Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Guest Post: Jake Metzler Looks at the Health Benefits of Home Brewing

Author Bio: Jake Metzler is a home brewer and a writer. Since both of those are difficult to make a living off of, he combines the two to write for Midwest Supplies, a provider of beer brewing supplies and kits.

Long have the benefits of drinking beer in moderation been touted by scientists seeking a lightly controversial topic. Beer has more nutrients than wine. Beer can help reduce risk of heart problems kidney stones, arthritis, and even certain types of cancer (but what doesn’t either prevent cancer, cause it, or both these days?).

And though these claims are backed by research, there are a lot of “ifs” on the topic. Only certain types of beers have the qualities that are praised. After a certain threshold of consumption is reached, the positive aspects are outweighed by negative ones. There is also a lot of “correlation vs. causation” issues. Just because 100 people were interviewed and the 72 who drink regularly had higher bone density does not mean that drinking beer reduces chances of osteoporosis.

But for home brewers, there is good news. For all the potential health benefits of commercial brews, home brews have more. Well, more accurately, home brews are more likely to contain the good stuff, and less likely to contain the filler, preservatives, and other junk.

Commercial brews are like white bread compared to the whole grain of homebrews. The vitamins and beneficial bacteria in beer are more intact in unfiltered homebrews. The frothy, bitterer beers contain more B vitamins, antioxidants, and glucose. If you’re going to brag that drinking beer is good for your heart, you might as well make sure that it’s true.

The biggest benefit health-wise of home brewing is that you have complete control of what goes in your brew. You can choose the yeast, hops, and malt that you want. You can even grow your own hops if you like and have even more control of the process. If you want to include organic ingredients, you can obtain them without having to trust a big company that says they’re organic but might have a different definition of that term than you do.

A big downside of beer consumption is the association with weight gain. Though beer has no fat or cholesterol, it is empty calories. Drinking beer is also often accompanied by snacking and munching on less than healthy foods.

When it comes to home brews though, this might be less of a concern. Home brewers tend to drink their brews more slowly, to savor their work and the flavors they’ve included. Where you might not feel bad about downing a six pack of a cheap commercial brew (though you won’t feel great in the morning), home brews are often drunk more slowly and therefore less at a time. And the act of drinking at home instead of in a bar means that you have more control of the foods you eat while drinking (though this is admittedly the case with any home drinking, not just that of homemade beer).

There are also tools that help home brewers regulate the calories in their beer. Though you may not be able to get as low as the big-brew “light” options, consider that brands such as Anheuser-Busch and Miller use rice and corn to replace barley malt, which is another loss in the nutrients department.

So whether or not you believe that beer has all of the health benefits that are used to justify drinking, you can make your beer healthier than the commercial brands by being intentional with the ingredients you put inside it. Increasing the care you put into anything you make almost always improves the quality, so you really don’t have anything to lose.