Milky Pints, Beer & Health

Ask the Beer Geek by | Jun 2008 | Issue #17

Forget beer related allergies... milk residue in your glass can kill you!

I heard to never pour a beer into a glass that has been used to drink milk. Is this true and what difference does it make? Thanks —Eric

Yes, Eric. I’m afraid it’s true. Not only will it ruin your beer, but you could die!

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Seriously, when using any glassware, just make sure the glass is clean. Milk isn’t magical. It doesn’t coat glassware so it never comes off. A simple wash with hot water, soap and a little elbow grease will get you a clean glass every time. Dishwashers work wonders, too.

This common myth comes from generations of beer drinkers who, having grown fond of their favorite beer glass, discover that a living companion has used it for milk! Due to laziness and not washing it fully, the beer drinker pours their next beer into their favorite glass, but can’t enjoy it as it is tainted with milk residue. The carbonation in beer will use the residue as a site to nucleate, agitating the residue into the beer rather quickly. Yum!

I am an old person, and my stomach tends to get upset when I drink beer. What beers are easy on the stomach? —Tom

Tom, unfortunately you said that your stomach gets upset when you drink beer. I have to assume all beer. You could be allergic to an ingredient in beer or your stomach is sensitive to alcohol or carbonation. Seek medical advice.

Can you please tell me what beers are wheat-free and corn-free, no problem with oats or barley malt… having a hard time finding this info out. Thanks —Ruvane

For wheat beers, you’ll mainly want to avoid German Weissbiers, including Hefeweizens, American Wheat Beers, Belgian Witbiers, Lambics and Gueuze—all of these often contain high amounts of wheat. As far as corn goes, you’ll want to avoid most classic (sometimes called “premium”) lagers and retro brands brewed by many of the larger brewers—especially large American brewers. This should cut out most of your corn beer intake, though some brewers (large or small) may use corn sugar or starch and not disclose it. When in doubt, call the brewery and ask.

I was wondering if you knew of any beer that was made with something other than hops. I used to be a huge beer fan, and then one day I had two sips of a beer and broke out in hives head to toe. My doctor tells me that it’s the hops in beer that more than likely causes this allergic reaction. So here I am, still craving beer every day of my life and can’t drink it, please help if you know of any beer that is made without hops. Thanks. —Cory

Your doctor thinks that hops are “more than likely” the cause of your allergic reaction? Your doctor is a quack if he can’t give you a definitive answer! I’d seek a real opinion by visiting an allergist who can pinpoint the real cause, versus killing your chances of enjoying beer for life by guessing the cause.

That said, if Dr. Quack is right, your options are virtually slim to none. The vast majority of beer, like 99.999 percent, is brewed with at least some hops. You might be lucky and find the odd Gruit/Ancient Herbed Ale, but not on a regular basis and the diversity within that genre is virtually nonexistent. Go see an allergist.