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Okay, so this may sound like a fairy-tale or scam to some, but I’ve been brewing and drinking for a long time and have learned how to minimise hangovers from drinking beer now.

For sure, if you knock back 12 pints of anything alcoholic, you’re going to wake up with a hell of a thirst as your body tries to metabolise and rid itself of that much ethanol.  But guess what, the main poisons in a hangover are the metabolites of alcohol (what it’s broken down into), the longer chain alcohols (congeners), water impurities and additives such sodium metabisulphite (preservative and sterilising agent).

You can get into the chemistry of the hangover here, but we’ll look at the main culprits we have control over, and what we do to tackle these below.


So, lets start with the water… which is where brewing starts anyway.  Have you ever drunk 10 pints of tap water and then seen how you feel the next morning?  That much chlorine and other impurities/additives can make you feel a tad rough.  Spring water and/or filtered water is going to leave you better hydrated and feeling fresher the next day.  So that’s what we use.


Secondly, additives.  Many, many breweries use liberal amounts of sodium metabisulphite to improve shelf-life and as a part of their cleaning regimen (which isn’t always thoroughly rinsed).  Read the back of (almost) any wine or cider bottle – warning: contains sulphites.  Yep, that stuff is nasty!  If you don’t have asthma, try pouring a bit in water and inhaling… instant coughing (don’t try this if you have asthma, you’ll have an instant attack!)

Additives aren’t just in the sterilising/cleaning/preserving process, plenty of beers out there use head-retention agents (you know, that special kind of hangover you get from commercial stouts and porters) and a lot use isinglass for fining the beer.  Isinglass is taken from the swim bladders of tropical fish.  It’s why many commercial beers can’t be labelled as vegan friendly.  Ours can.

So, we minimise the use of sodium metabisulphite – it’s part of the initial water treatment in very tiny amounts, but never used in our cleaning or added for shelf-life.  We never use head-retention agents or other preservatives, colourings, sweeteners (e.g. lactose).  And we shun the use of fish-guts for clarifying the beer (so, yes there’s often a slight haze to our hoppier beers).

Congeners (long-chain alcohols)

Now lets get down to the main culprits… the alcohols.  I say alcohols, plural, as it’s not just ethanol in beer.  Ethanol is the main alcohol, actually one the body can normally metabolise without too much trouble.  But the longer chain alcohols (Ethanol has just two carbon atoms in its chain) are where the real trouble starts.

These congeners are produced when the yeast ferments the wort (the sweet liquid that becomes the beer) in a sub-optimal way.  For instance, using caster sugar to increase the sugar content of the wort (to brew stronger beer, cheaply) gives most yeasts a hard time and leads to headache-inducing beers.  Most homebrewers will have experimented and experience this, some may still not realise this simple mistake is leading to many a lost morning.

Other factors, such as how much yeast goes into the wort, what temperature it is fermented at, how quickly it is fermented and how much air is provided to the yeast (initially) will all play a part of the alcohol profile of the final beer.  Care and attention is everything.

Commercial breweries often cut corners to improve profit margins, leading to hidden surprises in their beers.  A beer can taste perfectly fine, yet absolutely knobble you the next day.  Even with all the care and attention in the world, some wild yeasts in more esoteric brews can lead to quirky alcohol profiles in the final beer – something we’ll add a warning label about if we ever decide to brew wild/sour beers.

Minimising your hangovers

We can’t perform miracles, some people are just more prone to hangovers than others… in which case, drink less, drink more water with your beers and for god’s sake don’t mix your drinks!

Smoking and eating foods rich in MSG (looking at you Chinese takeaway, or family pack of Doritos) are classic contributors to hangover too – for science reasons apparently – so do think about the bigger picture when you drink.

For those of you who can knock back a few pints and feel fine sometimes, but other mornings feel the bite, we can confidently say that we’re doing everything we can to minimise your potential for a hangover when you drink Gert Lush beers.