Why am I suddenly getting hangovers?
February 24, 2009 10:47 PM   Subscribe

Sudden Weakness to alcohol. Namely beers. Why?

Came back from a year in overseas during which I was going out a lot and drinking a lot 2-3 times a week. As soon as I got back to the US I started getting massive hangovers that last until 8 or 9 om the next day from just two or three beers (to put this in perspective I was averaging around 7 or 8 per session in abroad without ill effect).

I tend to like darker beers, IPAs and the like but the severity of the hangover seems to vary by brand. I thought maybe it was the shift from lagers I drank over there to darker microbrews but I seem to be in general more sensitive to alcohol.

Anything that could account for this sudden change?

(I'm in my early 20's and male if that helps)
posted by kinakomochi to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Were the overseas bars smoke-free, and the US ones smoky?
posted by orthogonality at 10:54 PM on February 24, 2009


Over there was extremely smoky, here you can't smoke in bars so there's none. I should also note that this seems to be a beer only phenomenon. My relationship with hard liquor is as stable as ever.
posted by kinakomochi at 10:57 PM on February 24, 2009


Altitude? Allergy to some kind of preservative? Does this happen with draft as well as bottled beers? Many microbeers have a higher alcohol content than a light draft lager. Are you sure it's the same alcohol content?
posted by barnone at 11:01 PM on February 24, 2009


I bet if you like good beer, you might be drinking ales where the krausen (cake of yeast) is allowed to fall back into the beer after primary fermentation. Most big American brewerys use lager yeasts and filter those out.

One of the problems of letting the Krausen break and fall back into the beer is the formation of Fusel Oils. These oils help aid in the body and head retention of beer, but they can give you that special beer hangover. My best guess and I'm sorry to be the bringer of bad news, but you may have a strong reaction to those fusel oils. The only solutions are shitty beer or moderation.
posted by JimmyJames at 11:23 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


*shitty beer is an unfair generalizaion. You could try drinking different German style lagers, dark and light. It might be the big, robust, American-microbrewed ales that are hurting your head. Or, you could (and I'm a broken record on this one) is brew your own beer, removing the krausen with a blow off tube during the primary fermentation.
posted by JimmyJames at 11:32 PM on February 24, 2009


Liver disease can cause you to metabolize alcohol more slowly. Also, some substances (including aspirin, acetaminophen, Tagamet, Zantac) have the same effect.

Have you had a checkup recently or started taking any medications?
posted by zippy at 12:03 AM on February 25, 2009


Maybe there is glycerine in your beer?
posted by ageispolis at 12:46 AM on February 25, 2009


For what it's worth, most mainstream US beers give me a hangover the next day after just two bottles. We're talking Bud, Miller, etc.

Canadian Labatt and Mexican Corona bought in the US don't.

I don't know why.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 1:44 AM on February 25, 2009


I thought maybe it was the shift from lagers I drank over there to darker microbrews but I seem to be in general more sensitive to alcohol.

A lot of microbrews, both bottled and especially the brew-pub-only stuff) tend to have much higher alcohol content than your average beer. I guess it's an outgrowth of the whole "Imperial everything" fetish.

For what it's worth, most mainstream US beers give me a hangover the next day after just two bottles. We're talking Bud, Miller, etc.
Canadian Labatt and Mexican Corona bought in the US don't.
I don't know why.


Rice. The big US brews like Bud use a ton of rice, rather than barley, in their brews. They all give me head-banging headaches.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:54 AM on February 25, 2009


Higher alcohol content. Europeans are still drinking session beers, as opposed to the much bigger beers popular here.
posted by fixedgear at 4:55 AM on February 25, 2009


The alcohol content of 2-3 U.S. microbrew beers (in presumably 12-16oz servings) might well be dwarfed by the alcohol content of 7-8 unspecified foreign beers in unspecified serving sizes.
posted by galaksit at 7:36 AM on February 25, 2009


Without knowing the brands of beers you're drinking, I can't do this myself, but I suggest charting the Alcohol by Volume. This isn't always labeled; Wikipedia has pages on most beers, and these pages will almost always include the ABV (quick ref: ABV X 2 = proof).

Maybe assign a point system; each percentage point in each ounce is a point. So if you drink two 12 oz beers that have an ABV of 8%, that's 24 oz X 8 = 192 points. Compare estimated points from your European drinking to the hangover nights.

You can't always taste ABV. Sure, drinking a heavily hopped barleywine is like getting kicked in the teeth, but to me something like Unibroue's 17 is way tastier and smoother than Natty Light or Peebers; and has double the ABV at 10% as opposed to 5%. if you're drinking microbrews and fancy beers, there's a good chance you're drinking very alcoholic brews, though I don't know how those compare to European beers.

How micro are these microbrews? I occassionally drink at a restaurant/brewery in town where the beer is produced right there and never bottled,* and I have no idea what it is, but two of these tiny superlocal craft beers get me some fucking drunk. Granted, I'm tiny, but I'm a tiny drunk who maybe drinks 6-12 beers a week who is swaying and giddy after a couple of glasses with dinner.


*For the benefit of Columbus Mefites: Barley's
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:07 AM on February 25, 2009


Have you tried testing it with liquor? Not that anyone would WANT to give themselves a hangover, but a couple of shots of booze might clarify if it is indeed some sensitivity to alcohol rather than something else - which I think it is. Hangovers are generally caused by two things: dehydration (from the alcohol), and from the additives/ingredients in whatever you were drinking. For beer, this could be any number of flavorings/syrups etc that were added. Perhaps you just have a low tolerance for some of those. For example, I simply cant drink Fat Tire beer - it wrecks me. I have no idea what they put in it, but it hates me. On the other hand, I can polish off the better part of a bottle of Jameson whiskey in a party evening and feel just fine the next day.
posted by elendil71 at 9:15 AM on February 25, 2009


Over there was extremely smoky, here you can't smoke in bars so there's none. I should also note that this seems to be a beer only phenomenon. My relationship with hard liquor is as stable as ever.

That's the significant part to me - that it's beer that's affecting you and not other kinds of alcohol, which makes me think it's more to do with the ingredients in the alcohol than alcohol content that's the problem. Maybe take a look at the ingredients in the beers you're drinking and, either through experimentation or logical deduction, try to figure out if it's a particular ingredient that's causing you grief?
posted by skaye at 1:42 PM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


IPAs have a higher alcohol content than most beers. Are you taking that into account with the amount you drink?
posted by fructose at 7:25 AM on May 2, 2009


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