Why Does Draft Beer Cause Headaches?

Friends drinking draft beer

Draft beer is served in bars and restaurants from a keg instead of a bottle or can – and a lot of people prefer the taste of draft beer.

Here are a few reasons enthusiasts say that draft beer is better than beer from a bottle or can:

  • Busy bars sell a lot of beer, so chances are their draft beer is fresher.
  • Kegs protect the beer from light.
  • Draft beer is kept at a constant temperature in the bar’s walk-in fridge.

All of this sounds pretty convincing but if draft beer is so wonderful, why does it cause headaches?

Drinking Draft Beer from a Dirty Tap Can Cause Headaches

Bacteria, yeast, mold, and beer stone can build up in the draft lines and affect the quality and taste of draft beer.

If the lines that connect a beer keg to the tap at a bar aren’t cleaned regularly, it can give you a nasty headache or make you sick.

Why does draft beer cause headaches?

The Ethanol in Draft Beer Can Cause Headaches

Most beer is made with barley, a grain that is loaded with enzymes, starches, and flavors. When barley malt is added to hot water, some of the starches are converted to sugar. Add some yeast and the sugars are transformed into alcohol, otherwise known as ethanol.

Ethanol is a byproduct of plant fermentation – the kind that takes place when you make beer – and it can cause headaches.

What is it about ethanol that causes headaches? A couple of things…

Ethanol Is a Vasodilator and a Diuretic

A vasodilator opens (dilates) blood vessels. Vasodilation, the dilation of blood vessels in your brain can cause headaches for some people.

A diuretic causes your body to expel salt and water through increased urination. Dehydration can also cause headaches.

Congeners in Draft Beer May Cause Headaches

Ethanol isn’t the only byproduct of fermentation. You also have to deal with congeners.

Congeners are organic compounds that affect the flavor of beer. They occur naturally during the fermentation processes and will produce different flavors depending on what type of yeast was used during production.

Although little research has been done in this area, an article in Alcohol and Alcoholism suggests that alcoholic beverages high in congeners produce more severe hangovers – which presumably come with equally unpleasant headaches!

What Is the Best Cure for a Headache Caused by Draft Beer?

If you want to minimize the effects of a night of drinking draft beer with friends, here are a few things you can try. Drink lots of water, get some sleep, and have a good breakfast when you wake up.

You may not be able to avoid a nasty headache altogether but if you do get one, hopefully it won’t be as bad!

By Michael

Chief mixologist and cocktail enthusiast at Swizzle Club.