Beer and Peanut/Tree Nut allergies, a growing problem

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by HeavensGoblet, Sep 18, 2015.

  1. HeavensGoblet

    HeavensGoblet Initiate (0) Apr 21, 2015 Massachusetts

    I have a very deep love of beer. Beer has been one of the most simple aspects of my life. While beers can vary greatly in terms of their intricacy, at the end of the day the mantra seems to be... Beer is Beer. Eleven months ago, i found a new love in my life, a girl! If only the two could co-exist, and largely they can; however, she has very serious allergies to peanuts and tree nuts--an allergy severe enough to potentially have anaphylactic level attacks triggered by very small amounts of allergen (so cross-contimation and cleanliness of equipment comes into play).

    I have greatly changed my food lifestyle to accommodate her needs, but it is a very interesting culture. If you have never been exposed to the difficulties of living with a food allergy, you probably will not understand or care. But, the bottom line is, the labeling of food for allergens in America is terrible (it is even worse in Europe and Asia, but better in Australia). People living with allergies need to dedicate hours and hours of their personal time each week to physically call up companies and restaurants to learn about their facilities and how they label and how they handle cross contamination for allergens (it is then up to the consumer to determine whether or not they deem the product safe for their own ingestion). Ignoring the sometimes really burdening psychological aspects of this and just focusing on the physical, that's already a pretty hard thing to do. But, it is a worthwhile price to pay in order to have a feeling of safety, as well as, normalcy.

    My Bottom line, Beer, which used to be such a simple aspect of my young life has suddenly become a bit more complicated. I am up for the challenge though. I am currently in the process of compiling a list of safe breweries in accordance with my girlfriends nut allergies. Breweries, to my knowledge, are not legally obligated to label for any allergens or cross contamination. But, as craft brewers get less and less traditional with their ingredients (many brewers have been using Peanut Butter as an additive in stouts/porters for years already, the new fad seems to be using Pink Peppercorn which is a tree nut), the need for allergen labels is becoming more and more necessary.

    As it stands now, i call breweries and ask about ingredients and additives. If a brewery has never brewed with a nut or tree nut, they make it to my list. If they brewed a one time only release with a peanut or tree nut brew and assure me that they thoroughly clean their lines very regularly, they make my list with an asterisk, and if they regularly brew with peanuts or tree nuts they get a big ol' x. (on the list means she can drink it with me, asterisk means i can probably drink it, but i wouldn't advise her to, X means avoid when around her).

    So BA community, I write to you now, looking for: some advice, personal stories, breweries that are safe for her and I to enjoy, breweries that aren't safe, any thoughts..... Fire away
    machalel and alex_delany like this.
  2. ECdOc

    ECdOc Initiate (83) Nov 9, 2004 Pennsylvania

    Sounds like this is a list that could have purposes beyond just yourself, why not consider sharing it with other people with the same problem so you can all compile a master list together. Maybe even put it up on a website for all to peruse and contribute to. Would seem a worthwhile idea for more ppl than just yourself.
  3. HeavensGoblet

    HeavensGoblet Initiate (0) Apr 21, 2015 Massachusetts

    I was hoping maybe this could be the beginnings of such a list! Here's what i have so far:

    Safe for Pn/Tn allergies as of 9/18/2015
    Rising Tide

    Possibly Safe but I won't ever risk it

    Tree House (brewed Peanut Butter Double Shot as part of 3rd anniversary party/Have peanuts for consumption on premise)

    Definitely Avoid
    Night Shift
    Jacks Abbey
    Other Half
    #3 HeavensGoblet, Sep 18, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2015
  4. HeavensGoblet

    HeavensGoblet Initiate (0) Apr 21, 2015 Massachusetts

    This is simply not entirely true. Plently of brewers have experimented adding Peanut Butter to stouts/porters and pink peppercorns (a tree nut), to saisons/belgians.
    beertunes likes this.
  5. LehighAce06

    LehighAce06 Crusader (783) Jul 31, 2010 Pennsylvania

    Very interesting, and a topic I've wondered about lately. My 4-year-old has an allergy (though not as severe as your girlfriend's) to peanuts and tree nuts (as well as eggs and sesame seeds).

    I still drink peanut butter beers in the house, though I also make eggs for breakfast and eat sesame seed bagels, it's just a matter of cleaning up thoroughly in our case.

    Another thing you may want to consider is if the brewery has a taproom or restaurant as part of the production facility, do they serve food that contains allergens, as cross contamination from the kitchen to the brewery is possible. I concede it's unlikely, but anaphylaxis is nothing to mess with.

    Shy of a website, a google doc would be a great start. If one gets made, please share in the thread.

    I'll add Willoughby's, Belching Beaver, Springhouse, Evil Genius, and Terrapin as breweries that routinely brew peanut butter beers, and The Bruery routinely makes tree nut beers.

    Goose Island has made Nuthulu a couple times, though I'd imagine they likely would earn the * as I can't imagine an AB facility not being meticulously clean, nevertheless it warrants a call.
    #5 LehighAce06, Sep 18, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2015
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  6. HeavensGoblet

    HeavensGoblet Initiate (0) Apr 21, 2015 Massachusetts

    Cleaning up should do they trick in most all cases, even for anaphylaxis (if done thoroughly). The biggest problem right now is that there is no regulation for how brewers should clean their equipment if working with potential allergens (this does exist for food currently, albeit it is a work in progress). A brewers only current incentive for cleaning thoroughly is to preserve taste and remove impurities from their beer.
  7. chcfan

    chcfan Zealot (536) Oct 29, 2008 California

    Apologies. Just trying to help. I haven't had the need to call any of them. I've only heard of a handful of PB and peppercorn beers in over 10 years of beer nerdery.
  8. LehighAce06

    LehighAce06 Crusader (783) Jul 31, 2010 Pennsylvania

    Peanut Butter in particular is growing FAST in popularity.

    This only covers beers with "peanut" in the NAME of the beer, not all those with it as an ingredient: but I think it illustrates my point.
    beertunes likes this.
  9. HeavensGoblet

    HeavensGoblet Initiate (0) Apr 21, 2015 Massachusetts

    All positive feedback is appreciated, man. No worries. Beers with these things aren't very widespread yet. Its more or a less a recent phenomena. But, that's why i made this thread. Its starting to happen more and more, and it isn't being regulated.
  10. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,489) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    German imports that claim they adhere to the Reinheitsgebot should have only yeast, water, barley and hops. If nuts are added in anyway they can not be legally claimed in Germany as being brewed under the RHG.

    Also, at a personal level, someone suggested exploring spirits and wine. I have never seen a winery, distillery of Irish Whiskey, Bourbon or Malt Whisky that would have reason to use nuts.
    #10 drtth, Sep 18, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2015
  11. LehighAce06

    LehighAce06 Crusader (783) Jul 31, 2010 Pennsylvania

    I will note though that flavored vodkas (and rums, such as Malibu) might, and of course liqueurs such as Amaretto and Frangelico certainly would be offenders.
    beertunes likes this.
  12. nickfl

    nickfl Poo-Bah (3,547) Mar 7, 2006 Florida

    I appreciate your situation, but that line gives me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Cleaning regulations could easily mean the FDA or TTB coming in and telling breweries they can't ferment or age in wooden vessels anymore, even though it has been done for centuries. I am sure there would be other possible consequences to such regulation that none of us could foresee. The majority of the breweries in this country are small businesses and could be crushed by the weight of regulation and unnecessary food safety compliance issues. By unnecessary I don't so much mean the allergen stuff as the sort of clean room practices you see in dairy and meat processing which simply aren't necessary in the safe production of beer, but which an overzealous bureaucracy could easily decide to cram down the throat of the industry.

    Allergen labeling, on the other hand, is a perfectly reasonable idea. Its easy enough for a brewery to add a statement to a product label warning of the inclusion or possible inclusion of allergens in a product and any brewery brewing with something that could so seriously harm some people should be making sure they disclose that fact to their customers.

    Brewers benefit greatly from the fact that beer can't support the growth of pathogens and therefore is considered an intrinsically low risk food product. I think that the brewing industry is largely receptive to the idea of allergen labeling and the like to prevent beer being seen as something that could make people sick. Just be aware that talk of regulation and government enforcement is going to get a cold reception from a lot of people, because anyone who has owned a business has had bad experiences with government bureaucracy. Lobbying for an industry standard of labeling and disclosure is a much more productive way to improve the beer world for people who suffer from these serious allergies.
    bushycook, ECdOc, mctizzz and 6 others like this.
  13. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,489) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Good addition. I should have gone on to specifically mention avoiding things such as flavored spirits and liqueurs (probably wine coolers as well).
  14. LehighAce06

    LehighAce06 Crusader (783) Jul 31, 2010 Pennsylvania

    I thought the liqueur thing was obvious enough it didn't warrant its own post, but it worked as the back half of my mention of flavored vodka. Flavored vodka is getting really popular, and are flavored god-knows-how, with god-knows-what...
  15. LehighAce06

    LehighAce06 Crusader (783) Jul 31, 2010 Pennsylvania

    I like this post a lot. Even as someone who has a child with allergies, I agree that there has to be a balance somewhere between there being no information available (unsafe) and out-of-control regulations (overly difficult for businesses). I agree that a labeling standard would be (I think) a good compromise. Changing labeling can be challenging for small breweries, but if it were an industry standard I think it wouldn't be too hard to fall in line with such a thing.
    nickfl likes this.
  16. HeavensGoblet

    HeavensGoblet Initiate (0) Apr 21, 2015 Massachusetts


    But at the same time, labeling with beer is really bad right now in all instances. I don't think anyone in their right mind would want to ruin a good thing and make a brewer change their process. But, i would love better labeling, specifically for allergens. Though that only tells part of the story.

    Cross contamination is a serious issue that needs to be addressed by labeling. If a brewer wants to brew a beer with allergen A, for example, and we don't want to ruin a good thing and regulate how brewing equipment and draft lines should be cleaned when you brew with allergen A, would every beer the brewer makes require a "May Contain statement?" I would say yes. I guess another issue would be what someone earlier in the thread raise, if a beer has nut flavorings are they using actual nuts that could potentially lead to someone have an allergic reaction or is it a "well it doesnt actually have hazelnuts in it, but it tastes just like hazelnuts", labeling would help this as well i feel.

    Overall, Thank you for your input. I agree that too much regulation would definitely hurt the small business aspects of the booming American beer scene, but there needs to be some sort of compromise.
    machalel, LehighAce06 and FFFjunkie like this.
  17. 5thOhio

    5thOhio Devotee (480) May 13, 2007 South Carolina

    I would think breweries with no history of added flavorings, and/or a philosophy of brewing with only traditional ingredients, such as breweries specializing in German styles, would be safe.

    And don't blame me for encouraging those beer abominations. Never knowingly drink any beers with flavorings. If you can't do it with hops, yeast, water and barley, I'm not interested.
  18. FFFjunkie

    FFFjunkie Defender (632) Aug 26, 2014 Illinois
    Premium Trader

    If cross contamination were a concern the label could read "brewed at a facility that processes peanuts and/or tree nuts". That would alert the consumer to the possibility of cross contamination.
    LehighAce06, HeavensGoblet and nickfl like this.
  19. jmw

    jmw Initiate (0) Feb 4, 2009 North Carolina

    According to the TTB list of Exempt Ingredients and Processes, it appears that nuts of any kind have not yet been included as an ingredient that does not require a Process Approval as a part of the label approval. In theory*, this would mean that any brewery that was in fact using nuts or nut products in their beers would have needed to apply for this extra level of approval. You could call up a brewery that you were curious about and ask if any of their beers have required Process Approval from TTB and they should be able to tell you right away.

    *In theory--I have a feeling that many small breweries are not going through this process with some of their more experimental beers, as this list is pretty darn limited and some beers coming out today include everything short of the kitchen sink. Buyer beware.
    machalel and DonicBoom like this.
  20. Henamonster

    Henamonster Initiate (0) Feb 2, 2007 California

    It sounds like you've hit on a solid fix (calling the brewery and finding out if they do or don't.) I honestly have never heard of this being an issue with beer before, so I can't speak to whether or not any labeling changes or government mandates on sterile environments are warranted. Several airlines still offer peanuts, however if you call ahead they'll withhold offering them on your particular flight. As someone who has no peanut allergy, I wouldn't want to incur the cost if a brewery is now hit with additional fees, equipment costs, etc. to cater to a fraction of the population. Labeling something with a "brewed in a facility that also brews w/tree nuts, peanuts, etc.", I have no issue with. Even if they put a warning; "may contain allergens" with a link to their website for more info, would probably suffice.
  21. rgordon

    rgordon Champion (823) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    I love peanuts, but I do not want a peanut butter beer, ever!
  22. HeavensGoblet

    HeavensGoblet Initiate (0) Apr 21, 2015 Massachusetts

    Right now breweries are not obligated to list any ingredients on their labels at all. There was a movement over the past few years to force macrobrewers to list ingredients to their beers. I am in no way advocating for a list of ingredients, but if allergens are going into beers, there should be a warning on the can/bottle/etc. And if a beer is brewed in a brewery that also brews beers with peanuts/tree nuts/etc. there should be a "may contain" statement. That does not exist to this point. It exists for food, but is not strongly enforced. It DOES NOT, exist for beer. Which is the reason for my post.

    Craft brewers are getting more and more adventurous with ingredients that are potentially harmful to people and there are no protocols in place, even in terms of labeling, for beer that force them to abide by any standard, in process or labeling. I would love love love a labeling standard compromise. It doesn't exist. And, there is no outside pressure to make it exist.

    Since that is the case, any brewery that brews a suspect beer is automatically off of my list. And that is my reality. It's actually quite ok
  23. HeavensGoblet

    HeavensGoblet Initiate (0) Apr 21, 2015 Massachusetts

    Hate to burst your bubble, but its been happening for at least 5 years already
  24. lester619

    lester619 Zealot (539) Apr 17, 2009 Wisconsin

    Absolutely agree. It's the law of unintended consequences. Just about every terrible idea ever conceived was well intended and seemed to make sense at the time. More regulations enforced by agencies that don't fully understand the industry is going to be nothing but negative in the long run.
    #24 lester619, Sep 19, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2015
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  25. jmw

    jmw Initiate (0) Feb 4, 2009 North Carolina

    I'm glad it's OK, because this is probably going to stay your reality. If there ever was such a requirement made of the brewing industry they would simply put your may-contain statement on each and every packaging type they produce just to cover themselves in terms of liability. And brewers that don't currently use ingredients that are allergens or other 'potentially harmful' ingredients (alcohol is toxic after all) would likewise put this warning on their packaging to cover their liability also.
    I don't think you realize what you're wishing for.
    lester619 likes this.
  26. gopens44

    gopens44 Poo-Bah (2,136) Aug 9, 2010 Virginia
    Premium Trader

    Perhaps a plea to the regional threads to get folks to call breweries in their state/region. Then post everything to a common doc? I'd be happy to call places (or visit and..have a beer) near RIC. Make this a beer community thing instead of letting regulation bring about untold difficulty to our favorite breweries.
  27. rgordon

    rgordon Champion (823) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    Not busting my bubble; I've known about them, sold them, and they are of zero interest.
  28. MostlyNorwegian

    MostlyNorwegian Devotee (482) Feb 5, 2013 Illinois

    Nearly all of the time a brewery is going to use peanuts or any ingredient that is outside of water, grain, hops and yeast in the process of making beer. They will brag openly about using them because they will have to do extra work and order extra ingredients in making it.
    bushycook likes this.
  29. Henamonster

    Henamonster Initiate (0) Feb 2, 2007 California

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with an ingredients list. The problem you run into is when that ingredients list expands to half the size of the bottle and then the "Natural Flavors" don't seem all that natural. Right now the industry still has a somewhat wholesome image of a few bearded buddies homebrewing, but throw in some full disclosure and you'll probably see some brewers start to squirm.
  30. HeavensGoblet

    HeavensGoblet Initiate (0) Apr 21, 2015 Massachusetts

    Firstly, all alcohol already has the surgeon generals warning on it (AKA drink at your own risk, may cause health problems). Health problems regarding alcohol involve a much larger time scale then health problems from allergies. When you are dealing with an anaphylatic level allergy, it is instantaneous, and it can be life threatening. Not all things are going to trigger a reaction, only specific allergens. The allergens I have brought to light are peanuts and tree nuts, NEITHER OF WHICH IS A TRADITIONAL INGREDIENT IN BEER. They have only been included due to experimentation by craft brewers.

    I would be completely ok if every craft brewer who ever experimented with them put a "may contain" label on their beer. There are enough brewers that have not ever brewed with them that I would still be pretty happy. I just want a safe and happy life with my significant other. People like you need to stop being so cynical and realize that it is quite difficult to live with a food allergy and stop pissing over small triumphs we can make as a society to help protect a growing number of our population who did not bring this limitation upon themselves. A label wouldn't hurt anybody.
    #30 HeavensGoblet, Sep 19, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2015
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  31. jmw

    jmw Initiate (0) Feb 4, 2009 North Carolina

    Settle down. I'm not pissing and I'm not being cynical. I'm only pointing out that the label change that you are asking for might actually afford you less usable information than you think it would. Good luck with it.
  32. HeavensGoblet

    HeavensGoblet Initiate (0) Apr 21, 2015 Massachusetts

    You'd be surprised at how little companies in food labeling actually care about liability. Many companies have their own protocol for labeling. And its terribly inconsistent. I don't believe i have ever heard of a company "over-labeling". You'd be surprised how many products out there are made in a shared facility but don't label it because they are confident in their cleaning methods. Companies like this will only label if there is enough of a demand for it.

    With this information in mind, i assumed a beer labeling would follow a similar trend. Underlabeling is pretty widespread, even though you'd think it would be overlabeling. But, you'd be surprised at how little legal protection people with food allergies actually have in the eyes of the law.
  33. tr9871

    tr9871 Initiate (0) Apr 14, 2013 Alabama

    I don't see this one mentioned yet, and it likely won't be an issue where you are but Lazy Magnolia in Mississippi's flagship beer Southern Pecan is brewed with whole roasted pecans. Even though that one would be obvious to avoid, as their flagship they presumably brew the most volume of it so I imagine everything else they put out wouldn't be safe.
  34. Blueribbon666

    Blueribbon666 Zealot (503) Jul 4, 2008 Ohio

    Not that it reaches Mass., but Jackie O's Oil of Aphrodite is brewed w/walnuts a buddy of mine found out too late. Needless to say he had to take his meal to go, his throat had closed up.
  35. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,489) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Beer labeling will be different than food labeling for at least a few major reasons.

    First of all alcoholic beverages are regulated by the TTB and the FDA has nothing at all to do with it at this point in time. The TTB's major concern seems to be substance control, etc.

    Second, what food labeling requirements are out there seem actually be regulated by the various states rather than at the Federal level. It is the states, for example, that do or do not require such things as best by dates on perisable products, not the feds.

    So for the beer problem, I'd suggest two avenues of action. First, just as there are organizations and sites devoted to identification of gluten free beers there is a need for such an organization to deal with P and T/N or perhaps allergenic substances in general. (Such may already exist in the web, but I've not done any systematic search to find out.)

    Second, working with/lobbying at the state level for additional information being added to labels or for its creation and use in the first place.
    #35 drtth, Sep 19, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2015
  36. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,297) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    The TTB has primary responsibility for beer labeling, but the FDA is involved (the most notable recent situation was when the use of caffeine in alcoholic beverages was banned a few years ago).

    When the TTB dropped a number of ingredients and processes from their formula requirements they noted in the Ruling 2014-4 "Ingredients and Processes Used in the Production of Beer Not Subject to Formula Requirements" that:
    For more legalese see Memorandum of Understanding Between the Food and Drug Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (< the predecessor alcohol regulatory agency to the TTB).

    As for allergen labeling for alcoholic beverages, the TTB has a FAQ for that -
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  37. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,297) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Yes they are (although the required wording in some cases are probably too vague - i.e., "natural flavors" - to satisfy those with allergy problems):
    The demand by some for full ingredient listing on beer labels has been going on for decades (for instance, the BATF announced proposed ingredient labeling requirements for malt beverages in August, 1974 after several years of requests by the CSPI) , but it is very unlikely the TTB would do a "carve out" that would exempt small brewers and have the regulations only apply to "macrobrewers". A recent proposal in 2006 is outlined at
    Major Food Allergen Labeling for Wines, Distilled Spirits and Malt Beverages and there are interim rules for voluntary labeling. In the latter, the Brewers Association (the "small brewers" group) even comes out for mandatory allergen labeling.
    #37 jesskidden, Sep 20, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2015
  38. Brutaltruth

    Brutaltruth Poo-Bah (2,314) Mar 22, 2014 Ohio

    I was going to post this as a new thread, but this is very informative----my dilemma, I am allergic to peanuts and have a bottle of Sweet Baby Jesus that keeps talking to me in the avoid the usual boils and tongue swelling I have avoided it, but have heard from some home brew guy that there are flavorings of peanut butter that are safe for people with the allergies. The question is, can I or the OP's little lady have this concoction?
  39. Yargamo

    Yargamo Initiate (0) Jun 9, 2015 New York

  40. HeavensGoblet

    HeavensGoblet Initiate (0) Apr 21, 2015 Massachusetts

    since labeling for allergens is voluntary/optional right now, the only way to know for sure is to talk to the brewers/brewery and see what they are using.
    Brutaltruth likes this.