by David Mendez
If you were concerned about whether or not you'd be able to drink the beer that you've been oh-so-carefully storing away in the event of a nuclear apocalypse, worry no longer: the federal goverment answered this question 57 years ago, during a series of tests they called "Operation Teapot."
Their conclusions? That, aside from unusual tastes that might make the beer a bit difficult to resell commercially, it's fine! (If you overlook any potential radiation issues, of course.)
From Restricted Data:
They took a number of different types of bottles and cans, filled with different liquids, and put them in various positions relative to Ground Zero for two nuclear tests (“Shot I” and “Shot II” in the report, probably “Apple I” and “Apple II” of Teapot). The closest ones were less than a quarter mile away from the first test — a mere 1056 feet. The furthest ones out were about 2 miles away.
The results were somewhat interesting. Even the bottles pretty near the test had a fairly high survival rate — if they didn’t fall off the shelves, or have something else smash into them (a “missile” problem), or get totally crushed by whatever they were being housed in, they had a good chance of not breaking. Not super surprising, in a way: bottles are small, and there’s a lot of stuff in between them and the shockwave to dissipate it. (Bottles seem more fragile than human beings, but in certain respects they are probably easier to keep safe. Also, human beings are rarely in refrigerators, Indiana Jones notwithstanding.)
As for radiation, only the bottles closest to Ground Zero had much radioactivity, and even that was “well within the permissible limits for emergency use,” which is to say, it won’t hurt you in the short term. The liquid itself was somewhat shielded by the bottles of the containers which picked up some of the radioactivity.
But there were, of course, still pressing questions to be resolved… how did it taste?Examination made immediately upon recovery showed no observable gross changes in the appearance of the beverages. Immediate taste tests indicated that the beverages, both beer and soft drinks, were still of commercial quality, although there was evidence of a slight flavor change in some of the products exposed at 1270 ft from GZ [Ground Zero]. Those farther away showed no change.
So, to sum, your beer will taste absolutely fine, if it's more than a quarter-mile away from ground zero.
Unless it's any of that "light beer" swill, of course. That should just be tossed into the blast crater.
For more on how bombs can affect beer, and other interesting facts from nuclear testing, check out Restricted Data.