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The Shocking Ingredients In Beer


I have to confess, I’m not a beer drinker, but there’s someone in my household that loves it, so I had to figure out the truth. Is beer really healthy? Why are the ingredients not listed on the label? Which brands can we trust? Which brands are trying to slowly poison us with cheap and harmful ingredients? All of these questions were going through my head at once at lightning speed. So a year ago, I started to research what was really in beer and after questioning several beer companies, reading books about food science, and talking to experts, the information I discovered was downright shocking.

I see it all the time. Someone who eats organic, makes the right choices at the grocery store, is fit and lives an extraordinarily healthy lifestyle but then drinks beer like it is going out of style.

Caring about what you eat doesn’t necessarily translate into caring about what you drink and this is a HUGE MISTAKE.

Before we get into what exactly is in beer that you should be worried about, let’s talk about how body reacts to alcohol in general.

Alcohol is metabolized by the body differently than all other calories you consume. Alcohol is one of the only substances that you consume that can permeate your digestive system and go straight into your bloodstream. It bypasses normal digestion and is absorbed into the body intact, where it goes straight into the liver.

Your liver is your main fat-burning organ. If you are trying to lose weight or even maintain your ideal weight, drinking alcohol is one of your worst enemies. The liver is going to metabolize alcohol first vs. the fat you want to get rid of – making weight loss even harder. Additionally, one of the primary functions of the liver is to remove environmental toxins from your body – if it is overtaxed with alcohol, the normal removal of these toxins becomes extremely diminished and can result in rapid aging, loss of libido, and other diseases.

The one thing that has gotten me before and I’m sure many of you – is the health marketing claims on alcohol products making drinking them seem like a good idea and an added “benefit” to your health. The low alcohol content of beer makes it appear as an innocuous beverage and something people throw back without even thinking about it. Who hasn’t seen those studies that say a beer a day is great for you (I want to ask who ever stops at just one beer?)?


So, inherently, alcohol by itself is not a healthy person’s best friend – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Beer, especially American beer, is made with all sorts of ingredients beyond the basic hops, malt and yeast. There are numerous other ingredients used to clarify, stabilize, preserve, enhance the color and flavor of beer.

When you drink beer, there is almost a 100% chance that you don’t know what you are drinking (unless you quizzed the beer companies like I did). The ingredients in beer are not required by law to be listed anywhere on the label and manufacturers have no legal obligation to disclose the ingredients. For regular beer, calorie levels and percent alcohol are optional and for light beer calories are mandatory but alcohol levels are optional.

Michele Simon, a public health lawyer, author of Appetite for Profit, and president of Eat Drink Politics told me the reason that beer companies don’t disclose ingredients is simple: they don’t have to.

“Ingredient labeling on food products and non-alcoholic beverages is required by the Food and Drug Administration. But a whole other federal agency regulates beer, and not very well. The Department of Treasury – the same folks who collect your taxes – oversees alcoholic beverages. That probably explains why we know more about what’s in a can of Coke than a can of Bud. You can also thank the alcohol industry, which has lobbied for years against efforts to require ingredient labeling.”

I figured if the beer companies aren’t required to tell us the exact list of ingredients, I needed to investigate this for myself and asked them the pointed questions until I got the truth.



First of all, I was able to obtain a baseline list of “legal” additives allowed in beer from the book “Chemicals Additives in Beer” by the Center of Science and Public Interest. This list allowed me to ask specific questions about each beer I investigated. For example – beer sold here in America can contain several of the following ingredients:

  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) –  alcohol is already addictive with some people, but with MSG?! Holy smokes.

  • Propylene Glycol (an ingredient found in anti-freeze)

  • Calcium Disodium EDTA (made from formaldehyde, sodium cayanide, and Ethylenediamine)

  • Many different types of sulfites and anti-microbial preservatives (linked to allergies and asthma)

  • Natural Flavors (can come from anything natural including a beavers anal gland)

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup

  • GMO Sugars – Dextrose, Corn Syrup

  • Caramel Coloring (Class III or IV made from ammonia and classified as a carcinogen)

  • FD&C Blue 1 (Made from petroleum, linked to allergies, asthma and hyperactivity)

  • FD&C Red 40 (Made from petroleum, linked to allergies, asthma and hyperactivity)

  • FD&C Yellow 5 (Made from petroleum, linked to allergies, asthma and hyperactivity)

  • Insect-Based Dyes: carmine derived from cochineal insects to color their beer.

  • Animal Based Clarifiers: Findings include isinglass (dried fish bladder), gelatin (from skin, connective tissue, and bones), and casein (found in milk)

  • Foam Control: Used for head retention; (glyceryl monostearate and pepsin are both potentially derived from animals)

  • BPA (Bisphenol A is a component in many can liners and it may leach into the beer. BPA can mimic the female hormone estrogen and may affect sperm count, and other organ functions.)

  • Carrageenan (linked to inflammation in digestive system, IBS and considered a carcinogen in some circumstances)

During my investigation, I couldn’t get a single mainstream beer company to share the full list of ingredients contained in their beer. But I did get some of them to fess up to the use of these ingredients in writing so I’m going to share this information with you now.

Carcinogenic Caramel Coloring

Newcastle, a UK brand, confessed to using what I would consider one of the most controversial food additives. Toasted barley is usually what gives beer its golden or deep brown color, however in this case, Newcastle beer is also colored artificially with caramel color. This caramel coloring is manufactured by heating ammonia and sulfites under high pressure, which creating carcinogenic compounds. If beer companies were required by law to list the ingredients, Newcastle would likely have to have a cancer warning label under California law because it is a carcinogen proven to cause liver tumors, lung tumors, and thyroid tumors in rats and mice.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Many of the beers I questioned contained one or more possible GMO ingredients.

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (Guinness – unable to provide an affidavit for non-GMO proof)
  • Corn syrup (Miller Light, Coors, Corona, Fosters, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Red Stripe)
  • Dextrose (Budweiser, Bud Light, Busch Light, Michelob Ultra)
  • Corn (Red Stripe, Miller Coors Brand, Anheuser-Busch Brands)

Most beers brewed commercially are made with more GMO corn than barley. Many of the companies I contacted dodged the GMO question – however Miller Coors had a very forthcoming and honest response. They stated “Corn syrup gives beer a milder and lighter-bodied flavor” and “Corn syrups may be derived from a mixture of corn (conventional and biotech.)”, admitting their use of GMOs.


Pabst Blue Ribbon responded saying their corn syrup was “special” and “made of carbohydrates and some simple sugars like dextrose and maltose.  The sugars are fermented into alcohol and CO2, and the carbohydrates, both from the corn syrup and the malt, remain in the beers as flavor, color and body components.”

Dextrose and maltose can come from a variety of substances that are sweet, but likely are derived from GMO corn because it is super cheap for a company to use corn instead of fruit or other non-GMO sources. With cheap beer – you are not just getting a cheap buzz, you are getting the worst of the worst.  Just like with cheap fast food – if you don’t invest in your beer – you will be drinking a lower quality product like Pabst Blue Ribbon that is made from GMO Corn and Corn Syrup.

In 2007, Greenpeace found unapproved and experimental GMO Rice strain in Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser, Bud Light) beer. Anheuser-Busch responded saying their US-grown long-grained rice “may have micro levels” of a genetically engineered protein called Liberty Link, but added that the protein is “substantially removed or destroyed” during the brewing of beer sold domestically. Don’t you think it’s hard to trust any beer company that gets caught using experimental food made in a laboratory? GMOs have not been tested long term on human beings and one of the main pesticides (Roundup) they spray on GMO crops are linked to inflammation, cancer and other diseases. 


High Fructose Corn Syrup & Fish Bladders

Speaking of trusting companies, let’s get one thing straight, Guinness beer is no longer owned by the Irish, they are now owned by a large beer conglomerate called Diageo and manufactured in over 50 different countries. No matter how many St. Patty’s Day celebrations you’ve had with this dark stout, it’s time to stop because they use high fructose corn syrup in their beer (4/2/14 Update: Guinness Beer claims they do not use high fructose corn syrup any longer, but refuses to disclose ingredient affidavits or full of list of ingredients.) But, Guinness beer also contains isinglass, a gelatin-like substance produced from the swim bladder of a fish. This ingredient helps remove any “haziness,” solids, or yeast byproducts from the beer. Mmmmm… fish bladder sounds delicious, doesn’t? The sneaky thing this beer company does like many of the companies mentioned here today is create an illusion of using the best ingredients when in actuality what they tell you publicly on their websites is a complete farce. On Guinness FAQ’s – they have a question that states: “What are the key ingredients in Guinness” and the answer doesn’t reveal the whole picture – it only states “Our key ingredients – other than inspiration – are roasted, malted barley, hops, yeast and water.” What BS, right?  You have to call, email, question and know the right things to ask to even have a chance at getting the truth. This is insanity.

So What Beers Are Additive and GMO Free?

If you enjoy the occasional beer and wish to maintain your healthy lifestyle, choosing one without GMOs and additives is ideal. Unfortunately, most of the mainstream beers available have additives, but luckily, there are a few that don’t. For example, Sierra Nevada, Heineken, and Amstel Light (7/31/13 UPDATE: It has come to my attention that Heinken USA has changed their formula to use GMOs – I called their customer service line 1-914-681-4100 to confirm and asked for the list of ingredients – the man told me “water, yeast, malted barley and hops” – then I asked if their beer contained any genetically engineered material and he confirmed “YES,” but wouldn’t tell me what ingredients are genetically engineered. They recently changed their formula after my initial research that started in late 2012.) (8/1/13 Update: Heineken reached out to me personally to say their customer service department made an error in telling me and others who called their beer has GMOs. I met with a head brew master and have viewed affidavits from the company and confirmed Heinken and Amstel Light do not contain GMOs – they apologize for the confusion.) appear to be pretty clean (but these companies still wouldn’t disclose the full list of ingredients to me. They did say they use non-GMO grains, no artificial ingredients, stabilizers or preservatives).

German Beers are also a good bet. The Germans are very serious about the purity of their beers and enacted a purity law called “Reinheitsgebot” that requires all German beers to be only produced with a core ingredient list of water, hops, yeast, malted barley or wheat. Advocates of German beers insist that they taste cleaner and some even claim they don’t suffer from hangovers as a result.

An obvious choice to consider is also Certified Organic Beers. They are required by law to not include GMOs and other harmful additives. Organic beers also support environmental friendly practices and reduce the amount of pesticides and toxins in our air, support organic farmers – which is a huge plus. (To this day, the beer drinkers in my family haven’t found one they love so if you have suggestions, please let us know in the comments!)

Craft & Microbrews Beers – For certain local craft and micro beers, you can ask those companies for a list of ingredients and many of them will be up front with you. However, companies like Miller Coors are slowly closing in on craft beers and buying them up one by one… like they did when they created the unique popular variety called Blue Moon (the beer you drink with an orange) and Anhesuer-Busch did this with Rolling Rock and Goose Island Brewery. Make sure your favorite craft and microbrew is still independently owned and controlled before taking a sip.

In the end – if you decide to drink beer, you are definitely drinking at your own risk for more reasons than just the crazy ingredients that could be in them. The key point to remember is – if you like to drink beer and want to be healthy, drink it infrequently and quiz the beer companies for the truth. Find a beer that you can trust and stick with it.

For your reference, here are some important questions to ask your favorite beer company:

  1. What are the ingredients in your beer – all of them from start to finish?

  2. Are any of your ingredients GMO?

  3. Do you use any soy, corn, or rice processing ingredients? (Examples include: dextrose, corn syrup, etc.)

  4. Do you add any natural, artificial flavors or colors to the beer? (Examples include:  yellow #5, caramel coloring, red #40, MSG, natural flavors)

  5. Are there any additional preservatives, stabilizers and/or clarifying agents added to your beer during processing? (Examples include: propylene glycol, Calcium Disodium EDTA, anything ending in “sulfite” like sodium metabisulfite, Heptylparaben, isinglass)

If you know someone who drinks beer – share this post with them.

These ingredients are no joke. We must inform and protect each other from these industrial chemicals, untested and potentially harmful ingredients and it starts by sharing your knowledge with the ones you love.

Bottoms up!

Food Babe


Enjoying Dinner copy

UPDATE: In June 2014, I launched a petition to ask the two most popular beer companies in the U.S., Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors, to publish the complete ingredient lists for all of their beers online. Within only 24 hours, the petition received over 40,000 signatures and gained exposure on several mainstream media outlets including ABC News, USA Today and the Chicago Tribune. This same day, Anheuser-Busch announced that they would agree to publish their complete ingredients online, and MillerCoors quickly followed suit. Anheuser-Busch has since published the ingredients for several of their beers online (they have not published all of them), revealing that some contain high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, artificial flavors, preservatives, sweeteners, and other additives. MillerCoors also listed ingredients on their website for many beers which contain corn syrup (GMO), high fructose corn syrup, sucrose (sugar), and natural flavors. 
UPDATE: In October 2015 Guinness announced that they are stopping the use of isinglass in their refining process so that their beer will become vegan-friendly.
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1,465 responses to “The Shocking Ingredients In Beer

  1. i do not drink beer but am health conscious and even more interested in the crap that is being put in everything. i am going to forward this article to my poor friends who end up getting emails about yet another food or product that is not good for them. hopefully some of this will sink in.

    food babe, i appreciate the time you took to research this article.

    i would be interested in a follow up about the hard alcohol industry. much of the same ingredients are most likely found in whiskeys, vodkas, and rums as the distilling process starts with the fermenting process….

    1. Please don’t forward this to anyone. There is so much misinformation here, it’s ridiculous. If you are receiving your information about your “health conscious” choices from a single blog – especially one that isn’t even peer reviewed, then you have enough problems as is. Please educate yourself.

    2. Are you kidding? There was almost no research and mostly found things that are not used in beer production anyway. The vast majority of beer is made with Barley malt, wheat malt, yeast, hops and water. Some mega breweries use corn (in various forms) and rice to provide fermentable sugars without adding flavor. Some belgian breweries use candi sugar (usually made from beet sugar).
      The vast majority of the non starch portion of the grains is left behind in the mash tun. The starch is also broken down into sugars by naturally occurring enzymes. After the mash tun, the wort (pre fermented beer) is boiled and sometimes has clarifiers added (these would be the carageenen, fish bladders, gelitin). These clarifiers and the boiling process cause most of the proteins to clump together, precipitate and are then left in the brew kettle.
      After the brew kettle, the magic starts when the yeast is added. The yeast uses the remaining nutrients and sugars to create more yeast, alcohol & CO2.
      When fermentation is complete some breweries use clariifiers to remove the yeast, but most now simply filter them out.
      Magic! There is now beer, which does not in any way resemble the ingredients that were used to create it. The grain husks & hop vegetation are gone, the starch (majority of the volume of grain) is now residual sugar (mostly tri and quad saccarides), alcohol and CO2. There are some remaining flavor compounds as well but most of these are formed by the yeast, not by additives to the beer. Things like MSG would just make the beer salty and ruin the flavor.
      The food babe didn’t mention things like dimethyl sulfide (DMS) or diacetyl because they are not in any of the ingredients listed. They are made by the yeast.
      This brings us to the hard alcohol topic. Once again, the science is missing. The ingredients in distilled beverages are even more restricted. There is no reason to fear the alcohol other than the alcohol itself. The mash for distilling is usually just base grain, yeast and water. And then it is distilled, leaving behind almost everything except alcohol and esters. None of the weird ingredients are used here either.

  2. ooohhhh.. propylene glycol is in anti-freeze? it’s also used in chemical dispersants!

    so is water… so what? that means nothing.

    sure, some of your points are well taken, but this one exposes obvious fear-mongering and could have done with some more research.

    ethanol is significantly more harmful to humans than propylene glycol.

    1. Agreed!
      Not to mention gelatin: “is made from skin and bone” – and has been used to make jello for decades, with no I’ll effects as of yet.
      And “GMO crops are sprayed with roundup” – Some GMO crops can be sprayed with roundup. Would I choose to eat them? No. Buy GMO does not equal roundup.

      There are some interesting points in this article, and some red flags to he sure…. But the point of view is clearly biased and sensationalist.

      1. Laura,
        Some, if not MOST, GMO manufactured by Monsanto MUST HAVE Roundup applied before the GMO seed will germinate. Go back and try again…GMO in a lot of cases DOES = ROUNDUP and vice versa.

      2. Not sure where you are getting your info.
        I just looked up the GMO lines on the Monsanto website and they advertise 2/6 of their types or corn as roundup ready. That’s a far cry from “most”, never mind “all”.
        Not to mention 20% of GMO crops are not produced by Monsanto….

        I’m not trying to argue that Roundup ready crops or good, or that we shouldn’t demand transparency in the foods that we eat. I only think that using a wide paint brush to declare “GMO = bad” is narrow minded, and limits progress.

      3. I don’t know how you cannot appreciate the effort this young lady has put out to give US the knowledge to make informed decisions of what goes into our bodies.
        And as for the ignoramous who thinks GMO’s may have SOME good qualities, do some more homework.
        Thank you “Food Babe” for the interesting (and unique) article.

      4. The fact that you looked up info on the MONSANTO website for the truth is hillarious!!

      5. Laura, I had to suppress a laugh when I just read your response. GMO always means, without exception, that a chemical herbicide or pesticide was used. That applies to wheat, corn, soy, and many others. That is the only reason that the seed has been genetically modified in the first place so a farmer would never pay the extra cost of GMO seed unless he is going to be spraying because there would be no “benefit” (as the farmer would see it), only extra expense.

      6. I would very much like to know where you got this information.

        By my understanding, golden rice and cold resistant tomatoes are not roundup ready.

        (Monsanto apparently developed a roundup resistant tomato line, but it did not do well and was discontinued.)

        So it would seem to me that at least some GMO crops are not herbicide resistant. In addition, it shows that GMO crops have been developed to improve nutrition and increase yield due to environment tolerance, and not just herbicide and pesticide resistance.

        The phrase “always” and “without exception” that you use are inaccurate, and contribute to the current witch hunt against all GMO everything.
        (I know… you should never reference wikipedia! unfortunately I could not find another source.)

      7. Your so called “witch hunt” against gmo’s is completely warranted. When a company begins to prey on some of the most vulnerable in the world with their product (as Monsanto does with their GMO seeds) any amount of negative press or slander is deserved. And thank you for pointing out even more areas of this global food economy we now find ourselves in that Monsanto is seeking to control and profit from, all to the destruction of farmland, the farmer, and the consumer.
        All, and i do mean all, of the farmers I know in the village I live in in northern India have access only to seed that was developed for the purpose of heavy chemical application. This “progress” you speak of not getting in the way of is doing nothing but enslaving the men and women of this community who are seeking to feed their neighbors to a multi billion dollar company. Witch hunt or not, it is just wrong to believe that GMO’s offer any bright hope of “progress”. Lets get back to talking beer anyways.

      8. farmerben, I had to laugh when I just read your response. GMO means genetically modified. That’s all. It doesn’t tell you /how/ it’s genetically modified. There are a lot more reasons to genetically modify crops than to make it “round up ready,” i.e. Golden Rice. Just because a crop is GM, doesn’t mean it’s bad, evil, unhealthy, etc either. There is just a lot of fear mongering, misinformation, and a lack of /actual/ education on the subject. Please educate yourself.

      9. 90% of GMO Corn and which means corn syrup is sprayed with roundup, same with soy. Its called Round up ready corn and round up ready soy. I love how everyone is putting this girl on the burner because she just put an article out about what is in mass produced beers. And you are calling her a food and drink Nazi! Wow some of you need to grow the #$%^ up and open your eyes.

    2. I wonder what monsanto and/or governments are paying the obvious shills in these comments to cover their backsides? Only sociopaths would promote anything that would destroy the health of others and shorten the life span of humanity. Keep up the good work. What goes around comes around and that’s karma.

      1. I wonder if “Laura” and “Jake” either work for Monsanto or Cargill, or a firm in India that’s contracted to attack sites like this that are impacting the views of consumers by exposing the actual or potential issues with the horrible stuff firms like Monsanto manufacture. To the two shills: do you have proof that the GMOs are 100% safe? No? Then we shouldn’t be using them as ingredients or as a source of food. And if these GMOs are so “safe”, why would Monsanto pay so much to influence DC into passing laws to ensure that items can’t even be labeled a GMO. GMOs aren’t evil, they’re just unsafe. What’s evil is Monsanto, the influence it creates, and the lack of transparency it creates in the marketplace. (…and if you are indeed paid shills on this site, it would be yet more proof that Monsanto is evil).

  3. Vani: Don’t be discouraged by the criticism. A ‘word to the wise is sufficient’ and we should all ‘ take everything with a grain of (sea) salt’ In future articles addressing this topic you should include Red Oak brewed in Greensboro under highly controlled conditions and according to strict German brewing procedures. It’s the only beer I drink for flavor and the obvious. Should you find out otherwise please advise. Hey it rhythms! Well I am a songwriter…Keep up the good work

  4. I am not a huge beer drinker but my husband is and we both LOVE Samuel Smith Organic cherry and strawberry! They have several different flavors if your family doesn’t care for the fruity beers 🙂

  5. Samuel Smith has several Organic beers that are really good! I had the chocolate stout last night, and it was quite delicious. My husband considers himself a connoisseur, and he even liked it. I’ve heard that their strawberry beer is good, too.

    Good article!

      1. Krista, Where can we find a list of better bears with better ingredients?

      2. Hi Jamie – most of the beers with better ingredients are going to be from smaller microbreweries and there is no way she can investigate them all – there are so many and a lot of them are only available in local areas. So we encourage you to scope out local breweries in your area and ask them about the ingredients. The beer is so much better, you will never want to go back anyway!

  6. Maybe you should look into what’s in that wine you’re drinking, as a lot of those ingredients are used in winemaking as well, particularly the clarifiers and stabilizers. You sound incredibly uneducated to anyone who brews.

  7. There is a company called Peak Organic that produces beer, at least here in New England that is really really good. Worth a taste for sure. thanks for the info.

  8. Very comprehensive (and frightening) breakdown of what it in beer. I am almost afraid to ask, but what about wine?

    1. Wine investigation coming soon! I’m so excited and scared at the same time…

      1. Grapes, yeast, malolactic bacteria, bentonite (clay), gelatin, egg whites or albumen, casein (milk protein), sulfites (Sulfites do not cause alergic reactions, and only very rarely cause asthmatic reactions. Sensitivity is a better term.), grape concentrate, copper sulfate, sugar (in Oregon, only cane, beet, or concentrated grape must is allowed, not sure about other states.), potassium carbonate, tartaric acid, tannin from a variety of sources, diamonium phosphate, yeast based nutrients, ethanol, water. That’s about all I can think of off the top of my head. There’s a few others, but those are the common ones. Most cheaper wines will contain a large amount of those, but even very expensive wine will contain quite a few.

  9. Could you please name some of this German or non German fine beer companies? I think they deserve advertising them. There is company in named Bavaria which I drink. Could you please confirm this for me and also sending a list of companies that you know for sure?

  10. Could you please name some companies that you know for sure that they are safe to drink?
    There is company named Bavaria that I drink. Could you please confirm this company for me and also send a list of companies that you know for sure.

    1. Hi! There is no way she can investigate every beer company. We encourage you to call your favorite beer company.. She tells what questions to ask in this post. Good luck! We would love to know what you find out.

  11. What a miserable life this lady must live needing to micro analyze the ingredients of everything. If my wife started telling me details like this about what I ate and drank, I think that would be grounds for divorce. Most of these ingredients she says are harmful are very harmless. What the dumb author doesn’t understand is that pretty much every food in existence is genetically modified. I would guess it started at the beginning of agriculture when farms picked the best corn as seeds for next years crops, and bred the best livestock to get he desired traits for the species. Normally I don’t waste my time commented on moronic articles out there because there are so many, but this one particularly bothered me with the matter of fact way she went about trashing very well respected companies’ products.

    1. These “well respected companies” are using some really cheap and sometimes harmful ingredients in their products, and not disclosing this on the label. Those of us who write and follow “real food” blogs WANT to know what we’re consuming. There are plenty of amazing food and beverage companies who make the highest quality product they can, and those are the brands I want to buy. I don’t put trash in my body, and I enjoy every bite I put in my mouth! Caring about what you consume results in more health and energy, not a “miserable life”.

      From the article: “Toasted barley is usually what gives beer its golden or deep brown color, however in this case, Newcastle beer is also colored artificially with caramel color. This caramel coloring is manufactured by heating ammonia and sulfites under high pressure, which creating carcinogenic compounds.”
      If you want to drink that, be my guest, but many of us will be seeking out beer from brewers who don’t take these cheap, nasty shortcuts. My husband and I are experienced home brewers, so we are extremely picky about quality in store-bought beer already.

      Btw, you’re confusing selective breeding and hybridization with genetic engineering. They are not at all the same thing.

      1. The caramel colorant is created in several different processes. The base material of all E150 color are sugars. Small amounts of different chemical compounds are allowed in various colors. E150c, which is the expected version in Newcastle, is allowed to have ammonium compunds. Just because something is used in the process does not necessarily mean they are harmful. These are also found in numerous items from whisky to baked goods.
        In the case of beer, I might use Calcium Carbonate to change the chemistry of my water. This is a salt, which is naturally found in water as ions Ca and CO3. I would only use it to emulate the chemistry of water from a city that is famous for a particular style of beer.

      1. What a brilliant, thoughtful man you are. In your amazing wisdom, please research and come to understand “hybridization” and “genetically modified”. They are different (duh..)

        Bravo Food Babe. “Keep up the good work” !!

    2. beer drinker, you’re confusing “genetically modified” and “genetically engineered” with “cross breeding” or “cross hybridization”, which are NOT the same things. GMO/GE crops have only been in existance since the late 80’s/early 90’s, long after “the beginning of agriculture” and are anything but very harmless, as you have lead yourself to believe. Unless of course, you consider cancer and a whole bunch of other auto-immune diseases and many other cronic illnesses that have been directly linked to glyphosphate, the main ingredient in Roundup – GMO “Roundup ready” crops – to be “harmless”! Maybe you should do a little more research into indepedent scientific and medical studies (that aren’t funded by or otherwise connected to Monsanto, Bayer, Dupont, etc.) before you start pointing that “dumb” finger at those, like Food Babe, that have.

  12. I second Peak Organic (from Maine). I also like Wolaver’s (certified organic), although I think they have merged with someone else, and Samuel Smith organic stouts.

  13. Props to Miller Coors for actually being transparent about some of the ingredients they use.

  14. Thanks Food Babe for a very informative article! I am a self-proclaimed beer snob and generally stick to craft and micro-brewed beer entirely but this information is still good to know. Keep up the great work!

  15. Any sugar can be used to brew beer. It doesn’t matter to the yeast that eats the sugar whether it is high fructose corn syrup or if it’s organically grown cane sugar. At the microbiology level, the origin of the sugar doesn’t matter one difference. It’s more important what kind of yeast a brewer uses than what kind of sugar is used.
    My point is that in this case, high fructose corn syrup isn’t the demon you’re making it out to be, and this kind of disinformation is a bit dangerous and disingenuous.

  16. You’re right when you say controversial! Of all your posts I’ve shared this got people riled up the most! But good on you, keep it up! We should know this stuff!

    1. These ingredients aren’t in beer. This is scare mongering. Do just a little research of your own into brewing and what is really used.

  17. Food Lady, do your homework. Some of the items you listed in beer are in lots of other beverages or types of food. When you give the full picture, they are not as scary as you are trying to make them out to be.
    Carrageenan – Refined seaweed that is used as a thickening agent in toothpaste as well as other products. In brewing it is a process aid, meaning that it acts in a highly specific manner in a part of production and either settles out or is filtered out. In brewing, carrageenan helps precipitate haze causing protein out of the kettle.
    Proplyene Glycol – An organic compound that is technically an alcohol. It is sold as a food grade coolant at most breweries so that if any were to leak into the beer, it would not harm humans. Ethylene glycol is used for anti-freeze and is harmful if ingested.
    “Fish Bladder” – A form of finings, meaning a process aid the helps settle yeast out of beer before filtration. Again, none of this organic matter winds up in the beer. Many process aids work due to an opposite electrical charge, so particles will attach to yeast, create greater mass, and settle to the bottom of the tank, where they are left behind.
    Food dyes and coloring – I am betting these are in the malternatives and beer based drinks that have a similar amount of alcohol as beer, but usually contain flavorings.
    So don’t drink them. They are made and marketed to people who don’t like the taste of beer.
    It also would be helpful if you listed % of these additives and their real purpose.

  18. I was interested until I read they were attacking Propylene Glycol… PG is in almost every single product we eat and has never, not once, caused an adverse reaction, or lets say a reaction that was dangerous. So that tells me that either the writer is uneducated, or she is just clutching at straws…

  19. What a lot of rubbish. We r shareholders in a microbrewery and none of these ingredients are in our or other beers. It’s actually an insult. Probably best you stick to judging what you actually know best or are prepared to be better informed by the brewers for example.

    1. She isn’t talking about microbreweries. I feel like people didn’t read the same post that I did.

      1. They aren’t used in big breweries either. This is the sad part about the article.

  20. This is the type of thing we’ve known for some time (in the brewing field)… the “big guys” will frequently use things to raise their profit margin. Sadly, “we” (the consumer) want a “clear beer” – so clarifying agents are added… a tachnicality – yes, it’s added, but chemically bonds with protiens and such, then drops out of the solution. Not that it’s needed – me, I just let bottles sit for a while, and they eventually clear on their own. Also – I’m raising an eyebrow about the glycol – that stuff is *EXPENSIVE*, and isn’t (or shouldn’t be) added to what we dring – but it *IS* used to help control fermentation/chilling temperature – and it is recycled through the chilling system (occasionally needing recharge – think refrigerant in your car or home A/C). So bottom line – sit back and enjoy a cold craft brew… 😉

  21. Hey Food Babe great job as usual and to all you naysayers who are utterly naive to “long term” effects from eating the crap Vanni’s talking about, example cigarettes don’t cause people to drop dead but do they slowly cause disease and sickness DUH! Keep eating without knowing suckers and stop trying to attack Vanni and get a life!. Haven’t seen many suggestions for some good tasting pure, clean ingredients beers??

    1. Thanks for the positive feedback for food babe, i agree. For the record i’ve been waiting for someone to address alcoholic beverages in the real food news/blogs etc… for awhile and am very glad she did : )
      Thank you Food Babe for taking the time and caring enough to share your research. I appreciate the time and effort you’ve put in to it. Look forward to your future research on wine and other spirits. Hopefully everclear isn’t horrible and I can make some organic apple pie moonshine for those wonderful holiday seasons.
      I’m not sure of any pure clean good tasting beers but I am on the search now and will keep checking in.

      1. Becky,
        You can be assured that virtually any beer you buy will be clear of any issues. Through a variety of enzymatic reactions, physical reactions (boiling & cooling), chemical reactions and biological reactions (fermentation) beer is created. The items that are listed that are used in the process are converted or left behind. Stop by any local brewery, homebrew club or ingredient supply store and they will help you understand the process so that you can make informed decisions about what beer to buy. In general beer is safer than almost anything we drink. Please be aware of the alcohol content of what you are drinking so that you don’t suffer from the negative effects of the alcohol.
        If you want a beverage to be concerned with, look into energy drinks and sodas.

  22. Guinness Response***

    I sent an email this morning to Guinness asking all the above questions and more. Here is the response I received not an hour later in it’s entirety…

    Thank you for taking time to contact Guinness. Your feedback is important to us.

    All Guinness enjoyed in the United States comes from the home of Guinness – St. James’s Gate in Dublin. While the Guinness produced in some markets may use non-GMO Sorghum and sugar syrups, we can confirm that there is no high fructose corn syrup and no GMOs in any Guinness distributed in the United States.

    Isinglass, a byproduct of the fishing industry, is used widely in the brewing industry. At Guinness we use isinglass as a fining agent to help remove yeast from all Guinness brewed beers. Although it is extensively refined before use, we accept that some minor traces of isinglass may subsequently remain in the finished product.

    We are very happy with the technical performance of isinglass in removing yeast. However, knowing it may be a consumption barrier for some, we are seeking alternatives to isinglass as part of our ongoing efforts to improve the way we make our products. To date, we have not found any alternative that is as effective and as environmentally friendly as isinglass for our product.

    With regards to your request for a complete list of ingredients, unfortunately, this information is considered proprietary. However, we will forward your questions regarding natural and artificial flavors/colors and processing ingredients to the appropriate department and respond back as soon as possible.

    Once again, thank you for contacting Guinness.


    Guinness Consumer Representative

    Cheers! Drinking Responsibly is Brilliant!!

    According to this NO GMO or corn syrup in the products distributed in US. They did make a comment about isinglass being environmentally friendly and I am looking into that since I have not brewed beer before though it is in the future of our family endeavors. “To date, we have not found any alternative that is as effective and as environmentally friendly as isinglass for our product.” I am requesting information from other beer companies my family and friends enjoy (there are quit a few : ) and will not be given up easily by any of us) and will post any additional information learned from the companies.

    Enjoy Everyone : )

    1. Another Update**

      I replied to their email again inquiring about their response to you regarding their Draught beer and received confirmation that there is no corn syrup in their beer with an apology for previous response…
      Dear ****

      Thank you for taking time to contact Guinness. Your feedback is important to us.

      We apologize for this. There is NO corn syrup in Guinness product.

      Once again, thank you for contacting Guinness.


      Guinness Consumer Representative

      1. Like I said before – no one from Guinness is willing to discuss the discrepancies between your correspondence and mine… I’m still waiting to hear back from them and this is the original email they sent me:

        Thank you for taking time to contact Guinness. Your feedback is important to us.

        In regard to your inquiry, our key ingredients in Guinness Draught are roasted, malted barley, hops, yeast and water. Regarding our ingredients list as a whole, while we appreciate your interest in Guinness, it is our policy not to provide proprietary information to external parties for private or commercial purposes. Public information regarding our company and brands is available on our website:

        Guinness Draught does contain barley and does contain high-fructose corn syrup, but does not contain soy. I don’t currently have information on whether the product contains dextrose, but if you request it I will be happy to forward the inquiry. There are no GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in Guinness Draught. If there is anything else we could help you with now or in the future, please do not hesitate to contact us.

        Once again, thank you for contacting Guinness.


        Steve R.
        Guinness Consumer Representative

      2. I completely understand that we are getting different answers from the company. I’m not trying to be rude or be troublesome just transparent (for lack of a better word/phrase). I love that you did this blog post, i’ve been waiting for someone to address beer and alcohol and i’m glad you did : )
        Thank you

      3. Isinglass is not harmful, is almost completely removed and should only be a concern to vegans, particularly those who are concerned with animal welfare. Regretfully, when people hear fish bladders they think the worst. Probably very similar to caviar (fish eggs harvested from the inside of female sturgeon).

  23. Snake River Brewing out of Jackson, WY brews a delicious organic brown ale called OB-1. Any good bottle shop should have quite a selection of organic brews and they have come a long way in the last 5 years.

  24. Thanks for your research! I have long since wanted to know the ingredients of beer and can now make more educated choices. I would love for it to be mandatory to list all ingredients of alcoholic beverages on the label or carton.
    As a vegan I am used to finding animal flesh or liquid flesh in strange places but beer might be the most surprising so far.

    Thanks again!

  25. Damn, I’m always careful about gmo and msg shtt all the time but did not was even considering it with beer. disappointing for sure but will have to find something free from this crap, just like in food and with my problems with gout I think I know what do I have to do next…

  26. All Doctor’s and chemist know that propylene glycol is a slippery agent but in large consumption destroy’s the liver and can cause death. There has been many insiders who have worked in the food indusrty knows the poison’s they put in foods and beverages. Some of you on here just make stupid talking points. We are a nation that is rapidly exploding with diabetes and autoimmue disease all to diet alone. Those who are smart search for good nurishing foods and for the rest we will see you in the Doctor’s office!!!!!

    1. Brian,
      No one will consume large amounts of propylene glycol by drinking beer. It is only an approved ingredient because it is used in the cooling jackets on fermenting tanks. Very trace amounts may be found in a beer after a cooling jacket has leaked. Breweries regularly monitor this equipment to prevent this from happening. And ethylene glycol is the anti freeze.
      And beer has less fructose than sodas, fruit juices and energy drinks.

  27. Fish tale brewery out of Olympia washington makes AMAZING organic beers…. though I can’t find them here in Texas:(

  28. I am the senior wellness, science, engineer and professional food technologist for Avispatech llC.
    I have traveled the whole of the world and have processes and equipment used in all of the countries of the world and concentrate on recovery of underutilized food and help to reduce the green house cost of and am dedicated to reduction of the 40% of the food that never reaches the consumer.
    I know the USDA, FDA, Ifoam, and US third party certification processes.
    You are only touching the tip of the ice burger where underneath are individual, political, commercial and ethnic ignorance beyond ones wildest dreams.

  29. Interesting article. I’m not on board with the GMO craze yet, so I can’t comment. Although I do almost exclusively drink micro brews. I dunno how much big breweries are closing in on craft beers. They can keep Blue Moon and Gooseberries. If they start buying up Stone, Bear Republic, Dogfish Head, Firestone, Bell’s, Deschute’s, etc.. I’ll start to worry! 😉 I am kind of curious about those now, but I have a feeling they pay more attention to additives than the macro brew garbage.

  30. Isinglass has been used in beer for hundreds of years as a clarifier, it is a natural substance and not harmful like the GMO grains.

  31. So your saying stop drinking beer and stick with wine? 🙂 There are studies that indicate a certain amount of wine is quite good for you – not sure about the beer. I started drinking a small amount this summer again and I don’t think its good for me but it sure tastes good after a hot summer day of working outside. I didn’t read anything about Yuengling, America’s oldest beer with a very not American name? I saw a gluten free beer made in Holland that was very expensive. Been trying the gluten free diet. I like German beers so perhaps the best of wrong choices. I do like Guinness – bummer! I was concerned about the ingredients cause I’m kind of a fanatic about not eating GMO.
    Anyway thanks for the great article and research!

  32. Great post. I had my suspicions about these beers.

    Also, I have a friend in Thailand who once had a girl friend whose family trade was selling fish bladder. I never thought of putting it in my beer, however. That Chang is just plain horrible anyway. I think my buddy said they use palm in the ingredients.

  33. I’ve read that the German Reinheitsgebot law isnt even enforced and its a joke as far as the majority of brewers in Germany are concerned. They put whatever they want in thier beer.

  34. Thanks for the great article which, once again, shows that there is no redeeming aspect to consuming alcohol, and in this case, beer in particular. It never ceases to amaze me that, as evidenced by many of the comments here, the degree to which foolish and weak people are unable to accept facts and insist on rationalizing their behavior. You would think that killing your sex drive and/or ability to perform would be enough to get any sane man to give up the booze, but apparently not.

    1. Great and informative article! I am not a beer drinker but know others who are. There is one thing that needs to be changed in the article, Roundup is not a pesticide but it is a herbicide. also it would have been good if she mentioned that hops are very estrogenic to men and would kill their manlyhood and cause them to get pot bellies. Men today are getting hit hard enough from all types of things today that are making their estrogen levels skyrocket.

  35. Wine makers also use isinglass. So if the idea of fish bladders makes you squeem-ish, you want to check your wine manufacturers too.

  36. Would you please share a link that supports this?
    Maybe you are thinking of Denmark, a country with awful tasting beer containing corn.

  37. Huge fan of spreading the word about GM ingredients in food and i didn’t know anything about GMO is beer. My friends are going to hate me now more than ever! See that Bud you’re drinking…

  38. Thanks Food Babe, Excellent article. Food and drink transparency is a HUGE problem. We have a right to know. If GMO’s were not dangerous or potentially dangerous then why are they banned across the world and Millions spent in the US to keep GMO’s from labeling- DUH! Furthermore, the fact that small micros are bought up by the bigger companies(that change ingredients is excellent) All the Haters can bite me- Food Babe- Keep up the good work!

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