May 7, 2009

Sam Adams Headache

During the interim phase of my beer drinking career between finding the cheapest way to get drunk and finding the best tasting beers regardless of cost, I occasionally ordered Sam Adams. There may have been more than one beer from the Boston Beer Co. out there, but all I knew was Boston Lager. But I'd more often than not opt for Grolsch (fun latch-top) or Moosehead (everything from Canada is fun). I found myself telling people "Sam Adams gives me an expensive headache."

I rarely imbibe Grolsch or Mooshead anymore. No Scarcely a good beer pours forth from green bottles. But I rarely drink Sammy either, mostly because while I respect what Jim's doing, I think there are always better examples of his styles.

So when I popped into BevMo (what? it's right next to the post office and I needed to buy Mother's Day cards in a hurry! Yes, they even had ones for my grandmas!) I walked out with the Sam Adams Long Shot mixed pack to try Tasty's DIPA, Alex's Bock, and the Cranberry Wit. I also got the Imperial Series' White and Stout since I've never had an imperial white and I love imperial stouts.

With dinner, Half Pint & I shared one bottle of the Cranberry Wit then a bottle of the Imperial White. Altogether, I had one full bottle.

I woke up in the middle of the night with a raging headache as if I'd consumed my entire haul.

After several Google searches for things like "Sam Adams, headache" and "whenever I drink Sam Adams I get a headache" I discovered I'm not the only one in this boat.

Is there some secret ingredient I'm allergic to even though I don't have any known allergies? Is it merely psychological? Does Jim Koch have a vendetta against me (even though I nominated him for the Mt. Rushmore of Beer in my book)? If anyone has any answers or theories, I'd love to hear 'em.

24 comments:

Stan Hieronymus said...

No good beer pours forth from green bottles.What about Saison Dupont?

Can't say why Boston Lager would give you headache, but you should check the abv on the Imperial White.

Brian Yaeger said...

Duly noted. Speaking of Saisons, bottles of the Bruery's Saison Rue, too, have a green hue.

As for the Imp. White's ABV, while it surpasses 10%, if I can't handle 1/2 a bottle of a 5%er and 1/2 a 10.3%er with my meal, then I'm in the wrong biz.

I swear there's something about that brew

Nate B. said...

I usually get headaches too from Boston Lager, but usually that is because I have too many of them while golfing. You might be on to something though, my headaches seem to always be worse with SA then with say another beer or with liquor. I thought it was just me.

Joe Ruvel said...

hmm - I have had A LOT of SA over the years and never a headache (well never one that didn't feel justified). BUT I can tell you that there is a brewpub in SF that I feel has pretty good beer overall but gives me (and a few others I have talked to) a fierce headache - sometimes after one pint...so..yeah - there might be something there.

Brian Yaeger said...

Hm, curious which SF brewpub of which you speak. I've heard it said more than once that dirty tap lines cause sickness, which stands to reason. I hope every brewpub mgr knows that shorter, and frequently-cleaned lines equals better draft beer. But this has no bearing on my SA quandary since I'm talking bottles.

Anonymous said...

I work for Samuel Adams - there is nothing added to those beers other than the four ingredients of beer (water, hops, malted barley and yeast) and occasional spices (i.e. Grains of Paradise in Summer Ale).

You might have become sensitive to glutton - try some glutton free beers and see what happens.

Also, the Imperial White is 10.3%ABV and out of the 3 beers in the Imperial Series, it is brewed with 50% malted wheat - again, major glutton in wheat.

Hope this MIGHT help...

Brian Yaeger said...

Hey Anon, thanks for the feedback. I suppose that's possible, but I recently had a Wheat Wine and 2 pints of another Witte. Furthermore, I'm usually the one with the iron-clad stomach who can handle milk past the expiration date and bacon-wrapped hotdogs with jalapenos that other people shy away from.

I'm going to brave the Imp. Stout and see what happens. If it hits me again, why don't we swap the rest for a Utopias as a final test...?

Anonymous said...

I googled "Sam Adams gives me a headache" and here I am! I am in the same boat, I could have 2 glasses of Sam Adams (I tend to only drink drafts) and I will wake up with a headache. No other beer does this to me! Not only that, I'm the same way, I'm a huge carb fan, so don't think it's anything gluton related (I think glutons are related to carbs, no?). But Sam Adams, no matter how little, kicks my ass. Great post, thanks!

-matt

Zachary said...

Not all Sam Adams brews cause problems for me, but the Octoberfest is a guaranteed instant headache -- a single bottle will do it. I can't think of another beer that has the same effect.

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Anonymous said...

I have found that Samual Adams beers have always given me a headache. I originaly attributed it to being dehidrated, but after experimentation have found that even one or Sam Adams will give me a headache.

Anonymous said...

Sam Adams is about the only beer that DOESN'T give me a hang over, thus it is the only beer I drink. I say I am used to it and cannot tolerate other beers? I will agree that the October fest beer gives me a headache, as I still have some left over, I don't like it. I used to like it but it is way to SWEEt and i think something happens to it to go bad. I have some SA from Oct 2008 that has particles on the bottom and a slightly bad tatste. i drink it anyhow by pouring most into a glass slowly and leaving about 2 oz in the bottle to dump in the sink

Anonymous said...

Same thing has happened to me. I went out one night drinking as much as I would normally. Afterwards I had the worst hangover i have ever had in my life. I thought I may have been drugged at the bar. My two thoughts were sam adams or drugs. I had another sam adams this evening and bam the same headache once again. As much as I enjoy a good sam adams their is definitely something in the beer that shouldn't be there and some quality control needs to take place. I'm sure in the near future if research is done sam adams beer will be found to have some sort of toxic substance in it that we are unaware of.

TALLV said...

I also have this problem with Sam Adams. I googled Sam Adams headache and here I am. Friday night my buddy brought over a 6 pack of their seasonal Christmas brew and I had 2. I had a nail into my brain headache in middle of night and in AM. This happens to my dad, my wife and myself with all brews.
This didn't happen a few years ago. I heard that SA is contract brewing all over to meet the demand and possibly why quality control may be suffering. I stick to small microbrews or European beers now.

Nick-o said...

For me, it's anything hoppy, especially IPAs. I can drink 10 Guiness or any number of other beers and feel fine, but last night I had 1 microbrew and spent most of today on the couch.

This is really interesting because the medical community hasn't really weighed in. Google searches always point to forum pages, but nothing like WebMD. The common response is "don't drink so much" as in "we don't believe you just had 1."

If this has happened to you, try this:

Go get some over the counter antihistamines (like Claritin) and take one before drinking one of the beers that usually kicks your butt. A cup of black tea prior to drinking seems to work too. It's a night and day difference for me.

Microbrews use better ingredients than the mega-brews, but they also filter less. My theory is there is something in the less filtered microbrews and IPAs that makes it through to the bottle that I (and apparently millions of other beer fans out there) have a really mild allergic reaction to. Maybe the yeast that doesn't get filtered, maybe some of the other stuff. maybe something they use in the I started noticing I woke up a little stuffy whenever I had these headaches.

The antihistamine trick works wonders for me. I've started carrying a few when we go out to avoid wasting the whole next day face down on the couch.

Brian Yaeger said...

Wow, Nick, thanks for the comment and info. It's funny to me that this is one of the most popular posts on my blog and indicative of the effect Boston Beer/Sam Adams has on lots of people. That's in no way a slam against the brewery, just an observation that there is an element to their beers that affects a subset of the drinking population and since they're so widely available and popular it stands to reason it will effect more people. Black tea! I will try that trick next time I'm having beers known to impact me. In fact, I have a bunch of Sam Adams beers I'll be pouring at a beer dinner coming up so it'll be interesting to keep this in mind before, during, and after.

Anonymous said...

Glad I found this post to know it's not just me with these headaches whenever I have SA. I haven't had SA in years and decided to have some at a party last Sat night and I've been paying the price for days. Feels like my head is gonna explode.

I have had blood panel work that shows I have an allergy to brewers yeast but no other beer bothers me at all. Perhaps SA allows a lot more yeast or a specific type of yeast to get through to the finished product?

Anonymous said...

I no longer drink SA, preferring bourbon. The headaches are gone.

Sharon said...

Same here on the Sam Adams. My husband and I love beer, drink all kinds of beer from all kinds of breweries. (Well, that's not true - I almost never drink mass-outlet beers like Miller, Bud, Corona or Coors, so I can't comment on them.) But without fail, even when I don't know that's what I'm drinking out of a keg, Sam Adams gives me a killer headache even after just one. No other beer does this to me. Could it be a preservative or something?

Brian Yaeger said...

Sharon, it is telling to me that this post among the hundreds over several years is, according to the analytics I never check, the most popular. As for discovering the scientific reason why some of us get Sam Adam's headaches, I doubt we'll ever find the culprit. To any extent this is a known phenomenon there, it's a dirty little secret and one they wouldn't want to address. FWIW, I attempt to try all of their new releases, even if just 1/2 a bottle's worth and haven't had the same effects lately. But I dare not go the full 12 ounces because those headaches I used to routinely get forbid me.

Anonymous said...

So its not just me…
Had a couple of Sam Adams Boston Lagers with a friend one evening. The next day I was inflicted with a bastard headache focused behind my eyeball. That morning I was called by me friend who complained of exactly the same headache symptoms. Months later I gave the beer another try (two bottles). Same nasty headache! (Posted from Australia)

Anonymous said...

I too get a nasty frontal headache from Sam Adams summer wheat! I'm just not going to drink it anymore.

Anonymous said...

Glad I googled this. I love Sam Adams beer but on more than 1 occasion I have spent the next day in bed after consuming 3
or 4 beers, especially the Summer Ale.

Anonymous said...

I personally brew beer, formerly managed the craft beer selection at several liquor stores, and have even attended classes at a culinary school to take my hobby to the next level. Through hundreds of different beers, and more than my share of hangovers, SA is the one that ruins the following day consistently. Combined with the headaches I find myself plagued with stomach issues for over a day after consuming a single SA. It certainly isn't the grain being used or a typical dehydration issue. The yeast would be my educated guess.