Vitamin Beer? I call Shenanigans!
Stampede Light is a pilsner containing vitamin B1 (Thiamine), vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), vitamin B3 (Niacin), vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid), vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), vitamin B9 (Folic Acid) and Folate. The beer has 115 calories, which is average for a light beer. The (horribly designed) website for Stampede Light claims to add Vitamin Water to the beer after the brewing process. I wasn’t able to find the actual amounts of each in the beer.
Are vitamins in beer really a new idea?
Adding vitamins to beer is actually not a new idea. There are several beers in Europe experimenting with vitamin additives. Even Stampede Light is not a new beer. Stampede Light debuted in Texas back in 2005. As far as I can tell, it is the first vitamin beer in the USA, but it is far from being the first vitamin beer.
In 2002 the Scotts looked into adding vitamins to their beers. They wanted to investigate if there was any scientific evidence vitamin additives in alcohol could help reduce the number of alcohol related illnesses and deaths. The reason the Scotts were looking into adding thiamine to beer was an Australian study. Australian scientists claimed their research showed thiamine supplementation of beer was the most cost-effective way to prevent Wernicke-Korsakoff encephalopathy, which is a serious brain disorder resulting from a thiamine deficiency which occurs in alcoholics.
Back in 2003, British brewery George Gale and Co. listed their beers as “vitamin beers”. The brewer submitted a review paper outlining the ingredients and the nutritional content of their beers. Advertising watchdogs pointed out there was no evidence taking vitamins with alcohol had any health benefits. They were forced to withdraw claims their vitamin beer had any of the health benefits listed on marketing materials and coasters.
Even Philippine brewer/inventor Billy L. Malang has rights to the name “Vitamin beer” and claims it as an invention. The Thai beer won a gold medal at the European Union-sponsored Genius-Europe competition at the Budapest Fair Center in Hungary in May 2004.
The ironic thing is homebrew beer is rich in vitamin B. Homebrew usually has some yeast in the beer, and yeast is a good source of vitamin B. Many believe the rich source of vitamin B in homebrew protects drinkers from hangovers; however, hangovers can have many sources.
- Vitamin beers have been around for a while
- Stampede Light debuted in 2005 – only Jessica Simpson is new to the beer
- Vitamin B is already in beers which contain yeast
Are vitamins in beer a good idea?
So you have to ask, is adding vitamin B to beer a good idea? Adding pyridoxine (B6) might not be a good idea. This vitamin has been suggested to alleviate hangovers, however studies have shown very high doses (usually 1000 mg/day) over long periods of time can cause painful neurological symptoms known as sensory neuropathy. Most vitamin supplements do not contain this much B6 and normal food consumption usually yields less than 4 mg/day, but putting this vitamin in a beverage which can be addictive to some people (alcoholics) may not be a good idea.
A study released this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed folic acid and vitamin B supplements not only do not help the heart, they may cause problems. Subjects received realistic daily oral treatments with 0.8 mg folic acid, 0.4 mg vitamin B12, and 40 mg vitamin B6.
The study ended early because the scientists said “we could not detect any preventive effect of intervention with folic acid plus vitamin B12 or with vitamin B6 on mortality or major cardiovascular events.”
They reported no positive effects from taking vitamin B, and they saw a slight increase in cancer in the test subjects. Another Norwegian study also noted an increase in cancer from vitamin B supplements.
Yikes! And we’re putting this in beer? There are other studies showing vitamin supplements are a bad idea, however, these are ones specifically citing vitamin B. It looks like adding vitamin B to beers is not a good plan. I’m not saying vitamin supplements are all bad, some people have medical needs to supplement vitamin deficiencies. Single vitamin supplements should be taken by the direction of a doctor.
- Pyridoxine (B6) is dangerous in high amounts
- Studies suggest vitamin B suppliments have no benefit, and might be harmful
Is this just a marketing gimmick?
Most beers with some yeast contain vitamin B already. I guess you could pass any unfiltered beer as a “vitamin beer”. I think where it could get dangerous is when you are adding more vitamin B to the beer than normal. Any vitamins over your daily requirements will usually pass through your system, but the studies above suggest it could actually harm you.
Vitamin sales in the USA are at all-time high as Americans look for quick fixes to health problems. More is not better in the case of vitamins and there is little to no research showing health benefits for vitamin supplements. Unfortunately the vitamin industry is not regulated by the FDA, so they can claim almost anything they want (with the exception of treating a specific disease).
It really looks like Stampede Light is just a marketing gimmick. If you’re selling something for your health, wouldn’t a scientist make a better spokesperson than Jessica Simpson? Anyone who knows Chicken of the Sea is tuna might make a better choice than Jessica Simpson to preach nutritional values.
Don’t miss anything
New articles are out regularly and new videos come out every week. Make sure you subscribe!
Credits and Links
I live in Denver, Colorado. This blog is everything about beer, wine, cider, mead and other spirits.
I am a avid homebrewer and winemaker. I’ve been making my own beer and wine for many years. I started making beer when I was in college (mostly because the drinking age in the United States is 21). My first few beers were horrible. The beers are much better now, and I often supply my neighborhood with free beer! It is a great hobby!