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Mar 22, 2014 03:51 PM

Which USA-domestic beers contain propylene glycol?

Does anyone happen to have already researched which domestic beers contain propylene glycol?

I have developed an allergy to propylene glycol. My reaction that I endured several years ago: the skin on the soles of feet and palms of hand turn into dinosaur skin. Skin gets thickened, then it cracks, bleeds and is very very itchy. It was so painful I started to think of ways that I could convince a doctor to amputate my feet and hands.

Took 9 trips to an uber-expensive dermatologist and diagnoses of psoriasis, ezcema, etc. Nothing helped. Then, I (yes, me, not the doctor) said, "What about an allergy test?" One allergy test + eliminating propylene glycol completely eliminated the problem. In 4 months, perfect skin.

Eliminating propylene glycol is not easy, It's in almost all skin and hair products unless they use the more expensive glycerin. I believe it's an ingredient used as a (what's the word...something that helps maintain the product's desired consistency?) I have seen dog food commercials on TV advertise they no longer put it in their dog food.

Recently, I started feeling the beginnings of the same problem in my feet. I couldn't imagine what it could be since I read every single label for all products I purchase.

Someone forwarded me a link to the Subway bread controversy. A few clicks later I see this:
(ick - it's also an ingredient in antifreeze


Never realized beer could contain propylene glycol. I started drinking mostly lite domestic beers. This could definitely be the source of the problem.

2 of the solutions Ms. Foodbabe suggests I'll be doing in the meantime:
1) Buy organic beers
2) Buy german beers by law they can't have the extra crap in them
but those are probably so much more caloric. Even my favorite domestic lite beer, Sam Adams Light, has 120 calories per, last I checked.

Anyway, I'm wondering if anyone else in the world with adverse reactions to propylene glycol has already made all the phone calls or done the research needed to figure this out?

And if you happen to know of someone who was diagnosed with ezcema or psoriasis, do suggest they get an allergy test. Turns out, the ingredient I was allergic to was present in the $100/tube cream that I was prescribed!

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    1. re: Jim Dorsch

      That's a long link, but worth every minute required to read it.
      Thanks, Jim, for sharing that with us.

      1. re: Jim Dorsch

        Thanks for the link Jim.

        From Mitch's response in the article >> I have heard of some beverages where small amounts glycol were added to add body or flavor, but I have not heard of this being done in beer.

        Since the dermatologist only warned me to look for it in hair and skin products, I didn't think to look for it in food.

        I also had never heard of it being in breakfast muffins, much less my favorite local Austin grocery store's (HEB) freshly-made blueberry muffins.

        But there it was, propylene glycol, listed right there on the label, plain as day.

        It's also listed as an ingredient in my (former) favorite ice cream sandwich (Skinny Cow Vanilla).

        It's an interesting article, and it does present an impression that craft beers would likely not contain it.

        Are there any domestic lite beers that do list their ingredients, so I can be sure it doesn't contain propylene glycol?

        1. re: sweet100s

          That's a tricky question, since breweries aren't required to list ingredients. I am guessing the answer is "no", but I can't say that with certainty.

      2. When the "Beer War" between Miller and AB heated up in the late 1970s, both companies participated in a series of complaints to the FTC about the other's beers and advertising claims.

        AB at the time stated that Miller Lite's ingredients included:

        "Propylene glycol alginate, water, barley malt, corn syrup, chemically modified hop extract, yeast amyloglucosidase, papain enzyme, liquid sugar, potassium metabisulfite and Emka-malt."
        (SInce that era, Miller has claimed they've changed the Lite recipe and removed some of the chemical ingredients).

        Such products are still sold by commercial brewing supply houses, like the Belgian firm, CBS- and their proprietary STABILFOAM (a food grade propylene glycol alginate)

        Here's a 1980s era industry paper on it's use-

        2 Replies
        1. re: JessKidden


          Very informative links, thank you. That explains the rationale for why a beer maker would decide to include it:
          >> STABILFOAM is a food grade propylene glycol alginate, specially developed and produced as foam stabilizer for beer. It gives to beer a more stable, longer-lived, creamier foam.

          Another detail I meant to mention in first post -
          I've read propylene glycol is on the list of things not allowed in baby products because it's a known skin irritant. So if you want to avoid it, buying baby shampoos and skin creams can shorten the grocery trip (reading each label takes time).

          Also, if something has glycerin in it, that seems to be a substitute for the things propylene glycol does for hair/skin products, but it's a more expensive ingredient. So typically only the more expensive products will have it. But once you read see glycerin on the label, it's less likely the rest of the list will contain propylene glycol.

          PS: If anyone reading this happens to be a dermatologist and would like to see a picture of what my reaction looked like at its worst, and suggest an alternate hypothesis for the diagnosis, I'm game. (I did take high res pics to document progression.) It literally felt like something was cooking my hands and feet from the inside.

          The fire feeling stopped within 24 hours of removing propylene glycol from everything I touched. I guess my body just had enough of that chemical after a certain point.

          1. re: sweet100s

            Propylene glycol alginate is in Mountain Dew, cream sodas, and many ice creams, salad dressings and candies. If you don't have a reaction to any of those I would suggest getting a second opinion.

        2. Not trying to go the beer snob route here, but why are you limiting yourself to "domestic light beers"?

          1 Reply
          1. re: RB Hound

            RB Hound>> Not trying to go the beer snob route here, but why are you limiting yourself to "domestic light beers"?

            Only because
            - I stick to a 1400 calories/day budget for 3-4 days, and 2000 on the 4-5'th.
            - It scopes the problem to solve to a narrower one.

            Beer has an interesting complex taste to me (though I'd guess most here would consider my beer tastes wimpy.) Beer is a VERY welcome alternative after mostly water, milk, tea, coffee. I make my own roasted nut mixture with rosemary, garlic powder, italian seasoning, olive oil, salt and pepper, and my favorite raw unsalted almonds. It's a favorite with beer.

            My favorite 2 beers are
            - Alaskan Amber (181 calories)
            - Sam Adams Light (At 120 calories per, it's probably the most caloric light, but the taste is the most interesting to me of all the lights.)

            I wish I could remember the ingredient that makes me wince. I had a beer flight eons ago and really disliked a couple of them. The server said, "This means you don't like beers with a lot of ______ in them." Need to have another beer flight with a knowledgeable person around to remember :-).

            The bad news is the calories.
            The good news is the fine print in the bottom.

          2. A friend of our family was a California state senator in the 1970s, and tried several times to push through legislation requiring full label disclosure of beer ingredients. He said it was an immense uphill battle, and pointed out all the chemicals and additives that major brewers could get away with using. I didn't much care at the time because I didn't drink beer, but now I recognize his efforts.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Tripeler

              If I have this right, somewhere there is a federal GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list of beer ingredients. If you want to use something not on the list, then you need to apply. Or something like that.

              Of course, that doesn't help when you're a consumer with an issue with a specific ingredient.

              I think that, as a craft beer drinker, I am probably much less likely to consume something with a problematic ingredient, but that's not a perfect solution.

              1. re: Jim Dorsch

                Perhaps the most worrisome beers would be those from big brewers masquerading as "craft" beers. Still, I am confident about the beers I drink.

                1. re: Jim Dorsch

                  Propylene glycol was classified by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration as "generally recognized as safe."

              2. Just tried to figure out if the part about the German beer purity law was correct. It looks like it is.

                So I need to either buy organic beer, buy German beer, or embark on a research project.

                Made a quick trip to grocery store before I read websites below. (the wonderful Central Market,

                Saw beers labeled German beers, but didn't have time to look at the fine print to determine if they were
                1) Labeled "German beers" but brewed outside of Germany, or
                2) "actually brewed in Germany" beers that comply with that R_______ law."

                ================ References

                The Reinheitsgebot, literally "purity order", is a regulation concerning the production of beer in the Holy Roman Empire and its successor state, Germany. In the original text, the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water, barley and hops.

                ]In May 1988, a European Court of Justice ruling led to the Reinheitsgebot being lifted, allowing ingredients beyond what was listed in the Biersteuergesetz; this meant that anything allowed in other foods was also allowed in beer. The lifting of the Biergesetz only concerns imported beer.

                Beer brewed in Germany still has to abide to it.

                The revised Vorläufiges Biergesetz of 1993 is a slightly expanded version of the Reinheitsgebot, allowing, besides water, malted barley, and hops, for yeast to be used for bottom-fermented beer, and for different kinds of malt, and sugar to be used for top-fermented beer.


                "Rather, the significance of the Reinheitsgebot lies in the fact that German beer is all natural! It may not contain any chemicals, preservatives, or artificial process enhancers (such as artificial enzymes or yeast nutrients) nor may it contain any cheap and flavorless sources of starch (such as rice and corn). This means, a beer made in Germany is always a wholesome and flavorful product. It is the art and craft of the brewer that turns the Reinheitsgebot's simple and restrictive list of ingredients into a cornucopia of beer styles, from blond to black, from light to heavy."

                "German brewers, however, still adhere fiercely to the Reinheitsgebot as a matter of pride and tradition. German beer labels and advertisements still proudly proclaim the purity of the local brew, and many a German imbiber would not think of letting anything but a "pure" beer pass his or her lips."

                5 Replies
                1. re: sweet100s

                  I would not pay much attention to the "German beer institute" as the author is a PR agent working for some German breweries.
                  Secondly, the current version of the law applies only to the ingredients in the beer. However, if you want to add chemicals to the water before using it for brewing, that is permitted. If you want to use chemicals on the plants which will later become hops and barley, that's OK as well.
                  Obviously, the original order (it was not a law, although many people call it that) did not need to worry about chemically treated water or plants because the technology did not exist at the time.
                  Also not covered by the current law, but sometimes by other laws, is the sanitation in breweries. Over the last two years, several small Bavarian breweries, which had been around for many decades, were closed because the health authorities did not consider the brewery sanitation standards to be high enough.
                  In brief though, if a beer does not include ingredients list, German beers will probably be a bit safer. But, they all are most certainly not "all natural."

                  1. re: ThomasvanDale

                    Isn't it also true that brewers outside Bavaria can export beer that does not comply with the Reinheitsgebot?

                    1. re: Jim Dorsch

                      The Reinheitsgebot was an order during the middle ages (1516, but there were more than one) and applied only to the area which is today called Bavaria. Once Germany unified in 1871, the Bavarians wanted the rest of the new country to accept their order. Eventually that happened in 1923 and was renamed the Biersteuergesetz (which mean Beer tax law).

                      The original order, BTW, was agricultural because other grains were needed for bread and the rulers did not want a shortage of bread grains because brewers used them.

                      There were and are a number of beers in northern Germany that did not or do not follow the old Reinheitsgebot. Gose, for example, a traditonal beer in Goslar and Leipsig, adds corriander and salt to the wort. Berliner Weisse adds lactic acid. Broyhan, I believe, was brewed with wheat.

                      One thing that is perhaps not clear: if a brewer doesn't follow either the traditional or the new law, they don't send the police to arrest him - it's just that he can't call his product "bier." So, if a brewer wants to make beer with sausages, he can export it and call it whatever he likes, he just can't sell it in Germany and call it bier.

                      1. re: ThomasvanDale


                        So I guess it's organic-only for me.

                        1. re: sweet100s

                          Peak makes some nice organic beers. Wolaver's, Sam Smith ...