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You may have heard things like, “Red wine headaches are caused by sulfites.” Or how some people are sensitive to sulfites and should avoid them. As a beer homebrewer or beer connoisseur, you may be wondering if you have to avoid beer if you have an intolerance or are worried about your health. So, now you’re looking for sulfite free or low sulfite beer. Does sulfite free beer exist?
It’s time to learn about your drinkable options and how to tell whether your beer has sulfites or not.
What Are Sulfites and Why Don’t We Want Them?
Sulfites (sulphites) are a kind of salt that has combined with sulfurous acid. In ingredient lists, sulfites could be any of the following:
- Sulfur dioxide
- Sodium sulfite
- Potassium bisulfite
- Sodium bisulfite
- Sodium metabisulfite
- Potassium metabisulfite
Sulfites are added as a preservative to items like condiments, baked goods, shrimp, and potatoes to prevent discoloration. You can also find them added to dried fruits to stop colors from lightening. Winemakers also utilize sulfites as a may to prevent oxidation and maintain the freshness of wines.
Some people happen to have a food sensitivity to sulfites that could cause wheezing or breathing difficulties, but this is a rare occurrence. However, sulfite sensitivity is higher among those with asthma or taking a steroid medication.
Do All Beers Have Sulfites?
The answer to this question depends on where you are. In the US, you won’t find many if any beers that contain sulfites. It is a rare practice to add sulfites to beer. The US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) requires labeling on all alcohols if sulfites exceed 10 parts per million (ppm). Generally, yeast will produce about 3-5 ppm of natural sulfites during fermentation, so if you add sulfites as a preservative, it will take the amount over 10 ppm.
So, in most cases, beers produced in the US will be sulfite free. That said, you may find US produced ciders with sulfites, since sodium metabisulfite is often used as a preservative.
In the UK, sulfites can be legally added to beer (up to 40 ppm for a cask). Australia and New Zealand require labelling for sulfites if the amount is over 10 ppm, whether the sulfites are an ingredient, compound, additive, or processing aid. The same is true for the European Union. Sulfites, in all forms, can be legally added to any kind of food in Canada.
If you are unsure whether or not a beer has sulfites in it, you could always look at the label for the “contains sulfites” statement, or you can look at the ingredients to be sure.
Does Corona Beer Contain Sulfites?
No. The ingredients in a Corona Extra contains corn, hops, barley malt, yeast, ascorbic acid, and propylene glycol alginate (stabilizer). The label also does not mention sulfites.
Does Coors Light Have Sulfites?
Just like Corona, Coors Light doesn’t contain any noted sulfites. The listed ingredients are water, corn, yeast, hops, and barley malt.
Which Beers Are Sulfite Free?
As already mentioned, the answer depends on where you are, beer drinker! If you’re sipping American brews, you probably don’t have to worry about sulfites in your beer. Just check the label if you aren’t sure.
In the UK, you will have more difficulties. Many British beers use sulfites, so you might have to go for an import or two. Opt for German beers, which rarely use preservatives in their brews. Thanks to the German Purity Law, beer cannot be made with additives.
When in Australia or New Zealand, look for preservative free beer. Again, you might just end up picking a German brew, but there are plenty of organic craft brews in Australasia for you to enjoy.
Does Homebrewed Beer Have Sulfites?
No, homebrewed beer won’t contain a notable amount (if any) sulfites. You would have to physically add the sulfites into the beer for there to be any presence of sulfites.
You’re probably thinking, “But what about skunky, rotten egg scented beers? If that’s not sulfur, what is it?” A sulfuric scent is often produced when there are multiple strains of yeast present in fermenting beer. Hydrogen sulfide gas is sometimes produced during active fermentation as the yeast consumes any sulfur. However, sulfides and sulfites are not the same thing.
What Alcoholic Drinks Do Not Contain Sulfites? Which Ones Have A Lot?
Let’s start off by saying that there are many alcohols that contain sulfites. Wine is the one alcoholic beverage that is known to contain high amounts of sulfites, which is sometimes a byproduct of fermentation. There are some wine brands, however, that have reduced the amount of sulfites to a negligible amount, including Stellar Organics, Pierre Frick, Spartico Wines, Frey Vineyards, and Coturri Winery.
Keep in mind that, even if a wine brand says it has no sulfites in it, there will still be trace amounts because of fermentation.
The amount of sulfites in red wine is around 156-163 parts per million. In comparison, low sulfite wine will have about 20 ppm of sulfite. Wine vinegar has 48 ppm.
Amazingly, most beers have less than 0.5 ppm sulfites. Unless, of course, sulfites were added as a preservative.
Wrapping Up – Low Sulfite Beer
So, does sulfite free and low sulfite beer exist? Yes! It just depends on what kind of beer you are reaching for. Look for organic beers made without any preservatives if you are concerned or read labels. When in doubt, reach for a German beer, since they will never contain preservatives like sulfites.