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Back in 2014, a commercial introducing “HeliYUM” was released that made the jaws of beer lovers everywhere hit the floor. Many were immediately convinced that there was a new way to craft beer—with helium. Beer drinkers wanted to know immediately: “Is helium beer real? Or just a hoax?” But more importantly, would drinking a helium-infused beer actually make your voice high-pitched?
We did a deep drive into helium beer and are reporting the results to you now.
First Off, is Helium Beer Real? Like Really Real?
There are three notable videos about helium beer that are also rather deceptive: the one for Samuel Adams’ HeliYUM beer; Stone Brewing Company’s “Stochasticity Project Cr(He)AM”, and the helium beer prank by German Youtubers Die BierProbierer. Even though most people understood immediately that HeliYUM beer was just a joke, the video from Stone Brewing Company was so in depth and technical that waves of confusion went through the beer drinking community.
There is some science as to why helium beer is more or less impossible. It can be done, but not in the way that people would want.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but helium beer is not real.
What is Helium Beer?
In essence, helium beer is beer that is supposedly infused with helium the same way Guinness infused carbon dioxide and nitrogen into their beers. Jim Koch of Samuel Adams claimed in the commercial that helium brought out caramel flavors, smooth mouthfeel, and biscuity notes. Another claim was that helium beer would affect the pitch of your voice, making it cartoonish.
But here’s the rub: helium is hardly soluble in water. Even if you could, helium wouldn’t suspend itself in liquid for long.
What Does Science Tell Us About Helium Beer?
How is helium beer made? In reality, you can’t make it at all. Here are some solid scientific reasons for this:
- Helium is a stable noble gas, so it is chemically inert.
- Again, helium is not water-soluble. It cannot be used to carbonate beer as you would use carbon dioxide.
- About 5 grams of CO2 dissolve into 1L of beer, but only 0.0016g of helium dissolves into a liter.
- You can’t add liquid helium, either. Helium turns to liquid at -140°C or -220°F. The beer would freeze instantaneously.
- In the event scientists did figure out how to put liquid helium into beer without freezing it, the two would not mix, so it would be like oil on water.
And the one thing everyone wants to know: even if the laws of chemistry and physics weren’t broken in the process of making helium beer, it would have no effect on your voice. Why? Because you are swallowing the beer. It’s not going to your lungs.
Is Helium Beer 100% Impossible?
We did say that you can’t make helium beer, but there is a way to add it to beer. In 2015, Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) published an article about “heliuminated beer.” The researchers looked to Guinness for inspiration, since nitrogen and helium have similar solubility levels. They opted to fill one CO2 tank with helium to see what would happen.
Turns out, the helium took a ride with CO2 molecules. It is called Ostwald ripening, where the helium bubbles grew larger because they fed on the smaller bubbles made by carbon dioxide. This resulted in a milky, creamy mouthfeel and large bubbles.
C&EN concluded that helium beer is possible to make, but it would never make it to store shelves. The main reason? It would be just like Guinness and, therefore, uninteresting.
And even if helium beer was made, as soon as you cracked open the can or bottle, all that helium would come gushing out. You would lose most of the beer before getting a sip.
Where Can I Buy Helium Beer?
“Is helium beer real?” and “where can I get helium beer?” were two popular questions shortly after that prank was released in 2014. To this day, people are searching for a way to try HeliYUM or something similar.
Sadly, it’s a prank that doesn’t know how to die.
It may seem like a buzzkill, but there is currently no such thing as helium beer. Any bottles of it that you saw on podcasts or videos or commercials were just props.
Some Weird Alternatives You Can Try Instead of Mythical Helium Beer
It is undeniably disappointing that you cannot drink a voice-altering beer and laugh yourself to tears with friends. Don’t worry. There are plenty of strange and fascinating beers out there to sample. Here are a couple we recommend:
- Saturday Morning Beer: Who doesn’t love Saturday morning cereal and cartoons? Thanks to Smartmouth Brewery, you can now relive your childhood with this beer.
- Celest-Jewel-Ale: Want to try a space age beer? Dogfish Head made this beer with sparkling meteorite dust. It’s interstellar.
- Hvalur Beer: This one is going to take some major pluck to try, because it contains whale testicles and sheep dung in the recipe. You might want to book a trip to Iceland to visit Stedji Brewery and ask them what they were thinking.
- Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout: No, this doesn’t include any riverbed oysters. Originally meant to be an April Fool’s joke, Wynkoop Brewing Company’s special stout is rich and meaty thanks to…bull testicles.
- Ghost Face Killah: Six different kinds of chili peppers were infused into this hellishly hot beer by Twisted Pine Brewing Company. Your face might just melt off.
- Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale: Brewed up in Bedford, UK by Eagle Brewery, this light brown ale takes its hat off in respect to Britain’s famous dessert. It’s rather sweet, though the Goldings and Fuggles hops temper the sugary rush you get.
- Snake Venom Beer: This is the strongest beer in the entire world at a whopping 67.5% ABV. Brewmeister can hook you up with this.
- Mamma Mia Pizza Beer: Illinois is home to Chicago deep dish pizza. No wonder that the Pizza Beer Company decided to make a pizza-flavored brew that tastes just like the real thing.
- Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout: Flying Dog Brewing Co has come up with some real winners throughout the years, but this one was so popular that it went from being limited edition in 2011 to being brewed year-round. The brew uses real Rappahannock River oysters, giving it a good dose of salt.
- Blackwater Series Thick Mint: Sold by Southern Tier Brewing Co of Lakewood, NY, USA, Thick Mint is an Imperial Stout is part of a dessert-mimicking collection. Other beers in the Blackwater Series include Choklat Oranj, Salted Caramel, Choklat, and Creme Brulee.
So, is helium beer real? Nope. Sorry. It’s a myth. A well done joke from April Fool’s that continues to make people laugh. Maybe in the future we will have the technology to infuse helium into beer and go into hysterics when our voices change. But for now, regular beer is going to have to suffice.