In 1957 the U.S. government conducted a study aptly named “The Effect of Nuclear Explosions on Commercially Packaged Beverages”. The researchers placed cans and bottles of beer and other drinks in various proximities to a nuclear explosion, some above ground, some sheltered, and left them to experience the nightmare of a nuclear explosion.
Did the Fallout series get it right when they populated the post-apocalyptic wasteland with beer and cola bottles? Yes! Naturally, some beverages were hit by debris and broke, but any that remained physically intact were found to be safe to drink. And drink them they did, declaring that the beverages closest to the blast tasted “definitely off”, but ones from a bit further away were still of “commercial quality”.
Could beer actually help us survive the apocalypse? There have been some claims that ethanol can act as a scavenger molecule, reacting with the dangerous free radicals produced by ionizing radiation and stopping their ill effects. That would help certainly explain all the drinking in Battlestar Galactica.
Sadly, while ethanol does show some scavenging activity, it’s fairly weak compared with some of the other bioactive scavengers we know about, like naringenin (found in grapefruits) and tocopherols (found in vegetable oils). Not to mention that the levels of radiation you’re likely to experience when traversing the wasteland of Canada are going to be a bit high for scavenging molecules to really help.
So, if the bombs do fall, remember that six-pack you have in the garage because, while it might not stop radiation, it might make the apocalypse a bit more bearable.