Is Homemade Beer Dangerous?

Written by Simon in Beer Brewing
Image Credits: Pixabay.com

One of the main concerns, when people talk about home-craft beer, is the possible dangers. You may have heard horror stories about people going blind while drinking bad alcohol. This blog post will help you understand whether or not brewing your own beer can be dangerous.

Is Homemade Beer Dangerous? The beer you brew isn’t dangerous on its own. Unlike distilling, beer brewing can’t really go wrong on a health risk level. The worst thing that can happen is you get a bad tasting beer. The major health risks mostly concern the lack of sanitizing and accidental use of toxic ingredients.

While the homemade beer you brew can’t hurt you more than regular beer, there are still some dangers that can occur if you don’t handle the beermaking process correctly.

Read on as I state some facts about craft beer and the possible dangers that can fore come while crafting or consuming them.

So, Is Homemade Beer Dangerous?

Disclaimer: large consumption of beer, homemade as well as store-bought, can lead to alcohol poisoning which can be lethal in the worst cases.

The biggest side effects of drinking your own homemade beer are the danger of becoming very addicted to good tasting beer. You may want to acquire a gym membership after starting up your home brewery.

The CDC recommends you don’t drink more than one drink per day for women, or two drinks per day for men. This of course also accounts for homemade beer, so make sure you drink in moderation.

There is no evidence of any toxic microorganisms that can survive in beer.

If you have any further concerns regarding toxins in beer brewing you can find a detailed article about it below

https://mmbr.asm.org/content/77/2/157

The fact remains that homebrewed beer has no apparent toxicities or dangers involved in the actual consumption of the beer.

Where the dangers can fore come in the home crafting of beer, is in the sanitizing and handling of equipment, electricity gas, etc. When brewing beer you are handling boiling hot water, kettles, gas, etc.

Note: most beers contain gluten, make sure you know whether or not you are tolerant of the ingredients in the beer you make.

The horror stories you hear about people going blind is simply impossible while making beer. When making beer the fermentation only produces ethanol. Ethanol is harmless compared to its counterpart, methanol.

Methanol is the stuff that can become lethal when handled wrong. This is the reason home distilling is illegal in many countries, simply because the process is highly complex and there can be deadly dangers surrounding the consumption of home-distilled alcohol.

Contamination and how to avoid it

The real “danger” in beer is contaminating your batches. While contamination doesn’t mean you’ll get sick drinking it, it can create a quite horrible taste.

To help you understand when your beer batch is contaminated here is a list of signs your beer has gone “sour”.

  1. Bottle Foaming. Similar to when you shake a cola bottle and open it when your beer is contaminated the beer will start foaming excessively when you open up a bottle. The annoying thing about this sign is that you won’t find out your beer is contaminated until you actually serve it.
  2. Terrible Smell. This one is quite apparent. When you open up after fermenting or open up a bottle you think is finished, the beer will smell quite horrible.
  3. A layer of mold on top. This usually happens during the fermenting process. If you can see even just a small layer of mold on top of your batch in the fermenter or later, you can be sure your beer has been contaminated.
  4. Your beer will taste worse with time. As you probably know, the longer you let your beer ferment and condition, the better the taste should get. However, if you taste sampling your beer and find that it tastes gradually worse over time, you should probably dump the batch and start over. Beer that has been contaminated or gone stale usually tastes like wet cardboard, this is a sign that your beer has been exposed to too much oxygen.
  5. A slimy layer on top. Similar to the molding, this will create a slimy layer on top that should stand out quite a bit. This is normally a sign of a bacterial infection, and you should probably give up on the batch right then and there.

Overall it is very important to keep your equipment up to speed and sanitized. Faulty or unsanitized equipment can easily lead to spoiled batches, and you definitely don’t want that.

Knowing the signs of contaminated beer is fine, but the real goal is to avoid it completely.

Spoiling a batch of beer you spent several weeks or months on is not fun. To make sure you do everything you can to avoid it, here are a few tips to keep your brewing process smooth and safe.

  1. Clean your equipment thoroughly. Make it a habit to always clean your equipment from top to bottom both before and after using it. Especially after using it is important, otherwise, it could prove difficult to clean it when you want to use it next time because the remanding residue from the batch can get quite sticky. This also applies to the bottles you pour the beer into, make sure to rinse them after they are emptied to remove and residue there might be on the bottom or sides. It is also a good idea to keep the general area you store or use your equipment in is somewhat clean. You don’t want unwanted bacterias to enter your batch.
  2. Sanitize! It can’t be said enough how important it is to sanitize your equipment. Like mentioned earlier, mold and bacterial infections can spoil your batch, so make sure that equipment is sanitized before mixing your batch!
  3. Do not aerate hot wort. Cooling down the wort is explained as something that has to be done rather quickly. But it is possible to contaminate hot wort if you are not careful. Do not splash your wort around before it has cooled down, as this can oxidate the wort and ruin it. Handling wort is considered one of the more difficult parts of homebrewing because you are handling different temperatures and have to avoid contamination by following the cooldown process correctly.
  4. Start fermentation as soon as you can. Add yeast to the wort as soon as possible. As mentioned the wort is very susceptible to bacteria or microorganisms so make sure your wort takes to the yeast before these bacteria have time to ruin it. A rule of thumb is to see fermentation activity within six to eight hours after pitching the yeast.
  5. Make sure you handle yeast with sanitized equipment. The yeast you pitch to the wort, especially dry yeast can get contaminated. Make sure whatever tool you use to open then yeast packet is clean and sanitized.
  6. Store your fermented beer cold and dark. This is general knowledge among homebrewers, so make sure you store your fermented batch in a cold and dark area since the light can ruin your batch. This also counts for bottled beer. Warm temperatures mixed with light can ruin your bottling conditions and contaminate your beer.

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If you keep these things in mind you will surely craft some well tasting homemade beers.

So the answer to whether or not homemade beer is dangerous is generally “no”. The beer itself can’t become toxic but the process can be dangerous if you are careless while preparing your batch.

The only real “danger” is creating bad beer and losing your batch and thereby your investment, but if you follow the tips above you will avoid most if not all cases of contamination.

About Us

Hello, my name is Simon. Together with a group of writers I write about brewing beer and making wine. We all share a passion for the great things in life, such as making stuff from scratch.

The business of HomeBrewAdvice is to bring you great information, stories and product reviews from brewing at home, and making wine