Wort to the Wise

by Dr. Annie Brewer (aka Terese Reynolds)

I’m not saying that I support or regularly partake in binge drinking, but I am wondering if you have a magic cure for the day after having a few too many beers? Hayden, Portland, OR

Start by keeping track of exactly which beers you drank the night before. This can be done by pocketing bottle caps or using the notepad function on your iPhone. The next morning, mix approximately a half ounce of each in a glass with two dashes of Worcestershire, an eight-ounce can of spicy V8, a raw egg white, and the juice of half a lime. Plug your nose and chug. Sound like bullshit? That’s because, like every magical hangover cure known to man, it is.

Hangovers happen because alcohol in large quantities is a poison, and the crappy way you feel is your body’s equivalent to that moment when you look at an over-packed inbox and decide that some job functions will simply not happen for a day or two. There are, however, actions you can take that are the metaphorical equivalent of bringing the lady in accounting a double-tall soy vanilla latte and a Krispy Kreme before you ask her to pull six months of reports by noon.

The first thing you need to handle is the “broken seal paradox.” This states that after drinking the second or third 12- to 16-ounce beer the bladder seems to release a Super Big Gulp of urine for every beer that follows. And the next morning, even though a gallon or so of liquid has passed your lips, you wake up feeling like you’ve hiked 10 hours through Death Valley with only a tiny bottle of Evian and a melted ChapStick. This is because alcohol is a diuretic and causes your body to drop water faster than a Kardashian drops a man. The over-peeing takes the good sodium out of your body with it. So the number one triage for a hangover is to hit the water bottle or the sports drink hard. Foods like bananas will also help by replacing the precious potassium you sacrificed on the altar of that hardcore IPA.

Though the notion that eating greasy food the morning after a hangover will do anything but cause an eventual gastrointestinal riot is little more than IHOP propaganda, it is true that eating eggs will help speed your eventual recovery. That’s because eggs contain a compound called cysteine—the kryptonite of the chemical acetaldehyde, which is the flop sweat released by your liver when faced with metabolizing large quantities of alcohol.

Hair of the dog, though chemically and biologically unsound, will postpone the hangover if you happen to party too hard on Thursday and just need to get through until Friday. It will not so much “cure” as buy you an extra day before the true halo-bending kicks in. And though popping a couple pain relievers may keep your head from fully imploding, avoid all things acetaminophen since they put extra strain on an already taxed liver.

If you are inclined to good planning, make sure you drink as much water as you do beer, and maybe eat a good, stomach-coating greasy meal before you begin imbibing as a preemptive strike against the hangover, but really, once it is done, the only sure-fire cure is laying on your couch and napping through a 10-hour Fresh Prince of Bel-Air marathon.

In wine, the term terroir, or where the grapes are grown, is a big deal. Is this the same for beer? Kyle, Ojai, CA

Absolutely! Not only are hops grown in a similar style to grapes, the region and the variety create all kinds of uniqueness. Though a Cascade hop may be a grandchild of the English Fuggle, it has its own (less woody, and yet still fruity) quality. And though describing each of the 20 or so major hop varietals could fill an entire magazine, has a good starter list.

Is it legal to ship beer? Sam, Roslyn, WA

Well, as of right now, I wouldn’t recommend throwing a six-pack into an “everything ships” UPS box. Wineries have won some pretty sweet victories earning the rights to direct ship to consumers over the years, but beer faces some of the same challenges that are still fueling our national prohibition on hemp-related intoxicants. It’s not that hard to make (do not riot, my dedicated master brewers—I didn’t say it was easy to make good beer), and it has a seriously variable level of potency. Most states still require some kind of middleman (read: distributors) to do a job that involves picking the beer up from one place and carrying it to another. However, those middlemen sometimes come in the form of “Beer of the Month” clubs. And some large breweries have managed to become “distributors” on their own, but even these are limited by the laws of the states they are shipping to. There are ways to get your latest, greatest home brew from Kennewick, Washington to Tallahassee, Florida, but legally speaking, I would recommend checking your state’s particular laws and with your local shipping company.

When dining out, it’s always embarrassing to send back anything, even when it is off. But a bottle of beer? During a quiet dinner at a pizza joint, I once sent back a bottle of Moretti. They looked at me as if I was mad, but I swear, the beer tasted like bubble gum. Was it me or was it the beer? And if it was the beer, why? Can beer, like wine, be “corked”? McKenzie, Oakland, CA

Let us begin with the meaning of corked. Though many Cheesecake Factory waiters and the occasional under-informed wine drinker will attribute any ickiness in a bottle of wine from being open too long or going to vinegar from improper storage. Cork taint is actually caused by a chemical (trichloroanisole, or TCA for short) infecting the cork itself. Which means it is technically possible for a beer sealed with a cork to become corked. However, since TCA usually just kills the flavor and aroma of a beverage, and itself is described as smelling like old, wet cardboard, it is unlikely your beer was corked.

Additionally, though I’m not personally acquainted with Moretti, and knowing beer fermented at too high a temperature can develop a “bubble-gum” aroma, I did a little diggin’ and found that you likely ordered a Moretti doppelbock, La Rossa. That “bubble-gum” flavor is actually about as unusual in the profile of that style as oak is in chardonnay. What taste is the presence of ethyl butanoate, or esters, which are a flavor compound particularly prevalent in wheat beers. I would need a drunken Bill Nye to go into the chemistry of esters, but let’s just say that if you look up the profile of that beer, it is commonly described, as many popular and delicious dark wheat beers are, as having a fruity, banana-y, bubble-gummy flavor.

As a long-time bartender, I will say that sending something back undrunk is not my favorite outcome, but if you avoid the common mistake of treating service professionals as if they intentionally injected your bevvy with ick-juice, and tip appropriately, they will likely not hold voodoo-style grudges against you.

To submit your inquiries to Dr. Annie Brewer, please email