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Tap Beer Dilemma

A few years back while doing the Atkin's Diet I started drinking Michelob Ultra instead of Harp, Bass, or any real beer. I continued to do so, because when I got off the diet, I realized my tolerance had risen, haha. Now, every time I go into a bar and drink any type of tap beer, I get incredible headaches. I realize at times this can be caused by taps not being cleaned, but this happens all the time now. I'm somewhat stuck with bottled beer now and really miss a few pints of some nice dark beer.

Any thoughts?

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  1. Go to a nicer bar? Granted that doesn't mean they clean the lines anymore than a cheaper place, but it's a good start. Get friendly with a distributor and ask them what their thoughts are. Here in Atlanta there are dedicated folks from local distributors who go out and clean the tap lines. Obviously they know far more about what bars/restaurants clean their lines than anyone else.

    Could bar smoke be a factor here?

    1. Could be a variety of things going on. Psychosomatic, different yeast strains, filtered/unfiltered beers, higher levels of CO2 in the tap beer. Have you tried drinking the same beer with one bottled and on off the tap?

      11 Replies
      1. re: nwhitney2003

        Psychosomatic was what I was thinking. The only difference between beer in a keg and beer in a bottle, especially when you're talking about macro light lager, is the vessel it's stored in. The yeast strains will be identical.

        1. re: Josh

          True, but there are some real problems with folks who don't or won't clean their tap lines. For that matter it could be the glass washing habits of the staff...

          1. re: HaagenDazs

            OP doesn't specify any particular bar, and I doubt that every bar this person has visited has had poorly maintained lines. Also, I believe a person would be able to taste some off-flavors at least sometimes if this were the case.

            1. re: Jim Dorsch

              Yeah if it was always the same exact place, then the tap lines or glass sanitizer hypotheses would make some sense. The way it's being described, I can't think of a physiological reason.

        2. re: nwhitney2003

          Definitely not a psychosomatic reason. I've had beers at many different places and not got this feeling. I do not get hangovers at all from bottled beer or even alcohol. I do get them from Wine occasionally, but from Tap beer I always get them. I have been to a place that I know cleans them daily, because of their constant changing of tapped beers, and I even got it there. My every day place cleans them regularly and cleans the glasses after each beer (and not the dunk and rinse method...in a machine.

          Don't get me wrong, I don't get this if I have four of five beers, but if I"m out for a few hours it seems to hit me much harder than in the past.

          1. re: jhopp217

            The only thing I can think of is if you're drinking micros it is not uncommon for carbonation levels to be different, recipes can vary slightly, and the yeast used can also vary. The same beer may be filtered before it is racked into a keg but left unfiltered when bottled. Unfortunately there are too many variables that can't be ruled out on this forum. Probably best to check with your doctor.

            1. re: nwhitney2003

              I'm not making fun, just thinking of the conversation.

              ME: When I go out on a Friday, Saturday night or Sunday for Football I usually drink about 15-20 beers. When I drink bottles I wake up feeling fine, when I drink draft I feel horrible. Can you help?

              DOC: How are you alive?

                1. re: jhopp217

                  What happens when you drink a combination of draft and bottles? Do you get a half hang over? Is it proportional to the ratio of draft to bottled? And when you just drink bottles do you usually drink that many or fewer?

                  1. re: Insidious Rex

                    Normally I stick with one thing for an evening. Occasionally I'll start with a stronger dark beer and switch over to a light, but not normally. I used to find that I drank tap beer much faster, but now it's about equal

          2. Could this be because a bottle is 12 oz and a standard tap beer is a pint (16 oz)? This means that each beer is 33% more. Also, are the tap beers higher in alcohol than the bottles you usually drink? 12 oz of Michelob Ultra (at about 4% ABV) has half the alcohol of a 16 oz IPA (at about 6% ABV).

            1. I suppose if you're drinking mostly micros/craft brews on tap it could be all of the 'good stuff' giving you headaches - yeasties and so forth that are usually filtered out of mass-market cheap yellow beers. I'm not sure how craft brew on tap differs from that in bottles on 'good stuff' content, but subjectively I've sometimes noticed a difference.

              On the other hand, '4 or 5 beers' for me represents a really smashed evening from which I will always wake with an excruciating migraine, so maybe I'm not of much help after all... ;)

              1. I'd guess sulfite allergies if anything. Hard to nail down since it isn't required to be labelled. but it makes sense that kegged beer would have some for storage reasons and bottled beer doesn't, and you get the headaches from wine too.

                This is fun. It's like playing House.

                3 Replies
                1. re: joypirate

                  I don't know of any beer that has sulfites added, either draft or bottled. They're not needed as they are in wine, because beer wort is sanitized by boiling.

                  1. re: Jim Dorsch

                    Aren't they also naturally occurring?

                    There's also explanation #2; pints are bigger than bottles and, when factored in with time it takes you to get a new beer at a bar, you're just drinking more, faster.

                    1. re: joypirate

                      I believe you can find traces of sulfites occurring due to fermentation, but the concentration shouldn't vary between package and draught.