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Thread: Brew quality

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    SF, CA

    Brew quality


    Would you please share what would be the main reasons (except excessive drinking, of course ..)), which cause bad headache/hangover next day?

    Me and my friends have experienced problems when drinking some beers in South America & Eastern Europe... Is it addictives, bad main ingredients, water...? Bad shelf date?

    Some of the beers are considered to be the most popular in their countries and of high quality. But, definitely, cant be compared with the most craft and mainstream (Bud, Miller,...) beers in the UK and US.



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Mesquite, Texas

    lots of possibilities

    There are many potential reasons, from poor ingredients, from chemical additives, from higher fermenting temperatures causing noxious byproducts, from allergic reactions to hops or yeast...

    I had a few years when I couldn't drink Anheuser-Busch products without getting a splitting headache, undoubtably due to an allergy to some additive. And that was BEFORE I became a beer snob!!!

    Grins, Tim

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Chesterfield, UK
    Hmm. Have to say I am surprised that any additive in European, North American or Australasian beers would be the cause of headaches - but if you are getting them from Bud..... I have certainly heard of people being allergic to yeast, so I guess other materials can do the same.

    What I can imagine is that certain brewing extract materials or the water may be less than pure in say some parts of Africa & Asia, and cause some reaction, particularly if heavily treated with some pesticides.

    But I can also vouch for higher alcohol beers and stronger flavoured beers resulting in hangovers more readily (when consumed on volume of alcohol basis, not merely total volume). This is generally due to the higher levels of higher alcohols, aldehydes, organic acids etc (the congeners as they are known in the whisky inductry at least) contained in stronger flavoured beers. More highly coloured malts seem to lead to higher levels of congeners. Different yeasts produce different quantities of congeners. Higher fermenting temperatures tend to produce higher levels. Higher OGs tend to result in the yeast becoming more stressed and producing higher levels. Shorter maturation times and or low residual yeast concentrations may result in less being mopped up.

    Of course infection by wild yeast or bacteria will produce all sorts of peculiar compounds which may may contribute to pool of congeners.

    I don't think aged beer would be any worse than fresh beer unless it was infected, but I am not sure of the chemistry of aging.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Duluth, MN

    Bad Rep

    I would like help fighting the bad rep that our brews give bad hangovers. First I need to identify if this is true and determine the cause before I can do anything about it.
    I would like to test my beers but what to test for?? I know higher alcohols, aldehydes and phenols can have bad effects. But what are the acceptable thresholds. And what about these "congeners" Dick mentions.? If I send out samples I need a definition for what is "bad levels".
    Also, any recomendations for labs?
    I should say that customers and employees have reported this with even my lightest ale which should have the lowest levels of all these things! Also I use the following process aids in some/all beers: Whirlflock kettle finings, Fermcap antifoam, zerogel for haze removal in fermentor. Anyone found problems with these?
    I keep telling people that their comparison is not fair. Higher alcohol content (4.7- 6.5 abv vs 3.8 - 4.7) combined with a larger serving size (16 oz vs 12) means 2 beers equals 3-4 non-pub brews.
    Has anyone had success determining a real factor that lead to "nasty hangovers" or successfully lobbied the truth to your drinkers? It is amazing the little research I can find on this topic. It seems to be brewing’s White Elephant.
    Brewmaster, Fitger's Brewhouse
    "Your results may vary"

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    In the case of the European and South American beers, I assume they were bottled products. Dirty draft lines in my experience can lead to some terrible hangovers, even when the beer was drunk in moderation. In Ted's case, are your lines old soft polyvinyl lines or the new "hard" barrier lines? The older soft lines are generally more difficult to keep clean under the best conditions.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Upland, CA, USA
    Some of the principal culprits of hangovers in micro/macro brews: Ethyl Acetate and Fusel Alcohols (aka: Fusel Oil, higher alcohols).

    Ethyl Acetate is an ester. Fusels, unless my memory fails me, are the products of a stressed fermentation, and the biochemical pathway for their generation is the fermentation of amino acids.

    When Dick mentions congeners, what he is referring to are these compounds, and a loose definition of congeners would be those compounds that have similar relative volatility to Ethyl Alcohol. In other words, esters, higher alcohols, and Methanol.

    The macro brew mentioned in a previous thread that causes headaches does have very high levels of Ethyl Acetate. This is due to the secondary fermentation technique that this brewery uses. It gives them increased ester development. If I am really hungover and I even smell a beer that has high levels of this compound, my head hurts worse!

    How do you control generation of these compounds? Don't underpitch and don't ferment too hot! Also oxygenate your wort as much as possible before pitching.

    Underpitching gives you higher alcohols. If you are doing high gravity fermentations, you can very easily quadruple the levels of higher alcohols in the beer for every 2 degrees plato over 12! Always remember that it is a lot tougher to overpitch than to underpitch your beer.

    Ethyl Acetate, being an ester, comes from hot fermentation conditions, including having the yeast pile up and form hot spots ripe with autolysis bi-products! Don't ferment too hot and make sure to get inactive yeast out of there!

    As far as detecting these analytically, your pallet is the easiest thing to use! Try training yourself to detect these by getting some sensory standards from Flavor Activ (sorry, don't have any contact information for them).
    Steve G

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