Mixing Beer and Wine – Explore the Facts and the Myths!

“Beer before wine makes you feel fine” as the old saying goes, suggests drinking beer before you start on the wine will help you avoid a severe hangover! Is there any medical evidence or scientific proof to support this? Where does the saying even come from?

An even more bizarre saying is “Wine before beer makes you feel queer”! Why do people place such an emphasis on the order you drink wine or beer in?

Surely it doesn’t matter how you actually order your drinks – if you drink too much of any two drinks you’re still likely to be ill.

Why is mixing beer and wine such a controversial subject with so many people against it? What are the dangerous “magic” ingredients in beer and wine that make them such a hazardous mix?

Is there any time when it’s acceptable for a beer drinker to mix wine with beer? Are there any beer cocktails with wine or beer-wine hybrid drinks? Grab a beer, sit back and join us as we try to debunk some of these myths in this complete guide to mixing wine with beer.

Who knows, by the end, you may feel like grabbing a glass of wine, as long as you have drunk the beer first, of course.

Beer Before Wine – The Scientific Evidence

a glass of beer and a glass of wine is on the table
Photo by Ambitious Creative Co. – Rick Barrett on Unsplash

While we’re still on the softer stuff, the beer, let’s take a look at the research which has aimed to disprove these old axioms such as “beer before wine is fine”.

Researchers at Cambridge University in England and the Witten/Herdecke University in Germany, after studying a group of drinkers and the order they drink their beer and wine,  have said no rhyme will prevent bad hangovers, no matter how clever it seems.

90 participants were recruited to drink copious amounts of wine and beer (why didn’t I see that ad?) and were then split into three groups. The first group was given 2.5 pints of a cold lager to drink before consuming a further four large glasses of chilled white wine. (Seriously, where was this recruitment advertised?)

A second group drank the drinks in reverse order, ie. four large glasses of white wine followed by 2.5 pints of beer after wine, while the third group (or the “control” group) drank only wine or beer.

Throughout the entire experiment, which lasted two weeks, the researchers would ask the participants questions about their general well-being and how they would rate their drunkenness on a scale of 1 to 10.

After their final gulp, the participants (or should we call them lucky devils) were given a glass of chilled water before being sent to bed at the study facility where their sleep would be supervised.

The next morning the subjects would be asked if they were suffering a hangover and asked to rate their symptoms on a scale of 0 to 56 along the Acute hangover scale. The scale looks at hangover symptoms such as thirst, loss of appetite, stomach aches, headaches, and nausea to determine the hangover intensity.

A week later, after being given a chance to dry out and maybe shake off any effects of hangovers, the experiment was reversed. The beer-before-wine drinkers now started their evenings with the wine followed by the beer and vice versa for the other group.

The control group subjects who had only drunk beer previously now became wine drinkers, and the wine-quaffing group became beer drinkers.

The results were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and showed no significant difference in hangover scores of any of the three groups. No matter what order they drank their beer and wine in, there were no milder hangovers or worse hangovers in any group.

The researchers concluded:  “The truth is that drinking too much of any alcoholic drink is likely to result in a hangover.”

So it’s a complete myth as far as medical science is concerned, but a great two weeks for all those concerned!

“Beer Before Wine Makes You Feel Fine” – The Myth

close up of clinking glasses of beer
Photo by Giovanna Gomes on Unsplash

One of the more popular theories behind the popular beer before wine rhyme concerns the alcohol levels of each drink. The trusty BBC reliably informs us that, in general, beers tend to be less than a third of the alcoholic strength of wine and so to start by drinking beer will lead to lower levels of intoxication.

But if somebody starts on stronger drinks like wine or spirits they are more likely to feel the effects of the higher ABV and their judgment can be impaired which leads to more excessive drinking habits later.

Basically what is being argued is that if you drink beer in order to avoid getting so initially drunk, you will be able to savor those few glasses of wine afterward without the attendant extra feeling of drunkenness. Then you will be less likely to suffer the inevitable hangover that follows a drinking session where you drink too much.

If you start on the harder stuff, like spirits or wine you’re more likely to not care and therefore to drink more beer.

It could be likely due to the lower alcohol contents of beer, although some beers, especially Imperial IPAs often have wine-like strengths so would make very little difference to your sobriety if drunk first or last compared to drinking wine.

Wine Before Beer Makes You Feel Queer – Fact or Myth

close-up of three glasses filled with champagne and red wine against the backdrop of nature
Photo by Matthieu Joannon on Unsplash

A more likely reason drinking wine before the beer gets you drunk quicker and causes the worst hangovers is the CO2 or carbonation levels found in beer rather than the amounts of alcohol.

Although you may be drunker when you start on higher percent ABV drinks and have less control over your beer drinking, it’s thought the carbonation in beer forces more alcohol into your body at quicker rates.

This could also apply to the “no liquor before beer rule”. An increase in pressure on your stomach lining from the CO2 bubbles in beer could be absorbing more of the alcohol of both the wine you drank earlier and the beer afterward.

While many people believe fizzy drinks often get them tipsy faster (the classic example being fizzy Champagne), science has again debunked this myth in the earlier study we mentioned.

The order in which you drink your alcoholic beverages has little effect on your levels of drunkenness. You can basically drink your wine and beer in any order you prefer.

Is It Safe to Drink Beer and Wine Together?

close up of persons hands holding a goblet glass and a highball glass filled with beer
Photo by Mattias Diesel on Unsplash

Yes, totally – the key is in moderation. Suffering from persistent nasty hangovers or alcohol poisoning will land you in the hospital, so avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Keeping hydrated and making sure you always eat a well-balanced meal before a night of drinking can help prevent the hangover effects the next morning.

It may be true it’s harder to control your alcohol intake if you already feel a bit tipsy, but you can try simple things like having water on the table to alternate your drinks with and maybe even slipping in the odd non-alcoholic beer (some of them taste great nowadays – check out our guide to the best alcohol-free and non-alcoholic beers here!)(link to what is the point of non-alcoholic beer post)).

Although many people will advise you against mixing your types of drink in a single drinking session, there’s no scientific reason why it should give you any worse hangovers than sticking to the same drink all night, or why it should be more dangerous.

Normally it comes from a bad personal experience when they were younger, especially these days at college and frat parties. Although obviously, one could argue if you’re mixing your drinks you are probably drinking more and it’s the increased quantity of alcohol that’s going to result in a hangover.

Why Can Mixing Wine with Beer Give You A Worse Hangover?

female legs in pink sandals, black lingerie, an empty glass green wine bottle and a glass of water on a white carpet
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels

Although we may have just argued mixing your drinks shouldn’t lead to any worse hangovers than just sticking to the beer all night, I’m sure we’ve all had a night on the beer followed by a few glasses of wine which seemed to result in the worst hangover ever the next day.

You may not have seemed drunker, and you may not have even consumed more alcohol than usual, but the next day you just felt groggy, have an upset stomach, and maybe a splitting headache too.

It’s more likely your hangover was down to the wine rather than the fact that you mixed drinking wine with a glass of beer too.

Wines, especially red wines, are said to have high levels of congeners which are known to usually cause worse hangovers than beverages that have a lower congener content.

Congeners are a type of compound that is produced in the fermentation or distillation process when sugar is converted to alcohol alongside ethanol.

Although scientists are not exactly sure why they cause hangover effects to be worse, one theory is the body has to break down the congeners too, and competing with ethanol means alcohol and its by-products linger for a longer time in the body contributing to the hangover.

These hangover-inducing congeners can also stimulate the body to produce more stress hormones, such as norepinephrine and epinephrine which often cause inflammatory responses leading to fatigue and many of the other symptoms of a hangover.

So it’s not the mixing of beer and wine which leads to a hangover in this case, but that pesky wine. Stick to the beer all night, in moderation of course, and hopefully, you should suffer less of a hangover, if any.

Popular Ways of Mixing Wine and Beer

signboard beer wine
Photo by Hans Isaacson on Unsplash

If you are still feeling brave enough to mix your beer and wine (and why shouldn’t you, we have debunked most of the myths) then cocktails or wine-beer hybrids are a way you can enjoy both, without drinking excessively.

Wine & Beer Cocktails

Although there are not many cocktails that feature wine and beer (it is quite an odd combination, you must admit), there are a couple of better-known ones.

Perhaps the most famous beer and wine cocktail is the Black Velvet which mixes Guinness (or any similar dark stout) with champagne in equal quantities.

Originating from London, the Black Velvet is said to have been invented in 1862 after the death of Prince Albert as even the champagne should be in mourning said the locals. You could use any sparkling wine for this drink, but Champagne is the most traditionally used.

When you are feeling a bit more daring there’s another beer and wine cocktail from the UK called a Hangman’s Blood Cocktail. An upgraded Black Velvet, this uses a stout beer again with champagne but also adds port and a shot of different spirits like Gin, Vodka, or Rum.

This one probably will give you a bad hangover, especially if you drink too many of them.

Hybrid Beers

Yes, you can find beers on the craft beer scene that mix beer and wine known as hybrids. It’s nothing new though, as there is evidence of mixing beer and grapes which goes back to the Bronze Age.

It was the discovery of some bronze vats by archeologists in the early 1990s which contained residues of a drink made from barley, grapes, and honey that inspired Dogfish Head Brewery to create their very popular wine and beer hybrid Midas Touch in 1999.

Some of the more notable wine-beer hybrids include:

  • Midas Touch by Dogfish Head Brewery. A 9% ABV ale that has sweet notes on the tongue but follows with a dry crisp finish. The alcohol in this beer, despite being 9% ABV is subtle with many mistaking it for a fruity IPA style due to the flavor and aroma of the grapes.
  • Cantillon Vigneronne. A grape lambic that is produced yearly from Italian grapes (most often organic) and unmalted wheat. It’s not a particularly strong beer at only 5% ABV but it is packed with flavor. The fruiting process of this beer involves adding the grapes to a stainless steel tun that contains two to three-year-old lambic beer and leaving it to macerate for three months. The result is a beer that is sweet from the wine grapes yet still has a dry crisp finish, especially when served cold.
  • Mikkeller Riesling People. Originating from a partnership with De Proef Browerij, a Flemish Brewery, Mikkeller Reisling People is a 6.7 % ABV moderately sweet beer with notes of hops, citrus, grapes, tropical fruits, and malts. It does also feature some sour notes but nothing too unpleasant and as a bonus is relatively affordable here in the US.
  • Victoria by Allagash Brewing Co. Probably the most budget-friendly wine-beer hybrid on the market, this 7.3% ABV beer from Allagash is the perfect mixture of white wine and beer. Using chardonnay grapes, pilsner malt hops, and wine yeast it offers a medium-body beer that tastes quite sweet with a faint alcoholic taste in the background.

Mixing Beer and Wine – The Conclusions

As somebody who enjoys the occasional glass of Chardonnay nearly as much as an IPA (I only said nearly!) I was dreading the results of this look into mixing wine with beer and whether it’s responsible for inducing worse hangovers.

Fortunately, there is no scientific or medical evidence to back up many of those old sayings like “beer before wine is fine”, it’s probably just come from folks who have over-indulged in the past.

Four points we can take home and raise when next debating whether you should be drinking both wine and beer on the same night out are:

  1. You are ok to mix beer with wine drinking without any major problems as long as you do it in moderation.
  2. Beer before wine or wine before beer, the order doesn’t make any difference at all. Just drink them in the order you prefer.
  3. Congeners found in high levels in wine (especially the red variety) and other dark spirits are compounds that can intensify hangovers, which is why drinking wine with beer was thought to make hangovers worse.
  4. Beer/Wine hybrids do exist and fall into their own category which ranges in ABV from a session beer to Imperial levels as seen in our recommendations above. They are neither a beer nor a wine, but hybrids that exist by themselves. And they can be delicious too!

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