Is it possible to get sick from an old beer?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Derranged, Mar 12, 2012.

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  1. Derranged

    Derranged Devotee (462) Mar 7, 2010 New York

    Recently I tried an old Mac Queen's Nessie. It was of the 7.3 variety, which has been discontinued since 2008. I made a thread about it:

    About 34 hours after drinking, I came down with a horrible case of either food poisoning or stomach flu. Unfortunately its nearly impossible to tel which since both have identical symptoms: Diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, fever, chills, weakness. It was bad. Was more or less in bed for 20 hours. I'm over it now though for the most part. Although I didn't get really sick for 34 hours after, 24 hours after drinking I started to feel kind of funny. The beer is the only strange thing I've consumed this weekend.

    Now I'd hate to blame an illness on an innocent beer, but I have to wonder. What say you? Can you get sick/poisoned from an old beer? The beer itself didn't taste all that bad, but it left a strange burning sensation in my mouth and throat.
  2. Mavajo

    Mavajo Zealot (572) Feb 10, 2007 Georgia

    Never heard of it happening. Plus, 4 years isn't really very old. Can't rule it out entirely, but I'd bet that it was unrelated to the beer.
  3. cbutova

    cbutova Poo-Bah (3,165) Oct 10, 2008 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    It's tough to say. Some people have bad reactions to certain things but if you have never had a reaction to beer I doubt you would from this, it's just not that old. I have had many beers that were over 10 years old (2 of them were Coors and Bud Light) and never had a problem. I am sure it is possible in weird circumstances but from the 3 years and countless hours I have read these forums I have never heard of someone getting sick from drinking vintage beer.
  4. Knifestyles

    Knifestyles Initiate (154) Jun 7, 2005 New York

    I'd be shocked if this beer was the culprit.

    I've had some ancient brews in my time (as old as 1902)...some of which have unquestionably been kept in less than optimal environments and I've never had an issue with sickness.

    I'd chalk it up to coincidence.
  5. Derranged

    Derranged Devotee (462) Mar 7, 2010 New York

    Yea unfortunately there's no real way to tell. I have another bottle and I refuse to drink it. Just to be safe because what went through was hell. Any brave souls want to trade?
  6. BlackBelt5112203

    BlackBelt5112203 Initiate (0) Jan 2, 2012 Michigan
    Beer Trader

    It would be highly unlikely for your illness to be due to the beer for 3 reasons:

    1. The actual process of brewing beer (boiling, etc.) was done in the old days to make sanitary drinking water free from any pathogens - so if what you were drinking was made the same way as any other beer, it would be unlikely that any bugs are in there.

    2. The higher alcohol content of the beer you were drinking makes it more unlikely as alcohol kills bugs. It is still possible since the alcohol content isn't high enough to kill almost everything, but very unlikely.

    3. 34 hours is really too long after eating something to be thinking about it being the culprit of food poisoning. That tends to happen anywhere from 1-24 hours eating/drinking something contaminated. Again, like number 2, it is possible to happen 34 hours after, but unlikely.

    I would just blame it on coincidence or maybe you ate something else that was contaminated (it doesn't have to be "strange" or taste or look weird to be contaminated). Sorry that happened to you, hope you're feeling better!
  7. Derranged

    Derranged Devotee (462) Mar 7, 2010 New York

    Thanks. I am feeling better. Most likely this was just a stomach flu which of course would absolutely nothing to do with anything contaminated.
  8. maltmaster420

    maltmaster420 Aspirant (282) Aug 17, 2005 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    Actually, 34 hours is well within the normal range. Depending on the pathogen and the amount ingested, the incubation period can be anywhere from 12-48 hours. Any symptoms occuring in less than 12 hours are most likely caused by bacterial toxin or chemical ingestion rather than a live bacteria or virus.

    If you want to be really pedantic, Mad Cow disease (aka Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease) is technically a food-born illness, and it's symptoms don't become apparent for months or years after consuming tainted meat.

    To the OP: As far as I know, there has never been a reported case of anyone becoming ill as a result of consuming old beer. Obviously people get hungover if they drink too much, but as someone else mentioned, the combination of boiling, alcohol, and fairly low pH makes beer an inhospitable environment for most harmful critters.

    As far as "not eating anything weird" is concerned, you really have no way of knowing what may have caused it. It could be anything from fecal e.coli on some spinach to cross contamination in a restaurant caused by bad cleaning practices. Unless you personally prepared and cooked every single thing you ate in the two days prior to getting sick you'll never know what the culprit was. Then again, it could have been a flu bug.
  9. khiasmus

    khiasmus Crusader (733) Jun 12, 2006 South Carolina
    Beer Trader

    Whoa. Ten year old Bud Light? Can you expound on why in the world and what did it taste like?
  10. BlackBelt5112203

    BlackBelt5112203 Initiate (0) Jan 2, 2012 Michigan
    Beer Trader

    It is my understanding that the vast majority of cases of CJD are sporadic and death occurs very rapidly while a small amount of cases are variant CJD caused by ingestion of beef that contains contaminated cow brains/cord....but anyhow....when prions start finding their way into beer, I think my days are numbered.
    cbutova likes this.
  11. cbutova

    cbutova Poo-Bah (3,165) Oct 10, 2008 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Well, my roommate and I during our senior year of college were doing some homebrewing. We used the basement of our apartment to store and ferment the beers. One day we just stumbled upon like 5 or 6 bottles of both Coors and Bud Light. The caps were extremely rusted and the bottles were dated like January 2000 or something in that area. I knew the beers would be fine to drink since I had heard of similar stories on the old forums, some people even drinking/trying beer that was like over 50 years old. The last week of our rooming together we threw a small party with all of the roomates and our good friends. I went down to the basement and got one Coors and Bud Light and threw them in the fridge, not really knowing if we would even drink them. We ended up splitting them like 5 ways with the people who were into good beer at the time, we were all just curious. To all of our surprises, it tasted much better than fresh Bud/Coors Light. The repulsive flavor I find in those beers (especially Bud Light) kind of smoothed out and the beer basically just tasted like light caramel sweets with a tiny bit of fruit flavor. I use this as a cautious comparison but it is the same stale caramel flavor you get in vintage Old Ales, just extremely diluted. As far as Coors vs Bud, they pretty much tasted identical. I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference if I tasted them blind. It was a pretty fun experience overall and actually might be the last time I have had a Bud or Coors product in the last 2 years. I guess I will only be drinking the 10 year vintages from now on.
  12. crusian

    crusian Crusader (729) May 14, 2010 Oregon
    Beer Trader

    I clicked on this thread hoping to hell it wasnt you! Sorry to hear. I agree with everyone here though, probably not the beer though. Feel terrible about this now...
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