Brewing with Old Yeast vs. New Yeast – Pt. 1

Yeast can be the most influential ingredient in beer, and many brewers often take special care to provide ideal conditions for their yeast in order to attempt to produce excellent beer and avoid certain yeast-derived off-flavors. Likewise, brewers often concern themselves with pitching yeast prior to its “best before” date and also trying to ensure an appropriate yeast cell count for a given batch of wort.

Curious as to how yeast beyond its “best before” date would perform, a 10 gallon batch of wort was brewed and split into two 5 gallon vessels, one batch was inoculated with one vial of yeast pitched prior to its “best before” date, and the other batch was pitched with the same variety of yeast that had exceeded its “best before” date by approximately 5 ½ years.

Old Yeast vs New Yeast.

The particular yeast tested in this experiment was White Labs Belgian Style Ale Yeast Blend WLP 575, one vial with a “best before” date of Sep. 10th, 2012, and the other vial with a “best before” date of Feb. 10th, 2018. Both vials of yeast had been stored at approximately 37 °F (2.78 °C).

[Note: The manufacturing date of White Labs yeast is said to be four months prior to the “best before” date listed on the packaging.]

Essentially, two things are being tested here:

1. Can enough (or any) viable (live) yeast cells survive after being in a vial for nearly six years in order to ferment wort?
2. Assuming wort can be fermented with six-year-old yeast, will pitching the reduced amount of viable yeast affect the final character of the beer enough to be identified in a taste test when compared to a similar beer made with newer yeast and thus a higher pitching rate?

Experiment Considerations

Being that Belgian yeast is being tested, it seemed only fitting that a Belgian style wort should be brewed. But what kind of Belgian wort would be best so as to minimize stress on the yeast and provide the best possible chance of growth, especially considering that the almost six-year-old vial of yeast might not have much if any viable yeast?

After careful scientifical consideration, it was concluded that a Belgian Dark Strong ale recipe with a starting gravity of 1.116 would be a good testing ground for old yeast, because as Euclid’s 6th Postulate clearly states: “Go Big or Go Home.”  Also, esters and other compounds which develop during the yeast’s growth phase may be more noticeable and therefore easier to detect in a beer of higher gravity that’s been fermented with under pitched Belgian yeast.

Of course there are some more serious dangers of under pitching yeast including the potential for other microorganisms to infect the beer, and the possibility of a stuck fermentation with the resulting under-attenuated beer.

Not to be deterred, the next order of business was to determine what the potential viability of the yeast was based on its age, and also what an appropriate cell count estimate might be for a wort with a starting gravity of 1.116.

Fortunately, online calculators have been designed for just this purpose.

One such program is the Yeast Pitch Rate and Starter Calculator from the website www.brewersfriend.com where the tagline is “brewing with total confidence.” After entering the details of the age of the yeast and the starting gravity of the wort, the viability of the yeast in the vial was estimated to be at approximately 0%. In other words, the calculator reassuringly estimated that 0% of the yeast would be alive. Based on this figure, the program further suggested that the pitch rate of the old yeast would be just a tad bit short… by about 644 billion cells… which is to say we are under the recommended pitch rate by 100%.

For good measure, the viability and suggested pitch rate for the new yeast was also calculated, and the program indicated that the viability of the yeast was about 17%, and thus the recommended pitch rate of the new yeast would be a little short as well, but only by 627 billion cells.

Viability of Old Yeast vs. New Yeast

Brewer's Friend: Brewing with Total Confidence

Armed with this information, the requisite “total confidence” was obtained in order to move forward with the experiment.

Process

In order to keep variables as consistent as possible, no yeast starters were made for either the old or new yeast.

One 10 gallon batch of beer was brewed, chilled to 64 °F (17.78 °C), split into two vessels with one vessel receiving the new yeast, and the other vessel the old yeast, the vessels were shaken vigorously for one minute to oxygenate, and finally placed into a temperature controlled refrigerator set to 68 °F (20 °C) on January 29th, at 2:00 AM.

Predictions

1. The old yeast might make beer. Or it might not.
2. The under pitched new yeast will probably make beer, but maybe it won’t.

Observations

1. Turns out that both predictions from above were correct!
2. The beer with one vial of new yeast began to form a krausen approximately 72 hours after inoculation.
3. The beer with one vial of 6 year-old-yeast began to form a krausen approximately 78 hours after inoculation.
4. Both the beer with the old yeast and new yeast exhibited vigorous fermentation and a similar-looking krausen, however the beer with the old yeast was more vigorous, pushing krausen through the airlock.
5. On day 8, airlock bubbling slowed dramatically, and by day 9, it had stopped. By day 10, the krausens of both beers had still not fallen.
6. A sniff check on day 9 revealed that the aroma of the beer with the new yeast was more fruity and complex, whereas the beer with the old yeast exhibited more of a generic overstated yeast character, and not as much of the complex fruity character typical of some strains of Belgian yeast.
7. A sniff check on day 10 revealed that the aroma of the beer with the new yeast maintained its same fruity complexity, but the beer with the old yeast had toned down some of its predominant generic yeast character, and begun to develop a more complex and better integrated yeast-to-beer balance.

Further Predictions

1. The beer with one vial of new yeast will attenuate to within 5 gravity points of the beer with the old yeast, give or take 20 gravity points.
2. The two beers will be repeatedly distinguishable based on a triangle taste test performed by 10 supertasters (significance will be reached with a p-value of <0.05). However, a subsequent and more advanced trapezoid test will reveal that statistical significance was not reached by a population size of 20 non-supertasters.


Hi, I’m Dan: Beer Editor for Beer Syndicate, Beer and Drinking Blogger, Beer Judge, Gold Medal-Winning Homebrewer, Beer Reviewer, American Homebrewers Association Member, Shameless Beer Promoter, and Beer Traveler.

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A Guide to The Jamaican Beer Scene

Since the days of swashbuckling pirates, certainly rum has been the libation most synonymous with the Caribbean.  And while rum is still wildly popular within the West Indies, beer has been catching up as of late.  For example, from 1961-2010 in Jamaica, beer represented 42% of all alcoholic beverages consumed, in many years exceeding the catch-all “spirits” category.

Beer Consumption Levels in Jamaica

This narrow margin between beer and spirits consumption is a pattern consistent with almost all Caribbean countries.

 

Lager: King of the Caribbean

As one might suspect, it is the typical crisp and refreshing lager beer that is the norm throughout the often warm and humid tropical climes of the Caribbean, with popular examples including Presidente Pilsner from the Dominican Republic, Carib Lager brewed in Trinidad & Tobago, Kalik lager in the Bahamas, and Banks lager brewed in Barbados.

But the undisputed king of lagers in every corner of Jamaica is of course the culturally ingrained and internationally distributed Red Stripe lager, produced by Desnoes & Geddes Limited (D & G) at a mega brewery in the capital city of Kingston.

Red Stripe: Brewed & Bottled by Desnoes & Geddes Limited, Kingston, Jamaica

As a matter of fact, the vast majority of beer sold in Jamaica is produced at the same D & G facility where both Heineken and Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (the only variant of Guinness on the island) are brewed en mass under contract and available rather ubiquitously throughout the country. Incidentally, D & G also produces the well-distributed Smirnoff Ice under contract in Jamaica.

Beers of Jamaica

Contract brewing is commonplace in the Caribbean, but the practice is not without its share of controversy.

Contract Brewing Controversies

For clarification, most beer brands are brewed and bottled in their respective cities or countries of origin and sometimes then exported to other countries with consumers often paying a premium for foreign beers due to the additional cost of import.

However in some cases when a brand becomes popular enough such as German Beck’s, Irish Guinness or Jamaican Red Stripe, the beer brand might then be produced out of its country of origin at a different brewery under contract in order to save costs for the brewery.  Interestingly, the Guinness Foreign Extra contract brewed in Jamaica is partially made (mashed) in Ireland and then the resulting liquid malt syrup is sent to Jamaica where it is said to be brewed to local tastes, with one distinguishing characteristic being the reduced amount of alcohol in the Jamaican version (6.5% ABV) compared to its Irish-brewed counterpart weighing in at 7.5%.

Contract brewing can sometimes lead to legal troubles like when consumers claim to be misled by breweries that suggest to some degree that the consumer is purchasing imported beer brewed in its country of origin when in fact the beer is being brewed elsewhere, as was the case in the U.S. when class action lawsuits were filed against the parent companies of both Beck’s (AB InBev) in 2013 and Red Stripe (Diageo plc) in 2015.

AB InBev, owner of the Beck’s brand which has been produced for the U.S. market alongside Budweiser at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis, Missouri since 2012, ended up settling their lawsuit to the tune of $20 million in 2015.  Meanwhile, the case against Diageo plc and its Red Stripe brand, which was being brewed and bottled to supply the U.S. out of Latrobe, Pennsylvania and La Crosse, Wisconsin from 2012-2016, has been dismissed as of 2016.

To the delight of Red Stripe purists in the States, the iconic Jamaican lager is again being produced proudly on its home soil in Jamaica for export to the U.S. as of September 7, 2016.  So as the old Red Stripe slogan goes: “Hooray, beer!”

Red Stripe: We are Jamaica, Ireland, England, The Netherlands.

Red Stripe Slogan: We are Jamaica

Speaking of slogans, despite Red Stripe’s current motto “We Are Jamaica,” the brand and the brewery that produces Red Stripe (D & G) sold a $62 million majority stake in its brewery to Guinness Brewing Worldwide a few weeks after sales of the Jamaican beer increased by more than 50% in the U.S. after Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman were seen drinking Red Stripe in the 1993 summer blockbuster The Firm.

Guinness merged with Grand Metropolitan in 1997 to form the British multinational company Diageo plc, and Diageo continued to own Red Stripe until October of 2015 when the Dutch mega brewery Heineken International acquired Diageo’s shares in Red Stripe for $781 million to add to its collection of more than 170 other beer brands.

This partly explains why Heineken and Guinness Extra Foreign Stout are so commonly available in Jamaica, though Guinness Foreign Extra Stout originally gained a foothold in the Caribbean after its direct predecessor, Guinness West India Porter, was first exported to the islands in 1801 to support Irish immigrant workers in the region. ¹

[Beer Selection in Negril at Quality Traders.]

[Heineken and Guinness Foreign Extra Stout being sold at Quality Traders in Negril, Jamaica.]

The Beers of Jamaica

In total there are only about thirteen different Jamaican beers produced by two breweries on the island, with the lion’s share being produced by D & G in Kingston, the same company that brews Red Stripe.  Red Stripe itself currently comes in four variants: Red Stripe Lager, Red Stripe Light, Red Stripe Lemon Paradise, and Sorrel (Hibiscus).  Former Red Stripe iterations have included Red Stripe Bold, Red Stripe Burst (raspberry flavored), Gong 71st (lemon flavored), Ginger, Lime and Apple.

Beers of Jamaica

D & G, which was founded in 1918, also brews the fairly common Dragon Stout (a malty sweet stout at 7.5% ABV), the more boozy but less common Dragon Stout Spitfire (10% ABV), and Talawah Lager.  By the way, the word “talawah/tallawah” is a Jamaican patois term meaning “strong-willed,” as found in the common Jamaican saying “Wi lickle but wi Tallawah,” which means something along the lines of “although Jamaica is a small nation, it is strong-willed.”

Beers of Jamaica

Razz Brewery may very well be the only other brewery operating in Jamaica, though its beers are not very widely distributed on the island.  Founded in 2012 by entrepreneur Roy DeCambre and located less than 4.5 miles southeast of the Red Stripe Plant in Kingston, it seems Razz may be independently and wholly owned by its founder, though one initial report indicated that Razz Brewery had formed an alliance with the beer mega-monopoly AB InBev.

Razz Brewery produces six different brews at the moment: Lion Heart Stout, Razz 876 (a pale lager with “876” being a reference to the area code of Jamaica), Razz Hard Jamaican Ginger Beer, Lime Shandy, Cola Shandy, and Jamaica Stout, a private label of the now defunct Big City Brewing Company from Kingston, Jamaica.

It turns out that shortly after Big City Brewing Company went into liquidation, the newly formed Razz Brewery effectively bought out Big City in April of 2012 and currently operates out of the same location at 7 Pechon Street in Kingston.  Big City was the brewery behind the internationally distributed label Real Rock, but also produced Yardy Lager (including ginger, cola, and lime versions), Royal Jamaican Alcohol Ginger Beer, Jamaica Stout, and Lion Heart Stout, a label Razz is also currently brewing.

Kingston 62 Pilsner Beer was a brand contract brewed by Big City for Lascelles Wines and Spirits, but the beer was pulled from the market in 2010 due to quality control issues (dirty bottles) and has yet to reemerge.

From time to time and to varying degrees of success, alcohol companies in Jamaica have attempted to import other foreign brands such as Crystal and Bucanero Cerveza from Cuba, and Carib and Stag from Trinidad.

Same Beer, Different Bars.

Let’s face it, in terms of variety, the Jamaican beer scene is a bit reminiscent of the woefully limited U.S. beerscape post-Prohibition and pre-craft beer revolution.

On the surface of it, the rather sparse range of beers available may appear particularly surprising especially for a nation that somewhat paradoxically boasts the world’s highest number of both bars and churches per square mile, at least according to many a Jamaican tour guide.

And indeed, bars are aplenty in Jamaica from cliff-jumping and stunning sunsets at the heavily trafficked Rick’s Café in Negril, to Floyd’s Pelican Bar, one of the most unique bars in the world, built on a sand bar in the ocean surrounded by water about a mile off the west coast of St. Elizabeth.

[Floyd’s Pelican Bar: Top Five Bars to have a Drink at Before You Die.]

But the problem isn’t finding a bar.  The problem is finding something other than the handful of standard beers that can found anywhere on the island.

Just a Matter of Prospective?

The perception of a lack of variety of beer available in Jamaica is only magnified if viewed through the lens of a country like the U.S. where there are over 5,300 breweries in operation as of 2017, at least 15,000 different labels of beer on the market, and large liquor stores like Total Wine typically stocking over 2,500 different beers on the shelves.

Total Wine Number of Beers

Though in fairness, Jamaica is nowhere near the size or population of the U.S.  At only 4,244 square miles, Jamaica could fit into the state of Arizona almost 27 times (and almost 900 times in the whole U.S.), and with just under 3 million people on the island, the overall beer market in Jamaica is orders of magnitude smaller than that of the U.S. with its population of over 323 million.

Skewed comparative prospectives aside, for a country of nearly three million people, a mere two breweries in total still seems a bit low.  So what gives?

Rum, Malt, Kegs and Imports: A Variety of Reasons for a Lack of Variety

Although Jamaica is considered an upper middle-income country by the World Bank, the average monthly income in Jamaica is still only about a third of what it is in the U.S. ($1,241 in Jamaica vs $3,679 in the U.S., per 2016 figures).  And as D & G— the largest brewing company in Jamaica— pointed out in its 2016 annual meeting, consumer price sensitivity partly accounted for the fact that 25% of the Jamaican market was not drinking beer, in particular because the price of rum was more attractively priced relative to beer.

The cost difference between rum and beer in Jamaica and the lack of beer variety in the Caribbean overall is partially influenced by the fact that unlike rum, the typical ingredients used to make beer (barely, wheat and hops) don’t grow in the Caribbean climate, and thus 100% of these ingredients are imported, which creates an additional barrier to entry for those islanders looking to jump into the brewing business.

In addition, beer on draft in Jamaica is the exception and not the rule.  Without a widespread draft system infrastructure in place, any potential new Jamaican breweries have the added cost of bottling or canning its beer to worry about.  Add to this the cost of importing brewing equipment and probably a brewer as no brewing schools exist in Jamaica, and we may begin to develop some explanation for the lack of breweries on the island.

Development of Jamaican beer culture is further stymied by the overall lack of exposure to other beer styles or brands.  A variety of imported beers are in short supply in Jamaica apart from the occasional Bud, Bud Light, Miller Lite, Corona, Stella Artois, and Samuel Adams Boston Lager which runs for about $4.00 per 12 ounce bottle in the grocery store as of this writing. Little if any more variety is likely to be found at any of the few specialty liquor stores which tend to focus on popular mass-distributed wine and spirit brands.

Beer in Kingston at Sovereign Supermarket

[Imported beer selection at Sovereign Supermarket in Kingston, Jamaica.]

If these imported beers represented the extent of the exotic nature of foreign beer styles, what inspiration would there be to explore anything beyond Red Stripe, which itself is typically higher rated than other Adjunct Lager style beers such as Bud, Bud Light, Miller Lite and Corona?

Is There Hope for Greater Beer Diversity in Jamaica?

We might be tempted to attribute a lack of beer variety in Jamaica and throughout the West Indies to the often swelteringly warm and humid Caribbean climate, which would seem to lend itself to pale lagers.  But while lager may be king of the Caribbean, a big rich stout is the crown prince.  It stands to reason that if a big thick stout style of beer can make in Caribbean, then so too could other beer styles.

Micheal Jackson: Great Beer Guide (500 Classic Brews)Public awareness and appreciation of other beer styles is what drives the evolution of beer diversity.  This awareness is instilled either by tasting any of the more than 100 different beer styles or reading about them.

As public interest grows, a small enthusiastic group of the population will take up homebrewing, which creates demand for local homebrew supply shops.  After honing their brewing skills, perfecting their recipes, perhaps gaining experience at a commercial brewery, and developing a business plan, a small percentage of homebrewers eventually become professional brewers and open breweries of their own crafting new and inspired brews.  These breweries further diversify the public’s palate and inspire others to open more breweries, continuing the cycle of growth.

Given the difficulty of obtaining brewing ingredients, it’s understandable that homebrewing on the island is scarce with perhaps the only homebrew club being that of the Jamaican Homebrewers’ Guild which was formed by Peace Corps volunteers.

D & G is aware of the lack of beer variety in Jamaica and attributes this among other factors to the reason more of the Jamaican market isn’t drinking beer.  In response, D & G added more color into its own lineup by introducing Red Stripe Light, Lemon, and Sorrel (hibiscus).  Another speed bump on the road to wider beer adoption is the relative price of beer compared to rum, which D & G is combating by reducing prices on its own beer.

D & G was in part able to reduce costs of its beer by replacing 20% of the imported malt syrup with native grown cassava root, and plans to increase that ratio to 40% by 2020. While some might view this merely as a way to cut costs on a product, the move arguably makes Red Stripe more Jamaican because unlike cassava root, barely and hops don’t grow naturally in the Caribbean.  More importantly, this recipe-redo helps to reduce the import imbalance in Jamaica, which in turn reduces inflation, increases employment, and better stabilizes the otherwise fragile economy of the country.

As far as diversifying the Jamaican palate with a greater selection of imports, certainly D & G’s parent company Heineken has the means and the ability to do so with its rather extensive list of high quality brands in its portfolio.  Whether such an action would make business-sense for Heineken is another matter.

Instead of competing with imports from its parent company, D & G will likely simply continue to create different recipes for the market that leverage on more Jamaican-themed ingredients of which there are plenty including soursop, starfruit, banana, Blue Mountain coffee, cocoa, coconut, mango, etc.

An additional potential incentive for Jamaica to diversify its beer selection is to accommodate the broadened beer palates of its tourists, tourists that provide a more than 30% (and growing) total contribution to Jamaica’s GDP.

Meanwhile, if you’re headed to Jamaica and feel you won’t be able to live on Red Stripe alone, you might just have to BYOB. 

[Daniel J. Leonard sipping Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout in Ocho Rios.]

[Daniel J. Leonard sipping Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.]

Respect.


Hi, I’m Dan: Beer Editor for Beer Syndicate, Beer and Drinking Blogger, Gold Medal-Winning Homebrewer, Beer Reviewer, AHA Member, Beer Judge, Shameless Beer Promoter, and Beer Traveler.

Reference: 1. Oliver, Garrett (7 October 2011). The Oxford Companion to Beer. Oxford University Press. p. 494.

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Warmed Beer for Health— Not Just a German Thing

The German concept of warmed beer as a restorative dates back at least to the 1600s.  As 18th century Encyclopedist Johann Krünitz described in his Oeconomische Encyclopädie, “Warmbier” was a beverage that grandparents would drink in the 17th and early 18th centuries as a healthy alternative to coffee.

Of course this “Warmbier” wasn’t merely warmed up beer, but rather a beer-based concoction made by heating beer and then adding eggs, flour, butter, ginger nutmeg, salt and sugar.  To be clear, when we talk about “warm” or hot beer in modern times, we simply mean beer that is heated, which is something quite different from the old Germanic protein shake known as “Warmbier”.

As odd as it may sound to most of the cold beer drinking world today, serving beer hot wasn’t just a phenomenon unique to Germany, nor were the alleged health benefits associated with it.  As early as 1641, a book was produced for sale at the shop of Englishman Henry Overton entitled: “Warm beere, or, A treatise wherein is declared by many reasons that beere so qualified is farre more wholsome then that which is drunke cold with a confutation of such objections that are made against it, published for the preservation of health.”

Warm beer seems to have lost favor in the late 19th century as W.T. Marchant bemoans in his 1888 book entitled In Praise of Ale— “It is a matter of regret that some of the more comforting drinks have gone out of date. When beer was the staple drink, morning, noon, and night, it was natural that our ancestors would prefer their breakfast beer warm and ‘night-caps’ flavoured.”

In his article in The Atlantic, beer writer Jacob Grier suggests that it was advances in refrigeration technology and the Prohibition-era decline of saloons and the associated room-temperature ales that helped swing the popular vote away from warm ales and over to cold lagers, or just cold beer in general.

Ordering a Warmed Beer Abroad

The most well-known and commonly available hot beer in Germany and neighboring German-speaking countries is called “Glühbier”.  Pronounced “Glue Bee-Ah” and translated as “glow beer”, Glühbier is usually a spiced cherry beer, although other varieties may be found like Störtebeker Glüh-Bier which is made with elderberry juice and winter spices.

Glühbier is more or less the beer version of the more common “Glühwein” (“glow wine”), or mulled wine, both of which are ordinarily available during the winter season especially at Christmas markets and ski resorts in German-speaking countries.  A few commercially bottled examples of Glühbier exist including Appenzeller Glühbier, Glühbier aus Österreich , Glühbier aus Franken and Detmolder Glühbier.

Glühbier is basically the German cousin of the Belgian cherry beer “Glühkriek” (glow cherry), although often times Belgian Glühkriek is sold in Germany under the more generic title of Glühbier.

St. Louis Kriek “Glühbier” at a Christmas Market in Berlin.

Aside from the winter seasonal Glühbier, it isn’t very common for beer to be served warm in Germany.  However, some traditional German restaurants, particularly in the south, will heat your beer, any beer, for you upon request at no extra charge.

Simply ask for your beer “gestaucht”, which in this specific context means “warmed up”.

If a trip to southern Germany for a pint of heated beer is out of the budget, heating beer at home is as easy as pouring a beer into a pot and heating it up on the stove.  Heating up a sealed beer bottle in a pot of boiling water is not a great idea for two reasons: (1) the bottle might explode and (2) hot beer has a tendency to foam up which can be avoided by pouring the beer into the pot.

If you want to get fancy, Westmark, a German company, makes a beer warming device for about €20-€30.  The device itself is a metal cylindrical vessel which is designed to hold hot water.  The vessel is then sealed and placed in a beer mug before the beer is poured, which preserves more of the beer’s carbonation as compared to pouring and heating beer in a pot.

Hot Beer Recommendations

Not all kinds of beer are very well suited for being served warm, let alone hot.  However, there are some notable exceptions, particularly any Glühkriek (spiced Belgian-style tart cherry beer) with some commercial examples being Liefmans, St. Louis, and Timmermans (Warme Kriek).

If you have any trouble finding a commercial Glühkriek, making one at home is as simple as heating and adding mulling spices and perhaps some sugar or honey to basically any store-bought Belgian Kriek (cherry) beer.  Lindemans Kriek Lambic is already on the sweet-side, so only the addition of mulling spices would be needed.

Another fantastic ready-made warmable brew worth mentioning is Quelque Chose, an uncarbonated lightly spiced cherry beer from the Canadian brewery Unibroue.  Aware of the custom of hot beer, Unibroue recommends serving the beer at 50 – 70°C (122 – 158°F).

Quelque Chose Beer Unibroue

In addition, many dark spiced winter ales can also be pleasant when served hot.  As for historic warmed beer recipes and concoctions, Joe Stange produced such a list for Draft Magazine which included mulled ale, aleberry, caudle, Dog’s Nose, Flip, Glühkriek, Lambswool, Posset, Shenagrum, and Wassail (the majority of these are some combination of beer heated in a pot with spices added in).

Reemergence of Warmed Beer?

Will warmed beer make a come-back in English-speaking countries? Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, turns out there might have just been something to that old German home remedy of warm beer to ward off a cold after all.

Gesundheit! (Healthiness)

Related Article: Warm Beer: The Science Behind an Old German Remedy for the Common Cold


Hi, I’m Dan: Beer Editor for Beer Syndicate, Beer and Drinking Blogger, Gold Medal-Winning Homebrewer, Beer Reviewer, AHA Member, Beer Judge, Shameless Beer Promoter, and Beer Traveler.

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Warm Beer: The Science Behind an Old German Remedy for the Common Cold

At first glance, “warm beer to fight a cold” looks like something a brewery might have cooked up in order to turn a profit during cold & flu season.  It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a brewery has made a positive health claim about its beer to increase sales.

Take for example Guinness’ advertising slogan from the 1920s “Guinness is Good for You,” which later had to be changed to comply with Irish advertising regulations that prevents adverts from suggesting that alcohol has therapeutic qualities.  (Irish advertising authorities also thought it necessary to issue regulation preventing advertisers from suggesting that “the presence or consumption of alcohol can contribute towards sexual success or make the drinker more attractive.”)

A similar legal reaction unfolded in the U.S. after Schlitz began fortifying its beer with vitamin D in 1936, touting that consumption of the beer would lead to “year round vigorous health.” Schlitz was quickly imitated by Auto City Brewing Co. when it started adding vitamins B and G (riboflavin) to its Altweiser Beer in 1937 along with the advertisement that Altweiser “is more refreshing because of the vitamins B and G which it contains… vitamins which are absolutely essential to proper digestion.”¹  In response, the Federal Alcoholic Administration (FAA) ruled in 1940 that beer labeling could not make mention of vitamins.

And no, it wasn’t just breweries that tried to add to the bottom line by extolling the alleged healing powers of hooch.  Indeed, doctors commonly used to write prescriptions for “medicinal alcohol” to treat a number of aliments during U.S. Prohibition.  Perhaps the most famous instance of all involved Sir Winston Churchill who was given an unlimited prescription for booze in 1931 for “post accident convalescence” after Churchill was struck by a car after exiting a cab in New York City.

Financial motives aside, the question remains: is there any truth to the old German folk remedy that claims a warm beer can aid against the common cold?  As it turns out, the answer appears to be yes, at least according to some modern-day science.

Of course beer is not going to cure a cold (there is no current cure), but it appears beer may help with cold prevention and assist in recovery.

The following are a few possible ways in which science has suggested that beer, warm or otherwise, might aid against a cold:

1. Alcohol as a Pain Reliever, Pleasure Producer and Sleep Aid

Proper beer contains alcohol, and alcohol has been scientifically shown to increase tolerance to pain, release endorphins which promote feelings of well-being, and decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, although it can reduce the quality of sleep.  Nevertheless, sleep helps both to prevent a cold and aid in recovery.

So is this why NyQuil contains 10% alcohol-by-volume? Maybe, but the official corporate line according to Procter & Gamble is that alcohol is used only as a solvent to keep the active ingredients in NyQuil in solution.

2. Hot Beverages Provide Relieve from Cold and Flu Symptoms

According to a 2008 study done by the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, scientists found that a “hot drink provided immediate and sustained relief from symptoms of runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat, chilliness and tiredness, whereas the same drink at room temperature only provided relief from symptoms of runny nose, cough and sneezing.”

While this study was conducted using a hot fruit drink (not beer), it nevertheless lends strong support to the idea that a warm beverage, beer or otherwise, would confer the same kind of cold symptom relieving effects.

3. Hops as a Sleep Aid

A Spanish study from 2012 confirmed the sedative properties of hops, while a subsequent study showed that women who drank one bottle (330 ml/11.16 oz) of non-alcoholic beer that contained hops per night had improved sleep quality and reduced levels of anxiety.

And according to a 2015 U.S. study, sleep turned out to be the single most important factor in preventing colds, more so than age, stress levels, race, education or income.  People who sleep six hours a night or less are four times more likely to catch a cold when exposed to the virus, compared to those who spend more than seven hours a night.

Short story shorter: hops improve sleep, and sleep helps prevent colds.

4. Beer Often Contains Helpful Vitamins

Yes, the chemical compound “humulone” found in hops has virus-fighting properties according to a 2012 Japanese study, but you’d need to down about 30 twelve-ounce beers to get the associated antivirus benefits.  Don’t do that.  (Of course that’s still better than the roughly 80 glasses of red wine needed to get the recommend daily 40 mg of resveratrol.)

That said, just one beer may provide up to 12.5% of the recommended daily dose of B6.  Vitamin B6 is a metabolism enhancer that helps to unlock and better utilize the energy and nutrients in food.  That’s an extra energy and nutrient boost that can be used in the battle of You-vs-ColdB6 in beer is derived from the yeast used to make the beer, which means unfiltered beers or bottle-conditioned beers will have the highest amount of vitamin B6, whereas filtered beers will have the lowest amount if any.

5. Beer and Alcohol as Immune System Boosters

A German study involving athletes showed that the risk of catching a cold was reduced by 33% after drinking alcohol-free wheat beer.  Meanwhile, two other studies found that moderate alcohol consumption boosts the immune system.

As it turns out, science has shown that moderate consumption of alcohol is effective in preventing the common cold, but in the interest of fair reporting, there are a couple potential draw-backs of alcohol to keep in mind.

A) If taking any medication that recommends against the use of alcohol, it’s reasonable to follow that advice.
B) Alcohol is a diuretic which means it has a dehydrating effect by way of increasing the amount of urine produced in the body by about 160% in the case of beer. Translation: for every 12 ounces of beer you drink at 5% ABV, you expel about 19 ounces of water for a net loss of 7 ounces of water.

Staying hydrated is important particularly when fighting a cold because water helps to transport cold-fighting nutrients throughout the body, although watch how much water you consume as science seems to suggest that drinking excess water won’t help beat a cold.

So why not just drink an additional 7 ounces of water per beer to make up for the loss?

Clever idea.  There’s just one catch: the body only hangs on to about 33-50% of the extra water you drink.   If you’re thinking just drink a little more water, we really like the way you think, you problem-solver, you.  Something like 14-21 ounces of water per beer sound about right?

Will “Warm Beer to Fight a Cold” Become a Thing Again?

Only time will tell.  Meanwhile, it turns out there might have just been something to that old German home remedy of warm beer to ward off a cold after all.

Auf dein Wohl! (To your well-being!)

[Disclaimer: Nothing contained in this article is to be considered medical advice.  In fact, we’re a little weary of medical-related stuff in general, seeing as how medical errors are now the third leading cause of death at least in the U.S.  In other words, good luck!]

References: (Click to Expand)

1. Anderson, Will. From beer to eternity: everything you always wanted to know about beer (pp. 93). S. Greene Press, 1987.
2.
 The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland, 6th Edition, Chap. One, Article 7.4(c)

3. Driscoll, David B. “Schlitz ‘Sunshine Vitamin D Beer Can’.” Wisconsin Historical Society. N.p., 19 Oct. 2012. Web. 13 Nov. 2017.
4. Gambino, Megan. “During Prohibition, Your Doctor Could Write You a Prescription for Booze.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 7 Oct. 2013
5. Churchill, Winston S. An archive of correspondence between Winston S. Churchill and Dr. Otto C. Pickhardt, the treating physician after Churchill’s New York City traffic accident, December 1931 – April 1963.
6. (www.dw.com), Deutsche Welle. “How Germans Fight Colds | All Media Content | DW | 02.01.2015.” DW.COM, www.dw.com/en/how-germans-fight-colds/g-18133946.
7. Woodrow, Kenneth M., and Lorne G. Eltherington. “Feeling No Pain: Alcohol as an Analgesic.” Pain, vol. 32, no. 2, 1988, pp. 159–163., doi:10.1016/0304-3959(88)90064-4.
8. Trevor Thompson, et al. “Systematic Review: Alcohol Has Analgesic Effects.” Alcohol Other Drugs and Health Current Evidence Systematic Review Alcohol Has Analgesic Effects Comments, May 2017, www.bu.edu/aodhealth/2017/04/27/systematic-review-alcohol-has-analgesic-effects/.
9. Raymond, Joan. “Study Explains the Science behind Your Beer Buzz.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 11 Jan. 2012, bodyodd.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/01/11/10120223-study-explains-the-science-behind-your-beer-buzz?lite.
10. Ebrahim, Irshaad O., et al. “Alcohol and Sleep I: Effects on Normal Sleep.” Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 24 Jan. 2013, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/acer.12006/full.
11. Justo, Patrick Di. “What’s Inside: NyQuil, Fortified With Powerful Narcotics!” Wired, Conde Nast, 4 June 2017, www.wired.com/2007/10/st-nyquil/.
12. Sanu, A, and R Eccles. “The Effects of a Hot Drink on Nasal Airflow and Symptoms of Common Cold and Flu.” Rhinology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19145994.
13. Franco, L, et al. “The Sedative Effects of Hops (Humulus Lupulus), a Component of Beer, on the Activity/Rest Rhythm.” Acta Physiologica Hungarica., U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22849837.
14. Franco, Lourdes, et al. “The Sedative Effect of Non-Alcoholic Beer in Healthy Female Nurses.” PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 18 July 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3399866/.
15. Prather, A A, et al. “Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold.” Sleep., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Sept. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26118561.
16. Mosbergen, Dominique. “Beer May Have Anti-Virus Properties, According To Study Funded By Sapporo Breweries (VIDEO).” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 7 Dec. 2012, www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/07/beer-has-anti-virus-properties-study-sapporo_n_2258735.html.
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Pitot, Henry. “Resveratrol Recommended Dosage.” LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group, 3 Oct. 2017, www.livestrong.com/article/443759-resveratrol-recommended-dosage/.

18. Scutti, Susan. “4 Health Benefits Of Beer Drinking: Antioxidants, B-Vitamin, And Protein Are There… But Don’t Overdo It.” Medical Daily, 1 Oct. 2013, www.medicaldaily.com/4-health-benefits-beer-drinking-antioxidants-b-vitamin-and-protein-are-there-dont-overdo-it-258658.
19. “Can You Live off of the Vitamins and Protein in Beer?” Healthy Eating | SF Gate, healthyeating.sfgate.com/can-live-off-vitamins-protein-beer-4960.html.
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22. Cohen, S, et al. “Smoking, Alcohol Consumption, and Susceptibility to the Common Cold.” American Journal of Public Health., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 1993, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8363004.
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24. O’connor, Anahad. “The Claim: Drink Plenty of Fluids to Beat a Cold.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 Jan. 2011, www.nytimes.com/2011/01/11/health/11really.html.


Hi, I’m Dan: Beer Editor for Beer Syndicate, Beer and Drinking Blogger, Gold Medal-Winning Homebrewer, Beer Reviewer, AHA Member, Beer Judge, Shameless Beer Promoter, and Beer Traveler.

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Beer Floaties, Floaters and Snowflakes, Oh My!

If you’ve never seen “floaties” in bottled beer, that’s typically a good thing.

Floaties in Seven-Year-Old Witbier.

[Floaties in Seven-Year-Old Witbier.]

What are “beer floaties”?

Floaties (also known as floaters or “snowflakes”) are small chunks of coagulated protein that have fallen out of the solution of the liquid beer as a result of aging, and are often (but not always) darker in color in darker colored beers.

Beer Floaties in Five-Year-Old Flanders Red.

[Floaties in Five-Year-Old Flanders Red.]

Floaties can develop and become noticeable in as little as two years depending on the
particular beer style and storage conditions (floaties may appear sooner in beer that is
not refrigerated).

To be clear, floaties are not the same thing as yeast sediment which is normal in bottle-conditioned beers of any age.  Yeast tends to be smooth and dense and gives beer a cloudy hazy appearance when aggressively disturbed as when rolling a bottle of bottle-conditioned Hefeweizen or swirling the bottle during the pour.

Foaties in Yeast.

[Foaties in Yeast.]

Floaties, on the other hand, are approximately bread crumb-sized clumps of protein and if present are easily disturbed like the white particles (“snowflakes”) inside a snow globe.  Even some beers that are appropriate for aging like Gueuze and Flanders Red may likely develop floaties over time.

Floaties don’t taste like much of anything (bland grain mush/soggy white bread crumb), but if serving an aged beer with floaties, the floaties can sometimes be left behind in the bottle if poured carefully.

When purchasing beer, remember that floaties are a sign of aged beer, and if floaties are visible when held to the light in a bottled beer that is not intended for aging, the beer should probably be avoided, especially if the beer is beyond a year of the bottling date, or if there is no bottling date at all.

That said, some fresh unfiltered IPAs (particularly dry-hopped versions) may contain elevated levels of “chill haze particles” due to increased polyphenols from the hops that bond to malt-derived protein and beta glucan, which can be exacerbated if the beer is not properly “cold crashed” or chilled prior to filtration.  Such special cases are separate from age-related floaties that appear in beers that have been sitting on the shelves beyond their best-by date.

To be clear, it’s highly unlikely that old beer causes any sort of health risk to humans, but most beer is beyond its prime after a year, and even less for most hop-forward styles of beer.  Again, if no packaging date or “best by” date is present on a beer that contains floaties and was not intended for aging like some sour beers and high ABV brews, it is best to avoid purchasing that beer as a general rule of thumb.

Floaties in Imperial Pilsner.

[Floaties in Imperial Pilsner.]

Lastly, just because a beer is old does not mean it will contain floaties.  For example, no floaties were visible in a 12-year-old bottle of bottle-conditioned lager.

Related Article: Beer Syndicate Reviews Decade-Old African Beer Forgotten in a Hot Garage.


Hi, I’m Dan: Co-Founder and Beer Editor for BeerSyndicate.com, Beer and Drinking Writer, BJCP Beer Judge, Gold Medal-Winning Homebrewer, Beer Reviewer, AHA Member, Beer Traveler, and Shameless Beer Promoter.

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