It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
Hey Bill, I was just reading the ingredients label on the can of Coke I had with lunch yesterday
and it struck me that it was more informative than the information on many beer cans,
namelythose from the macro swill producers. I know neither of us drink any Bud/Miller/Coors
unless we have to but millions of people do and I worry about them. I also worry about my
dental appointment next month, is there enough air in my car tires, and if you are losing any
weight, but those are issues for another time.
I did a littler research and discovered food blogger and nutritional activist Vani Harithere
started an online petition that demanded Anheuser-Busch and Miller Coors post their beer
product ingredients online. Good for her.
The main player here is the Treasury Department not the Food and Drug Administration.
Surprisingly, Treasury regulates beer which means that the beer giants, unlike those under the
FDA auspices, are not required to post ingredients on their labels or on their websites. I don't
know about you Bill, but I read every label on almost everything I buy. Even you couldn't argue
with my blief that consumers have a right to know what's in the food they eat and the
beverages they drink, including beer.
One quick disclaimer,AHarithere gets a few things wrong in her arguments but the general
point is well taken. She went the scare tactic route by writing that some beers sold by the big
producers contain Prolyene Glycol, which is commonly used in airplane de-icing liquids, but
used by beer makers to control the head on their beers. That's a tad misleading in my opinion.
She also notes that Isinglass, which comes from fish swim bladders, is used to make beer more
clear but forget to mention it's not used as often as it once was) and that high- fructose corn
syrup, artificial colors and stabilizers (many of which are linked to intestinal inflammation) are
common in mass produced beers. It's enough to make me a wine drinker.
It's clear she wasn't asking beer makers to change their formulas or their labels. She was
arguing that they just voluntarily list their ingredients on their websites. I really don't think
that's asking too much. Actually, I wouldn't mind having the government require truthful labels
on beer and all foods. Then the laws of the marketplace can take effect meaning if I don't like
the ingredients then I won't buy it. That's capitalism, but an informed public is necessary for
that to happen.
At first A-B, in a statement, said its beers are made "to the highest standards of quality and
consistency, (and) use pure, fresh, natural ingredients." They went on to say its beer
ingredients meet all standards for food safety set by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade
Bureau and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. And that they list information about nutrition
and ingredients at their global consumer information website, www.tapintoyourbeer.com.
Come on fellas, the word "Natural" it means nothing. The FDA has no clear definition of the
UPDATE - just as I was filing this column A-B announced they will soon begin listing ingredients
for some of their beers online. If it's a complete disclosure and not some of the usual half turth
film-flam it's a good thing. A very good thing.
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next time.
Hey Gina, hard to disagree with anything you said. The public seems to agree with you too; that
petition you mentioned received more than 40,000 signatures in 24 hours. And I'd be willing to
bet that each of those signers would want ingredients listed on the labels of all beers, not just the
macro producers. I'd also require the label show the ABV (many still do not), place the beer was
brewed, and the production date. If you want transparency then let's do it the right way. And by
the way, simply putting the ingredients online is rather wimpy, don't you think? They should be
on the label where the consumer can see it at the place of purchase. Furthermore, anything a
brewery adds to the finished product, even things to control foaming, should be on the ingredient
That of course is not foolproof sine many people don't bother to look at content labels. Be
honest, how many pregnant women actually read the warning and decide not consume beer or
wine because of it? Their doctors already told them they not to drink; they don't need that on the
Overall, I agree with you that the best way to effect change in the big guys and in the craft
producers too, is to hit them where they pay the most attention- their profit margin. And it doesn't
have to always be negative. For example, once breweries saw the huge sales of Founders All
Day IPA (now the brewery's #1 seller) many began producing a "session" beer. So supporting
breweries that list all ingredients honestly is almost as strong a hammer as boycotting those that
Interesting you mentioned Insinglass. For those who don't know, it has been added to beer for
hundreds of years, its purpose is to attract the proteins that cause haze and then fall to the
bottom of the secondary fermenter. As you noted the majority of breweries don't use Isinglass
anymore because it's not cost effective. They don't even use Gelatin (which by the way can be
made from fish and cattle by products) anymore. Most opt to use either Diatomaceous earth
(which they can reclaim) or use micron filtering to remove floating particles. By the way, that's all
moot to me; I personally like unfiltered beers, but I'm in the minority on that I know.
Since were talking a bit about brewing let me quickly say something about the corn syrup, high
fructose or not, that you mentioned. The yeast consume all simple sugars to create CO2 and
alcohol. When fermentation is done there is no high fructose corn syrup left.
Like you, I support this sort of consumer-power movement. It's about time that consumers are
demanding more information about what's in their products. Just last week, Panera announced
plans to remove all artificial additives from its food menu by the end of 2016.
Before you get too hyper Gina, please remember that beer is basically malted barley, hops, and
the purest water you can find, combined with the brewmaster's craft of course. Now forget your
worries about all of this stuff and repeat after me . 'Reinheitsgebot', "Reinheitsgebot",
"Reinheistsgoebot"! Feel free to look it up if you have to. (just teasing).
Here's looking at you, kid! See you next month.