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Going out and drinking alcohol with your buddies can be hard when you are struggling with acid reflux or GERD. Gone are the days when you could guzzle drinks without feeling the symptoms of acid reflux. No wonder you are searching for something safe to drink! That raises the question: Is beer acidic or alkaline? Although the levels of acid will vary, anything that contains alcohol is going to be acidic. Now, let’s learn more about the acid in beer and what that means for your drinking escapades.
Table of Contents
- Is Beer Acidic?
- Is Non-Alcoholic Beer Acidic or Alkaline?
- The pH Scale Explained—Briefly
- Why Is Beer Acidic?
- What Does Titratable Acidity Mean?
- Can I Drink Beer Without Getting Acid Reflux?
- Which Beer is Best for Acid Reflux?
- Which is More Acidic—Beer or Wine?
- What About Beer vs Whiskey?
Is Beer Acidic?
Whether you drink beer based on its color, aroma, bitterness, mouthfeel, or flavor, there is one thing from which no beer is exempt. Beer is acidic. Due to fermentation, which transforms sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide, beer becomes more acidic. Typically, popular domestic beers have a pH of 4.0 to 5.0, putting that at the middle line of acidity. Sour beers are slightly more acidic (no surprise) and have a pH between 3.2-3.5, though some lambics can have significantly less acid. Ales can range between 3.0-6.0 pH. Generally, IPAs have a pH of 5.3-5.4.
The color of beer sometimes denotes how acidic it will be. For example, a darkly roasted malt will bring out more acid, thereby increasing the overall pH of the brew. Certain strains of bacteria or yeast used in beer will also add more acidity, such as lactobacillus making lactic acid.
There are some cases where beers have low levels of acid, but that is not considered normal. Most often, such a low level of acidity is caused by some kind of contamination or mistake during brewing.
Is Non-Alcoholic Beer Acidic or Alkaline?
You might think that cutting the alcohol from the beer would make it less acidic, but that is not the case. While the acid components of beer are made during fermentation, there are some organic acids that are formed during production that are not removed. Keep in mind that many non-alcoholic beer brands will remove the alcohol after the beer has been brewed, meaning that those acids are retained. Furthermore, non-alcoholic beers also have additives that increase the acidity level.
The pH Scale Explained—Briefly
To understand just how acidic beer can be, let’s briefly discuss the pH scale, which goes from 0 to 14. Most of the things humans eat are considered neutral, putting those items around a 7.0 pH. The white vinegar you use for both cleaning and cooking has a pH of 2.4. Meanwhile, household ammonia has a pH of 11. Since the scale is logarithmic, there is a tremendous difference in strength between egg whites (9.0 pH) and bleach (10.0 pH).
By the way, bleach, ammonia, and egg whites are all considered alkaline. On the flip side of the scale are the acids, which are any materials below 7.0 on the pH scale. In chemistry, you might call acids “proton donors,” as they have hydrogen atoms that give away their nuclei. But all you need to know right now is that acids can eat through certain minerals or prevent minerals from forming.
This fun video will explain everything you need to know about the pH scale:
Since beer can be a 3.0 or a 6.0, it contains a fair amount of acid. Many brewers will use the pH scale to help them chart the enzymatic or chemical activity of their brew. But where do those acids come from?
Why Is Beer Acidic?
Beer acidity is the product of the integral fermentation process. During the fermentation phase of making beer, yeast consumes the sugars in the wort and transforms them into carbon dioxide and alcohol. That said, there are a couple other by-products created by the fermentation, including organic acids known as succinic and acetic acid. Both of these acids can heighten the pH of beer, making it more crisp and refreshing.
Read that again. When alcohol is considered “refreshing” or “drinkable,” it is often due to the acidity balancing out any sweetness.
So if you read a review on beer that calls it refreshing, you know that you are getting a variety with a significant amount of acid—even if it doesn’t seem that way.
What Does Titratable Acidity Mean?
Sour beers are one of the beer styles that come into question when acidity is on the table. In this case, acidity is a marker of sourness or bitterness. You may find that some sour beer brewers will talk about titratable acidity (TA) instead of pH. Although pH is important when discussing how acidic a beverage is, the TA can tell you a little more about the taste of the beverage. You could find two kinds of beer with a similar pH but have one be wildly more sour.
Titratable acidity is a measure of the grams of acid in a liter of beer. Lactic, acetic, citric, and phosphoric acids can all be measured this way. For example, Strawberry Fields, a sour beer crafted by Indeed Brewing Company, has a TA of about 11.5 g/L. Your lips will pucker a little bit. Meanwhile, orange juice has a TA between 8-14 g/L of citric acid.
Here is a scale to help you decode TA amounts on various beers:
- 5 to 8 g/L – easy to drink and low in acidity
- 8 to 11 g/L – balanced beer with medium levels of acid
- 11 to 17 g/L – very sour and acidic
- 17+ g/L – overwhelmingly sour and highly acidic
Interestingly, there are some sour beers, such as lambics, that have a lower amount of pH due to the bacterial strains used to produce the alcohol.
Check out this video on TA—it’s really interesting:
Can I Drink Beer Without Getting Acid Reflux?
Most types of alcohol are considered acidic, meaning that it can trigger the symptoms of acid reflux or GERD. Beer can most certainly make your symptoms worse, especially when it is consumed in excess. Furthermore, because beer has a lot of calories, it can increase the amount of stomach acid that your belly produces, leading to even more acid to rising up the oesophagus. For this reason, you are going to have to be careful about how much beer you drink in a single sitting.
Listen to how your body responds to beer, if you want to give it a try. By choosing a beer with lower acid and taking an antacid prior to your drink, you may be able to get through a bottle or can without any adverse effects. However, you should always discuss your options and concerns with a medical professional first.
Which Beer is Best for Acid Reflux?
You may automatically assume that non-alcoholic beers are the best option for those who suffer from acid reflux and GERD. That is not completely true. Remember, non-alcoholic beers often contain the very acids that cause your stomach to jump into overdrive with acid production. Even the options that are acid-free may still cause gastrointestinal upset. The one upside to alcohol-free beer is that it causes far less gas production than beers with alcohol. That alone may make it a better choice for individuals with acid reflux and digestive problems.
If you don’t want to avoid alcohol, though, your two best options are:
- Barley malt lagers
Barley is one grain that does not create a lot of acid during fermentation. That is why barleywine, also known as pinot noir or brewer’s brandy, is an excellent choice for those looking to avoid acid. Barleywine is strong in terms of ABV, but it is closer to neutral, as it falls between 5.3 and 5.8 on the pH scale.
Here are some brands of barleywine to sample:
- Sierra Nevada Barrel-Aged Bigfoot Barleywine – ABV: 11.9%
- AleSmith Old Numbskull – ABV: 11%
- Firestone Walking Brewing Co. Helldorado – ABV: 13.2%
- Bell’s Brewery Third Coast Old Ale – ABV: 10.2%
- Weyerbacher Brewing Co. Insanity – ABV: 11.1%
Barley Malt Lagers
Since barley is naturally low in acid, most beers that use barley malts also end up having less acid than other styles of beer. These well-balanced beers come with a low acid, around 4.0-5.0 pH. Barley malt lagers include pilsners (like Pilsner Urquell), Helles, and Vienna styles. You can drink pale lagers, too.
Samuel Adams Brewery makes a couple of excellent barley malt lagers, including their Golden Hour and Boston Lagers.
Which is More Acidic—Beer or Wine?
Regular beers range between pH 4.0-6.0, while wine is more acidic—with 3.0 pH or less. Wines are rich in organic acids, and white wine is far more acidic than red varieties. However, if you think that makes wine far worse for GERD and heartburn, you would be mistaken! Turns out that both beer and wine have a similar effect on the body when it comes to acid reflux.
A study looked at the influence of beer and wine on GERD and found no difference in the two. Both beer and wine are equally effective at making you feel like your chest is on fire. Seeing how the pH levels of both is not too far apart, this makes sense.
What About Beer vs Whiskey?
Whiskey and beer are close in terms of acidity. Prior to maturation, whiskey has a pH between 4.0 and 5.0. After a couple of years of aging, that number drops to 4.0 and 4.45 pH. Beer ranges between 4.0 and 6.0 pH, making it a little less acidic in most cases. That said, the difference in acidity between beer and whiskey is much the same with wine. Either way, if you are trying to avoid consuming too much acid, then you are going to have to drink alcohol in moderation. Beer, whiskey, wine, and other alcoholic beverages will cause acid reflux in excess.
A is For Alcohol and Acid
Alcohol is generally acidic in nature, and beer is no different. Although it is difficult to generalize the acid levels of beer, being that there are many styles out there, the most popular brands and styles tend to fall within the pH 3.0-6.0 range. Since beer does have some acidity, it is not recommended for those individuals who suffer from GERD. If you have dental or digestive issues, those may also be upset due to the acid. If you must have a beer, choose one that is more base, such as a barley malt lager like Samuel Adams Boston Lager or Pilsner Urquell.
No, beer is not good for an acidic stomach or for those individuals who experience acid reflux. In fact, studies have been done that prove that beer and wine can trigger acid reflux when consumed. Avoid beer if you don’t want stomach acid problems.
Beer is slightly acidic. Lager beers have a pH of 4.0 to 5.0. Ales range between a pH 3.0-5.0.
The six least acidic alcoholic beverages include gin, rum, tequila, grain alcohol, and barley malt lager beers. Gin is the best for those who are looking to drink alcohol without getting heartburn, as it has a pH of 7.4.
Soda is one of the most acidic drinks available, even more available than your average beer. However, it also depends on which brand you are consuming. Most ales and lagers range between 3.0-5.0 on the pH scale, while most sodas run around 2.5-4.5. For example, Pepsi and Coke have a pH of 2.5, making them very acidic.