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Why would my beer cause headaches?

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billd75

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I figure the best place to ask this is here, cause I always get awesome answers on this site, from you helpful folks. I have a weird problem, that I don't even know if it's a beer problem, but I suspect it is.

I brewed a Cooper's "Preacher's Hefe Wheat" kit, that I added some dried sweet Orange peel to that I got from the local brew supply place. I added this to a batch which included a pound of Munton's DME to, like I always do and a pound of inverted sugar to, like I always do. Nothing out of the ordinary except the orange peel. It was added right at the beginning of the fermentation.

I took most of it out with a metal strainer when bottling, cause it was getting caught in my spigot in my bucket fermenter. Everything was sterilized, even the strainer. The beer has no off flavours, so I don't suspect any contamination, although it is possible, cause I believe I stuck a non sterilized knife right into the beer to try and pick out orange peel from the entry of the spigot in the bucket. When I realized that was not helping, I stopped and went at the clog from the other end, on the outside with a toothpick. That helped and got the beer flowing again for bottling.

A couple of little pieces of Orange peel made it into some bottles when bottling, but not much, cause I got most of it out with the strainer. Most bottles had virtually nothing in the way of leftover Orange peel chunks. My problem is this, after I drink two of these beer I start getting a headache, every time. If I drink a third beer or even half of a third beer, I get a splitting headache and have to break out the Advil. With each beer, the headache progresses and by not even three, I have to stop. What could be causing this? Did I create a contaminated monster that just didn't come through as an off flavour contamination? Is contamination possible, without getting off flavours? Is this beer somehow toxic now? I know that when brewing shine, you cannot drink the first 50ml of it when distilling, cause it's a powerful solvent (acetaldehyde) which can cause all kinds of issues, like making a person go blind.

It is worth noting that one beer is fine, no headache, but as I progress I develop a headache everytime and I am not drunk. I have even tried hydrating in between thinking that was a problem (dehydration causes headaches), but still to no avail. This headache starts on the right side of my head and progresses from back to front and then causes pain right over my right eye, by the third beer and a the splitting headache. When was the Orange peel supposed to be added also? At the beginning, or later in the fermentation, like halfway through, like with dry hopping? Could it be the peel that is the problem? I am at a total loss here, cause this has never happened to me before. It's also worth noting that I don't use a secondary. I brew for 13-14 days in the primary and bottle. My spigot is mounted above where the yeast cake typically gathers and I never bottle the last little bit near the trub. That stuff tastes awful.

I also try not to jostle the fermenter too much as I am moving it for bottling, cause i don't want to mix trub with good beer. I've done pretty good so far with this method and brewed some good tasting beers. I end with a bit of sediment in every bottle, but I never drink ends of bottles anyway. I dump the last half inch (bottom) of every bottle cause it's not very tasty. Too yeasty I find. I also drink from the bottle till the last half inch. which is mixing a bit of sediment from turning the bottle for sips.

Anyone have any ideas as to why this might be happening or what could have happened? Am I putting myself at great risk by drinking this stuff, even if I only drink one per night, for the rest of the batch? It's an o.k. beer and I don't want to waste it if I don't have to. If it were truly awful/undrinkable, I would dump it, no question, but it tastes alright. Not my best beer, but not my worst either. I am trying to be very detailed in my explanation, in the hopes that someone will see something I did and it will "click" something in their head and give me an answer to what possibly is happening here. Has anyone experienced this problem before?

I have brewed about 12 kits now, never contaminated a batch, never had a failed batch or off flavours or anything and even this turned out o.k., except for this weird headache thing. I've experimented with adding partial mashes, fruits, Maple Syrup etc. and never screwed up anything. Made less than desirable batch with sliced and pitted Cherries once, but that was about my worst beer and was still drinkable, just tot pleasant, like others. I am quite well versed in Chemistry and human Physiology, so if someone has a possible chemical explanation for what is happening, no worries, I can keep up. Lol. Don't be afraid to get technical. Thank's for any insights you all might have! :confused:
 

V-Fib

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It is an odd problem. The thing that comes to mind for me is that the brew may have fermented to warm. Did you measure temperature when you pitched the yeast or during fermentation?
 

BlkWater_brewer

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I have sometimes gotten headaches from sweet high ABV beers or occasionally barley wines. How long is it before the headache starts. I just PO'd an admin so I may be short for this site, but I doubt it is any contamination or that the orange peel has anything to do with it. Is it very sweet? You could also try it out on a test subject to make sure it's not just you. Maybe a sort of friend, I was originally being a smartass but it seems like a logical step.
 

Nosybear

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Mentioned above, fermenting too warm can lead to formation of fusel alcohols, known to cause headaches. High ABV beers are more likely to cause the problem because there's simply more fermentables, more alcohol formed and more byproducts like fusels. And also as above, if you can find a guinea pig, testing to see if others get headaches would at least tell you there was something wrong with the beer, although the ethics of such an approach are questionable....
 

AZCoolerBrewer

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I agree with the above poster. Fermentation that well above what the yeast is rated for will make fusal alcohols in your beer that will give you headaches. I got some comercial beer once that after 1 beer gave me a massive headache. Most beer, especially if you aren't used to drinking and if you drink enough will give you a headache, but fusals will knock your block off sooner rather then later.
 

JordanKnudson

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Yup, as mentioned, sounds like fusels. Nasty stuff, produces quite a mean headache. These are generally produced when the fermentation temperature (and/or pitching temp) is not properly controlled.

Sounds like you are able to have one without issue, so maybe just limit your intake as you suggested.

Btw, you seemed pretty sure that it had something to do with your orange peel (understandably, since that was your only overt variable), but that is almost certainly unrelated.
 

AntonioMartins

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Hi Bill

I will try give a contribution, but be aware that the language can be a barrier, mostly for the name of chemicals compounds. :)

Alcohol (ethanol) is the main byproduct of yeast fermentation.
However, it is not the only one formed, and it is possible to produce isoamyl alcohol, propanol, isobutanol, butanol, etc. during fermentation.

These alcohols are present in the fermentation in a certain level, but if you have a proper fermentation, the concentrations will be kept below the perception limit.

When you have an improper fermentation, you may have the formation of higher alcohols.

And the problem is that your taste buds are generally more sensitive to these alcohols than ethanol.

So when they are present even in small amounts, they can highlight off flavors that will result in taste of alcohol, some people feel like solvent or acetone, warm feeling and even headaches. Higher alcohols are way more aggressive to our body than ethanol.

During fermentation, there are basically two main problems that homebrewers have that will result in higher alcohols:

High fermentation temperature;
Low pitch rate (insufficient yeast).

Probably the temperature was not your problem, once i assume you are keeping the same process as you did on your previous batches.

I will bet on the yeast. May be the yeast on the kit was too old, or was improperly stored and most of the cells were dead already, when you use it.

Well, it's just a guest.

Cheers.

:mug:
 

ScrewyBrewer

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Fusel alcohol levels when high enough are accompanied by a solvent, nail polish like off flavor. I would say share a few bottles with friends, without mentioning the headache part, and see what they have to say about your beer.

I've brewed gallons of ~5% ABV Belgian Witbier using lots of dry orange peel and fresh orange zest and never had the issue you described. As others had said of course. Keep your fermentation temperature in range and use a good pitch of healthy yeast.
 

SoCal-Doug

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Ive wondered the same thing for years. Of all the beers I've made and purchased, I've never had any problems except (1) Heineken will give me a splitting headache and (2) Corona will instantly cause indigestion. I find it odd that nothing else has had any similar effects on me.
 
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Fusels. I made a batch of an Arrogant Bastard clone once that tasted great, but was undrinkable. One glass resulted in the 'hangover from hell' the next day. I had to dump it. Like everyone said, get your temperatures under control and you won't have this problem.
 

BalloonGuy

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Will fusels eventually dissipate? I brew in a freezer with temp control. I keep it at 62 (air temp). I mostly use sa05. I think that is the low range of temp for it. I have had a few beers that sound like the op.
Thanks,
 

SoCal-Doug

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As far as fusels... What about those Saison's and other breeds that are fermented at 85 or higher? I've also had heffy's done at 80 to 82 and not had a problem. Think it's just the specific yeasts?
 

madscientist451

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If the OP ever comes back: What yeast did you use? What was the OG and FG? What was your fermentation temperature?
 

Lefou

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I agree with the above poster. Fermentation that well above what the yeast is rated for will make fusal alcohols in your beer that will give you headaches. I got some comercial beer once that after 1 beer gave me a massive headache. Most beer, especially if you aren't used to drinking and if you drink enough will give you a headache, but fusals will knock your block off sooner rather then later.
Beechwood aged beers come to mind. It never failed, every time I drank one it gave me headaches. More often than not, the commercial brews would do that, especially on an empty stomach. Not one of my session home brews has ever done this, though.
 

Nosybear

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Nope. You're stuck with them. If they're too high,
dump the beer.
Will fusels eventually dissipate? I brew in a freezer with temp control. I keep it at 62 (air temp). I mostly use sa05. I think that is the low range of temp for it. I have had a few beers that sound like the op.
Thanks,
 

Nosybear

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Different yeast. Saison yeast is said to have originally been a red wine yeast and they are quite comfortable with high temperatures and alcohol levels.
Hefeweizen that high, cue the Banana Boat song... Again, different strain of yeast.
As far as fusels... What about those Saison's and other breeds that are fermented at 85 or higher? I've also had heffy's done at 80 to 82 and not had a problem. Think it's just the specific yeasts?
 

SoCal-Doug

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Different yeast. Saison yeast is said to have originally been a red wine yeast and they are quite comfortable with high temperatures and alcohol levels.
Hefeweizen that high, cue the Banana Boat song... Again, different strain of yeast.
I love learning something new! That would definitely explain the flavors in saison yeast compared to others.

And... Cueing it up... Because there was definitely some nana happening

Daaaaaaaaaaaaay-o
Daaa...aaa...aaaaaaay-o
Come mister tally-mon, tally me banana...
Daylight come and me wanna go home
 
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billd75

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Well, thank's all! That explains a lot actually and the notion tends to be unanimous. Although the yeast was pitched a proper temp. within it's range, it did get warm during fermentation, yup. We went though an unusual (for Canada) hot spell, during the end of August and into September, when this was fermenting and conditioning in bottles. I live in an upstairs apartment, with no basement and no air conditioning. It's been an unusually warm beginning of fall and is only starting to cool down now that October is here. I've brewed at these temps before, but those were also different beers. Now I get why people brew lower ABV's in hot weather. Less potential for these problems.

The conditions add up to what you are all saying. Fusel Alcohols and other types of alcohols and fermentation byproducts. That has to be it. I didn't think it was the Orange Peel either, cause it didn't make much sense, but I mentioned it, as someone said, cause it was the only foreign variable different from other batches, so I only thought of it as a mere "possibility", but not likely the cause. Temperature makes more sense and so did sugar and alcohol content. I also think that the particular type of brew had an effect.

Like Lefou mentioned Beechwood aged beers and having the same effect on an empty stomach. That was another thing that clicked, yup. I suspected that, but kind of dismissed it, cause it didn't happen on other brews. Now I understand that coupled with certain brews this can happen more readily. Interesting. Yup, guilty as charged, lol. I did that quite a few times with this beer and just tried it on a really full stomach and no headache. A hint of one, but that's after over three beers and not nearly as present in headache potential as on a less full stomach and less beers too. I could not even get to two or three before a splitting headache kicked in, but on an emptier stomach. This beer also was sweet to start and even at the end of fermentation still retained some of that. The hydrometer said it was done though and there was enough of an alcohol taste for being bottle ready. Still was a bit afraid of bottling that sweet and creating possible bottle bombs, due to incomplete fermentation, but I've been there before and it didn't happen. It didn't happen this time either, so it was truly ready for bottling, as the hydrometer had indicated. It is very carbonated though, so the potential for bottle bombs was there.

The final hydrometer reading was about 1012 I believe and hadn't moved for 3 days. Started out much higher (don't remember what) and it was not going lower than 1012. This beer was sweet with a higher ABV, for sure. So there's a contributing factor a few people mentioned that makes sense too. Surprised me actually. I think between everybodies theories, we've surely nailed down the whole issue. It's a combination of things really. Thank's again folks! You have all quite amply answered my question. Very thoroughly I might add. Great effort and I knew someone would nail it. Much to my surprise though, you all nailed it in slightly different ways and I learned a lot from everyone who commented. Gave you all likes, because you all helped. I have whole, clear picture of what possibly happened and it all fits, really.

When I move into a new place, it will be with a basement or cellar or someplace where temperature is more controlled and fermentation will take place there, as it does with many people. Like wine brewers too. My best control right now is with bottling, as I can control temp somewhat, by storing my bottles in an empty cooler. It can control constant temps better. Unfortunately my bucket fermentor is subject to my apartment temps. I guess it makes the case for these temp controlled fermentors I see advertised here sometimes, with the blanket kind of thing around them huh? Where you can control temps warmer or colder. I get it now. The best part of all of this help? I didn't actually contaminate the beer and it's drinkable! Yay! Cheers. I was just concerned that I had made something possibly toxic to my health and not wise to drink.

Seems like it's more of "bump in the road" type of thing and not a terribly messed up batch. That's good to hear. Learning something new every time. Cool.
 
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billd75

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Another update and I thought this was worth mentioning. When it's been in the fridge for a few days, it has far less headache potential, for sure. I put some in early yesterday and drank a couple after going fishing the next evening. They were well chilled and I drank them on a full stomach this time and by 2 beers I had a splitting headache, again. This was the case before too, now that I think of it. If it had been in the fridge for 3 or more days, it had far less headache potential, but if it had been in there 1-2 days, it was headache material. So there is another variable worth considering with these headaches. I feel the yeast was not being "completely" shut down, from multiple days in the fridge and adds to this headache potential, somehow. Does this make sense? I bet it does to some people and they are saying "Why are you drinking it after only a day or two in the fridge?". Lol. Inexperience, lack of planning and eagerness, that's why. Hahaha!

I figured it was o.k., because I did it before, many times with other brews and no headache and the beer was fine. Now I get why there is a general rule though, for longer fridge conditioning. It sure makes the case for it. I will now always go with the recommended 4-6 days or longer fridge conditioning thing. It's also less "gassy" when conditioned in the fridge longer. I am learning more all the time and you experienced brewers are a big help.
 

brewcat

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Will fusels eventually dissipate? I brew in a freezer with temp control. I keep it at 62 (air temp). I mostly use sa05. I think that is the low range of temp for it. I have had a few beers that sound like the op.
Thanks,
Tape the probe to your fermenter. Painters tape works awesome. I also cover the probe with a couple hot pads so only the beer temp is being registered.
 

Simps

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Different yeast give off different byproducts. I have a friend that uses specific strains when he brews because he is sensitive to headaches. You could have done everything right, try a few different strains and see if it goes away. (aim for clean neutral strains from white labs)
 
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billd75

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Different yeast give off different byproducts. I have a friend that uses specific strains when he brews because he is sensitive to headaches. You could have done everything right, try a few different strains and see if it goes away. (aim for clean neutral strains from white labs)
Now there is something I was wondering actually, so it's good you mentioned that. Thank you! So, as I suspected, there may be nothing wrong with the beer, per say (which there doesn't seem to be, taste wise or belly wise), but it could be the strain of yeast? I did notice that this Cooper's kit had a different looking yeast packet than others and a finer looking yeast possibly, from typical Cooper's ale yeast. It usually comes in a gold shiny packet and this came in a white packet with Thomas Cooper's face on it. It is possibly a different series of brews from regular Cooper's.

This one was called "Preacher's" and seem to be from another of Cooper's lines, with a slightly different label background too. I believe this might also include the 86 days Pilsner and a couple of others. As if they are kind of special editions or "premier" ones. I have been more sensitive to certain wines before which caused headaches, but were good wines nevertheless and not homebrews, but store bought. It would make sense. So, it can have to do with certain yeasts? Good to know! :mug:
 

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