Beer can headaches, but why?
March 1, 2005 6:20 PM   Subscribe

On behalf of my friend's dad: Why is it that he gets headaches from canned beer, and not beer from other sources, or canned drinks?
posted by Monster_Zero to Food & Drink (12 answers total)
Off the top of my head : because it's colder?

(That's if it's been sitting in an esky, or a bath of ice, or something like that. Cans will cool a lot quicker than bottles in that situation.)
posted by Pinback at 6:41 PM on March 1, 2005

He gets a headache from the first canned beer?
posted by R. Mutt at 7:40 PM on March 1, 2005

This is funny--I just got back from dinner with a client who was saying that Bud, and only Bud, always gives him a headache. He said "Must be all the beechwood, or something".

A better first bet, though, are a preservative or some other kind of additive that companies put into their canned beers, and not into bottled beers. I'm pretty certain that beers that are meant for different containers have slightly different formulations--it's certainly true between keg beer and bottled/canned beer.

An even better second bet, though, would be an effect that's become psychosomatic, at this point. Headaches are notoriously subjective, and it wouldn't be uncommon for him to start feeling them when he "knows" he should.

If he really wants to get (pseudo-)scientific about it, he could try a simple blind test where he tried beers from bottles or a can but didn't know the source--if he still reliably got headaches from canned beer without knowing where the beer came from, it's almost certainly an additive of some kind. "MSG Headaches" are a pretty well-established phenomenon, and while I don't think they put that into beers, specifically, he could easily have an allergy or other reaction to something else.
posted by LairBob at 8:26 PM on March 1, 2005

He's not missing out on much.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:12 PM on March 1, 2005

He gets a headache from the first canned beer?

His headache comes from smashing the cans on his forehead.
posted by fixedgear at 1:50 AM on March 2, 2005

I think that Lairbob has it right

See what happens if he switches to Guiness draft in a can.
posted by filmgeek at 3:08 AM on March 2, 2005

it could also be that different beers are associated with different social environments. maybe he drinks from cans when he's got a case of beers and friends round. in contrast, when he's out at a bar, paying for more expensive drinks, it's not from cans but he might also be drinking more slowly (and drinking less - he's got to get home at the end of the night).
posted by andrew cooke at 3:59 AM on March 2, 2005

US beers can contain a lot of additives, none of which are listed on the labels. The Straight Dope has an article on this. Many of them can cause headaches in susceptible individuals (nitrates in particular). I brew my own, and I never seem to get any "morning after" effects.

From the article:

For more info on this subject, see Chemical Additives in Booze, available from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, 1755 S Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20009 (I couldn't quickly find a list online).
posted by tommasz at 8:15 AM on March 2, 2005

Oh, and as far as "beechwood aging" goes, A-B uses stainless steel aging tanks (like most everyone of the megabreweries). They do have a small cage-like device that holds beechwood chips in the tank, so there is contact between the beer and the beechwood and their claim is true, if more in the letter than the spirit.
posted by tommasz at 8:29 AM on March 2, 2005

I suspect it is psychosomatic. Try doing a test. Take some beer from a can, some beer from another container and see if the guy can tell the diffrence by wether he gets a headache or not. If not, it's probably psychosomatic.
posted by delmoi at 10:03 AM on March 2, 2005

LairBob, I have exactly the same problem with all forms of Budweiser. I get the headache from all-and-only Budweiser, whether I know that's what I'm drinking, or not. The label has some arcane little note about "rice-brewing" and I assumed it had something to do with that. Or whatever fricking additives they're putting in. tommasz, thanks for the additives info.
posted by coelecanth at 10:39 AM on March 2, 2005

Thanks a lot for the ideas, guys - I'll pass these on.
posted by Monster_Zero at 3:58 PM on March 2, 2005

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