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Happy National Beer Day: Here are 6 Beers That Aren’t Made with GMOs or “Fishy” Ingredients


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The cold beer Happy National Beer Day! While this ancient, fermented beverage is loaded with B-, many brewers add some less-than-appealing ingredients. Truth is, if all beer companies told the truth, some ingredient lists might read, “Brewed with pure Rocky Mountain spring , GMO corn syrup, and fish bladder.”

If you like to kick back now and then with a cold one, you may not have given much thought to what’s in the bottle or can. Perhaps you were reassured by ads with wholesome images of sparkling mountain streams and barley rippling in the breeze, or by slogans like “Budweiser: The Genuine Article.”

The reality is far less appetizing. The list of legal additives to beer includes:

  • MSG
  • Propylene glycol (it helps stabilize a beer’s head of foam, though in high quantities it can cause health problems)
  • High-fructose corn syrup ()
  • Calcium disodium EDTA
  • Caramel coloring
  • FD&C blue 1, red 40, and yellow 5
  • Glyceryl monostearate
  • Isinglass (see below)

You’re unlikely to see any of these industrial-sounding ingredients on a label, because listing ingredients in beer is voluntary. And when ingredients are listed, it may be a partial list—which is even more deceptive than having no list at all.

Several beers, for example, contain HFCS, most of which is genetically modified (GMO), and isinglass, a clarifying agent made from the swim bladder of fish. But check most beer websites and they’ll tell you their “key ingredients” are “roasted, malted barley, hops, yeast, and water.” Perhaps the HFCS and isinglass were not “key” enough to merit inclusion on this list?

Some brands with less-than-wholesome ingredients:

  • Newcastle uses artificial to simulate the golden brown color that is supposed to come from toasted barley. “” sounds innocuous, right? But it’s manufactured by heating ammonia and sulfites under high pressure, which may create carcinogenic compounds.
  • Miller Light, Coors, Corona, Fosters, Pabst, and Red Stripe use corn syrup, and Molson-Coors acknowledged that some of their corn is GMO.
  • Budweiser, Bud Light, Bush Light, and Michelob Ultra use dextrose (made from corn).
  • Anheuser-Bush uses corn.

The labeling regulations are confusing and capricious.

Food is regulated by the FDA, and requires a Nutrition Facts panel, but alcohol is regulated by the US Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Unless it’s beer made with something other than malted barley, and then it’s regulated by the FDA and must carry a Nutrition Facts panel. States also have their own regulations, which can supersede those of TTB, but not of the FDA.

Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor at New York University, explained on her blog why we still don’t know the ingredients in alcoholic beverages. In short, TTB has been procrastinating since 2007 on completing their rules for labeling of alcoholic beverages.

People with allergies to genetically modified corn are taking a chance when drinking beer, as there is no requirement that GMO ingredients be identified on the label. We told you early this year about the dangers of GMOs, and in 2011 about the dangers of sugar, especially fructose. So genetically modified fructose carries a one–two punch, and may be one of the more toxic foods that can be hiding in your food or drink—with nothing about it on the label.

Unfortunately for those with a sweet tooth, eschewing HFCS for plain old cane sugar may not be that much of an improvement. A recent study of mice fed a mixture of fructose and glucose showed that even moderate amounts of sugar shorten life span (females fed sugar died twice as fast) and hamper reproduction (males were less likely to hold territory and sired fewer offspring).

While it certainly has its health benefits, and studies suggest that people who drink a little live a bit longer, alcohol—even without unsavory additives—has more negatives than positives. It introduces what is—especially in high amounts—treated as a poison by your body, potentially stressing the entire gastrointestinal system, from mouth to colon. It may also increase the risk of heart disease, high , and cirrhosis of the , over time.

Not ready to give up the occasional brewski?

According to the Food Babe, Sierra Nevada, Heineken, and Amstel Light are good choices, as they use only non-GMO grains and no artificial ingredients, stabilizers, or preservatives. German beers are subject to the “Reinheitsgebot” law mandating that beer be produced using only water, hops, yeast, malted barley, or wheat—you won’t have to guess what’s in them.

An obvious choice is certified organic beer, which cannot include and other harmful additives by law. And then there are the microbreweries. Many craft beer companies will give you a complete list of ingredients if you ask. Be warned, however: large beer companies are buying up microbreweries one by one, as Molson-Coors did with Blue Moon and Anheuser-Busch did with Goose Island Brewery.

Here are the 6 best organic brews, according to

Beers-Tasted-300x200 1. Organic Wild Salmon Pale Ale

Fish Brewing Company, Olympia, Washington

Wild Salmon Pale Ale has a quality hoppy scent with a nice malty sweetness. I really enjoy the slightly bitter finish—it tickles the tongue. This beer is perfect for a warm summer’s night. It has a familiar pale ale taste and there’s certainly enough intrigue to keep you coming back. A fun fact I learned about Fish Brewing Company is that they contribute to a nearby farm by delivering their spent grain (post-fermentation) to feed cows, and the later produces that is sold at the local farmers’ market. They also employ additional sustainable practices by re-cycling water used through out the heat exchanger (during the cooling process of beer-making) and re-use it for multi-purposes around the brewery, thus conserving water. Very cool!

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