Beware The Squeal

A while ago Jeff over at Beervana had a post about a beer brewed with Apricot stone fruits called Everything But The Squeal. Interestingly the beer in question received more criticisms then praise from the readers. That’s because the fruit of apricot pits contains a chemical called amygdalin. This chemical is present in most fruit seeds including apples, and normally passes through your body tucked safely away in the seeds protective coating. However when you boil the seeds, open them up, or eat them this chemical is processed by your body and turned into cyanide. The FDA hasn’t thoroughly researched this chemical though, so the degree to which cooking eliminates amygdalin and the dosage at which it becomes lethal is debated. There’s no doubt though that some people are concerned. With the increasing use of alternative flavorings and herbs in beer though just how much are we exposing ourselves to “bad” or “dangerous” chemicals?

Within the alternative medacine community there seems to be a view that as long as it’s a plant it has to be better then the stuff you get from the pharmacy. What with all those nasty side effects of medicines it has to be true. Sadly many herbs contain similar or same chemicals that are found in some drugs. This means brewers should be paying close attention to interactions between plant chemicals, the way the body processes some chemicals, and the effect boiling in wort can have on the chemicals. Instead though many brewers just toss in the herbs without a lot of regard to this. Luckily for us the side effects of some herbs like sweet gale are over exaggerated and like the amygdalin in Cascades “white port/raspberry/apricot seed beer” are present in low enough levels for the body to process.

Just for fun here are some beer ingrediants that are considered dangerous or have known adverse side effects.

Ginko Biloba – Not very common, but you occasionally hear of one off beers brewed with it.

Ginsing – Oregon Trails Ginsing Porter pops to mind first.

Liquorice root – Common in dark heavy stouts, winter warmers, and sometimes barlywines.

Fruit seeds – Contain amygdalin. Cascade is the only one I’ve heard of actually brewing with seeds.

Sweet Gale – Reported in old brewing texts to be narcotic

Sassafras – traditional flavoring for root beer and some herbal beers. considered a carcinogen

9 Responses to “Beware The Squeal”

  1. Beermented says:

    How amount THC, Psilocybin and Peyote?? Those cant be dangerous? 😉

  2. Jared says:

    I guess I did a bad job at showing it, but I take the FDA’s warnings on herbs with a few grains of salt. The FDA tends to over react…. Brewers however should be looking at the stuff their putting in their beer.

    BTW Diacyetyl has been suspected to be toxic but naturaly occurs in beer. Does this mean all those butter bombs Portlanders consume are killing them? 😉

  3. joe says:

    Does this mean all those butter bombs Portlanders consume are killing them?


  4. Jared says:

    Which part of that comment didn’t you like Joe?

  5. joe says:

    Seems like an unnecessary cheap shot at Portlanders to me. The post was great, I thought it was a neat angle on the potential unintended consequences of experimental brewing, then you throw in that last comment. I just don’t get why you feel the need to diss Portland all the time.

  6. Jared says:

    It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Portland, but that comment was more of a joke aimed at Beermented. I guess it was a cheap shot though.

  7. Beermented says:

    Feel free to take as many cheap shots at Portland as you like. The brewing EGO in Portland keeps swelling. I’m waiting for Brewers head to explode in public. They deserve it.

    Joe… Jared can have any personal opinion he wants. It’s all about free thinking vs. mindless following. Shepard or sheep??? ;-}

    BTW, speaking of pissing on Portland. Did ya see the new Migration Brewery is open? Yee Haw! They’re gonna brew a Pale ale and a IPA!! Wow! That should keep that brewery thriving. Maybe they’ll get lucky and find some blind sheep to follow the lost shepard. :-0

    Ready for another posting there Jared….. Apricot pits are getting a little stale.

  8. joe says:

    Beermented – no problem with Jared having an opinion, we all do and I’m fine with that, in fact there are plenty of times when the the criticism is warranted. My objection, and I could have done a better job articulating it, was that it wasn’t relevant to the post and in my opinion (sheep can have those right?) detracted from it.

    I don’t get the impression the brewing ego in Portland is swelling, I do however believe there is a subset of beer drinkers in Portland that carry themselves in an off putting, holier than thou, way. Those egos are swelling, but you know what, they’re easy to ignore.

    As far as Migration is concerned…well, only time will tell. Perhaps the IPA and pale will give them the stability to experiment and create something truly amazing as time goes on. I hope they make it, everyone should have the opportunity too pursue their dream occupation.

  9. jbx says:

    Early in my stay in SWFla, I found beers from Shipyard and Seadog Brewing companies [Maine] that use British Ringwood yeast.

    I confirm the inter-web report that the yeast imparts powdery, musty, creamy butteriness [diacety] notes; I found the taste a refreshing change from piney, citrusy Cascadia 2X IPA. Pleasant but failed the sessionable test.

    Apparently both of breweries are jointly owned by two English ex-pats; Alan Pugsley and Fred Forsley. Pugsley has his name on some limited release beers.

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