly, the glass can actually shatter.
Whether the beer freezes quickly or over time, the frozen liquid will expand, usually requiring more space than the bottle has to give. If this happens quickly or if there is an existing defect in the bottle, it could cause the glass to crack or explode. Otherwise, it is possible the frozen beer will push the cap off the bottle.
Never drink beer from a broken or cracked bottle!
Is defrosted beer OK to drink?
Drinking defrosted beer isn’t in and of itself dangerous, but being frozen is hard on beer.
Here are some ways that being frozen can negatively affect beer:
- It can go flat from releasing CO2 through a hole in the can or bottle.
- The alcohol separates from the water and other ingredients, causing an unpleasant tasting experience.
- Being frozen can physically alter beer at a molecular level, causing oxidation and denaturing. This can easily lead to off flavors.
Does freezing alcohol ruin it?
One of the many great things about alcohol is that it only freezes at very low temperatures. Alcohol, also known as ethanol, doesn’t freeze until about -173°F. That’s much colder than any freezer or even the coldest winter’s day.
This means that even a frozen solid beer will always still have some liquid still floating around inside. This is the alcohol itself.
Alcohol is not affected by freezer temperatures, however, the beer itself may lose carbonation or flavor as a result of being frozen.
What to do if a beer can is frozen
If you’ve got a can of beer that’s frozen or partially frozen, first check it for any ruptures. You’ll know it’s ruptured because it will start leaking as soon as it begins to thaw.
Even if the can has become misshapen, though, it may be salvageable. The water in beer expands when it freezes, which sometimes causes cans to bubble up on the top or bottom.
Whether this is the case or not, place the beer in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours to thaw it out. For best results, put it in a zipper back or a tray of some kind to catch any leakage that may occur.
If the beer leaks out of the can, it means your beer has ruptured and is not likely to be drinkable.
What to do if a beer bottle is frozen
A frozen beer bottle presents the danger of broken glass when the water in beer turns to ice and expands.
Inspect any frozen or partially frozen beer bottles carefully for signs of cracking. If a case of beer bottles freezes and a few of them explode, it’s best to throw away the whole case to avoid the risk of drinking broken glass.
If the bottle is frozen but intact, the best course of action is to put it in the refrigerator in a zipper bag or plastic tray for 12-24 hours. Putting it in a bag or tray will make cleanup loads easier in the event of an exploding bottle.
How to defrost beer quickly
Trying to defrost beer too quickly can lead to a dangerous mess of cracked bottles and burst cans. Glass, for example, expands quickly when it goes from cold to hot. If you were to run a frozen bottle of beer under hot water, the bottle can crack or even shatter, which is a major safety risk AND causes you to lose your beer.
The best way to defrost a frozen beer is simply to move it to the fridge and wait a day or so until it thaws out on its own. However, defrosting a beer is not all that different from defrosting meat or vegetables in a hurry.
If you’re trying to enjoy your frosty beer tonight, there are some things you can try to speed up the process:
- Remove the beer bottle or can from the cold environment. If you accidentally left a beer in the freezer, or in the trunk of your car in the winter, get it out of there! Bring it inside to a room temperature space.
- Run cold water over the beer in a steady stream. For best results, leave the can or bottle sit in a tupperware or other sink-safe vessel, and let the water run over it.
- Don’t rush it! Depending on how frozen your beer is, it may take a little while to fully thaw out. To avoid broken glass or a cracked can, never run hot water over a cold beer.
- Keep an eye on it. You’ll see the outer exterior of the beer begin to liquify first.
- Taste it. When you’re ready, crack it open and give it a taste! Its flavor may have degraded, or it may taste perfectly normal. There’s only one way to find out. Bottoms up!