There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who like putting a raw egg in their beer and those who think the idea is totally cracked.
Putting eggs in beer is a practice that dates back hundreds of years and is still fairly common today.
Beer drinkers have all sorts of reasons for doing it, including some that are clearly just excuses to have a beer in the morning!
Here’s a closer look at this crazy combo, including where it originated, how to do it, and whether or not it’s a hangover remedy (the most commonly touted benefit). So, crack a beer, and then crack an egg, and let’s get started.
How to Add an Egg to Beer
It’s pretty straightforward.
- Pour a beer into a glass.
- Crack an egg.
- Drop the yolk into the beer.
The yolk doesn’t dissolve much, if at all. Instead, it slides to the bottom of the glass.
Drink the beer as usual. When near the end, you’ll need to slurp the egg into your mouth. However, you don’t have to swallow it whole. You can bite into it gently. It adds a sweet taste that many people think contrasts well with the bitter hops flavor of the beer.
The History of Adding Egg to Beer
While nobody knows the definite origins of the practice, people have been adding eggs to beer for lots of reasons dating back to at least the 17th century, when it enjoyed broad popularity throughout England.
People added whipped eggs, cream, sugar, and spices to beer to make a thin custard called posset. It was thought to treat colds and flu. Medical knowledge back then was questionable at best, but essentially people believed the combination of eggs and beer helped balance certain things in the ill body.
If you’re a Shakespeare fan, you might recognize posset from “Macbeth,” where Lady Macbeth uses it to drug the guards outside Duncan’s home. It’s also in “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” where Falstaff drinks it before a date to boost his libido.
Aside from medicinal purposes, the egg helped particulates in the beer settle at the bottom. Early brewing processes typically resulted in cloudy beers, but adding eggs cleared them up.
Coming to America
The idea of adding eggs to beer reached colonial America, where it quickly turned into a drink called a flip. Flips are made with basically any liquor, beer, or wine, along with egg yolks, hot water, and sugar. They’re still popular today, especially in cold climates.
In the early 1800s, a drink called the Miner’s Breakfast enjoyed widespread popularity, starting in northeastern Pennsylvania mining towns and spreading through the East Coast. Two raw eggs are cracked into a beer, which is then served with a shot of whiskey on the side.
As detailed in the book Yuengling: A History of America’s Oldest Brewery, bars would fill with laborers as early as five in the morning. They’d take the shot of whiskey and then drink the egg-laden brew as a soothing chaser.
Also called the Irish Breakfast, the Miner’s Breakfast is still available in bars across the country, especially on the East Coast. The Wire even has a famous scene with Baltimore dock workers drinking Irish Breakfasts.
“Egg in Your Beer” as a Popular Phrase
In the 1940s, the concept of putting eggs in beers turned into a popular, funny phrase people said to each other. “What do you want? Eggs in your beer?”
It meant that somebody was complaining about an issue even though they were in a good situation. For example, “You won free tickets to a concert, but you think the seats are too far from the stage? What do you want, egg in your beer?”
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the phrase was that putting eggs in beers wasn’t necessarily popular at the time. Most people who said it likely didn’t think it sounded like a treat, even though the phrase suggests it’s lovely.
Is Putting an Egg in Beer Safe?
Raw eggs pose a risk of salmonella, a germ that can cause gastrointestinal problems. While salmonella is dangerous, the likelihood of getting it from raw eggs is often overblown in the public consciousness.
In the mid-1980s, tainted milk led to a salmonella outbreak that affected over 10,000 people. It was due to a problem at the dairy plant and looser safety standards at the time.
Still, people remained wary about any potential source of salmonella. Movies such as Cocktail and Rocky then played on those fears by making the practice of consuming raw eggs seem particularly macho and dangerous.
In reality, adding an egg to your beer is unlikely to harm you. Just make sure the eggs have been properly refrigerated. Also, don’t let any shell bits fall into your beer, as they can contain bacteria.
Why Do People Drink Beer with Eggs?
Generally, there are three schools of thought:
- It’s tasty
- It’s nutritious
- It cures hangovers
The first one is purely a matter of opinion, so if you’re curious, you’ll have to try it yourself. But what about the other ideas? Well, neither is 100% accurate, but each does have some merit.
The Nutritional Benefits of Adding an Egg
As touched on above, early English medical practitioners believed egg beer helped cure illnesses, but those ideas didn’t last much beyond the 17th century. Still, even when people no longer thought beer was a medicine, traditional beer was heavier and thicker than our beer today, and they considered it a significant source of nutrition.
These weren’t ideas only believed by dockworkers and miners. Many upper-class people also didn’t consider beer as an intoxicant. Today, the idea of starting each day with a beer is looked at differently and is likely a cause for concern.
Regardless, what is the nutritional value of putting eggs into beer? Eggs are an eggs-cellent source of protein, capable of providing a solid boost of energy to power you through your day. Does putting them in beer affect their nutritional benefits?
Actually, yes, but in a roundabout way. The body only absorbs 51% of the protein in a raw egg compared to a cooked one. If you’re eating raw eggs as a breakfast substitute, you’ll get far more nutritional cooking them instead.
Does putting an egg in beer cure hangovers? Before considering an egg’s hangover-curing properties, let’s first take a look at why a hangover feels so bad:
- Dehydration — Alcohol is a diuretic. Removing all that water from your system is why you wake up with a pounding headache, dry throat, and out-of-control thirst.
- Lack of Sleep — Even if you pass out, you’re not getting the appropriate amount of REM sleep, resulting in irritability, brain fog, and more.
- Inflammation — The liver processes alcohol by breaking it down into toxic by-products such as acetaldehyde. These free radicals result in cell inflammation that causes an assortment of aches and pains.
Hangover symptoms start when your blood alcohol levels are nearly zero — and that’s key when discussing this concoction’s effectiveness as a hangover cure.
Is Putting an Egg in a Beer an Effective Hangover Cure?
Many people think adding an egg to beer will help reduce the severity of the hangover because of the extra nutrients in the egg. Unfortunately, while a big meal can sometimes make you feel a bit better, the only “cure” for a hangover is time and hydration.
The small amount of nutrition found in an egg or two won’t help a hangover. Remember, an uncooked egg delivers about half the protein of a cooked one, so you’re better off putting it in a pan than your beer.
However, the egg in beer technique can temporarily halt your hangover, but not because of the egg. Raising your body’s blood alcohol content will make you feel better, at least in the short term, and the alcohol content in beer may be just enough to temporarily alleviate your symptoms. Of course, if you do that, you set yourself up for an even worse hangover later.
Your best bet is preventing the hangover. For every beer (with or without an egg) you drink, drink a glass of water. Also, eat while you drink — not a raw egg, but something substantial. Food in the digestive system helps slow the alcohol absorption process.
Do you plan to put an egg in your next beer?
Even though the reasons for putting eggs in beers are questionable at best, the practice is still a fun part of the beer-drinking culture. From doctors in 17th century England to modern dockworkers and true beer lovers, all sorts of people have enjoyed cracking an egg into their beer — and you might like it, too!