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What Are The Types Of Preservatives In Beer

chockyfoodie's picture

What are the types of preservatives in beer? Most of us think that alcohol is a great preservative in itself so there is no need for using any preservatives. But that’s not true? Some brewers use preservatives to increase the shelf life of their alcohols. Do you know the rich foam which adorns the beer mug can be a creative work of an inconspicuous preservative?! Yes, you have heard it right. The preservatives in beer are responsible for bringing out the foam.


The brewers in medieval Germany used additives and preservatives in beer while brewing it. Keeping this thing in mind the aristocracy of Germany established a Beer Purity Law in 1516 which prohibited the usage of additives or preservatives in beer.  The beer was brewed using the hops, yeast, water and barley.  As the beer brewing was carried out in sterile environment so there was no question of  contamination. And the aristocracy argued on the point that there was no need to use additives or preservatives in the alcohol because it is a preservative in itself.  But the brewing scene has changed much and today it seems that most of the breweries too don’t adhere to the purity laws. In absence of globally established purity law it becomes difficult to judge the preservatives used by brewers. The brewers have their own brewing formula for preparing different types of beer. Also not all brewers may use preservative, but some of the most commonly used preservatives in beer brewing are:


Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde is produced during the fermentation process but some brewers add bit of it during the brewing to add clarity to the beer. Also this is one of the commonly used preservatives in beer production. It is believed that formaldehyde possess the property of increasing the shelf life of food that’s why European brewers have widely adopted it as a potential preservative. But you need not to worry about the potential health scares inflicted by this compound because the formaldehyde levels found in the beer was much below the danger level.


Sulfur Dioxide: Sulfur dioxide is also produced during the fermentation process but some brewers add it to increase the shelf life of the beer. As said before there are no globally an accepted laws to define the clarity of the beer but it is considered to be mandatory for the brewers to disclose the levels of sulfur dioxide in the beer if it exceeds 10ppm. Brewers believe that sulfur dioxide also enhances freshness of the beer.


 Ethyl para-hydroxybenzoate: This is the derivative of benzoic acid which is used to increase the shelf life of the beer. This preservative is banned in Australia. So you can be sure that the Australian beer is free from ethyl para-hydroxybenzoate.


Propylparaben: This is a well known preservative which is used to increase the shelf life of products such as fruit squashes, fruit desserts, juices, fish and pickles.  Some brewers add it to increase the clarity and shelf life of the beer.


Hops: Hop is a natural preservative which enhances the citrus taste of the beer and imparts characteristic bitter flavor to the beer.  


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wudneye's picture
whoever write this article is a bonehead. I work in a brewery and always spying on what other manufacturers put in their brews even down to duplicates of their POs. Nobody uses the stuff above because they all alter the taste of beer- except the hops. No one can put enough hops in beer to preserve it or else it will be undrinkable. you need 12 times the hops you put now for the resins to permeate it and preserve it and by that time it will taste like toilet cleaner. Breweries use Potassium sorbate,phosphoric acid and sodium benzoate. The formaldehyde is associated with the can packing and you can smell it for miles.Even trace amounts is bad for you. Whoever wrote this does not drink beer seriously and just did an internet search to write this. Disppointing.
chockyfoodie's picture
I appreciate you taking time out to read my blog in detail... However Sir, unlike wat u have stated the blog is not based upon mere internet search... I have studied food science and this info is taken from reliable textbooks.But then, I am sure there can be a gap between theory and actual practice, so thanks for sharing your inputs.
What Are The Types Of Preservatives In Beer