Beer Consumption and Alcohol-free Beverages

                                                                                    by Dr. Bode,

Published in LETTERS on BREWING – Journal of Hantke’s Brewing School (1903)

The rapid spreading of the cholera which invested Hamburg in 1892 could only be attributed to the water of the Elbe, which, used for potable purposes by the inhabitants, was the carrier and spreader of the germs.  An epidemic also occurred at time in the Eastern part of the monarchy and here also in the Vater of the Weichsel and that of the tributaries of the Oder much be considered the source of the contagion.

It might be in place, in view of the immediate danger from the East and the numerous cases of typhoid at Berlin at present, to discuss what position the alcoholic beverages take, in particular beer and wine, as substitutes for the, in many districts, hygienically unfit drinking water.  It is furthermore of importance to determine whether the so-called alcohol-free drinks, as lemonades, seltzers, tec., well known by extensive advertisement, should be considered as being free from objection in cases of such epidemics.

Supplementing the epidemic as Hamburg, a number of articles were published which dealt on the transmission of infectious germs by foods and luxuries.  Of these publications that issued by the Imperial Health Commission (Zentralblatt fuer Bakteriologie 1892, page 755) became of fundamental importance.

All of these researches agree in that the cholera and typhoid organisms can live in beer and wine for a short time only that these beverages act in a germ destroying manner.  The life period of the cholera-germs inoculated into beer was three hours, those inoculated into weissbeer ceased to exist after two hours, while those inoculated in wine lived a still shorter time.  According to Piek’s experiments (Archiv fuer Hygiene 1893, page 51 – 65) beer destroyed virulent cholera vibrios after five, and at longest ten minutes, typhoid bacilli were destroyed in a shorter period.

It was believed at that time that the acidity of these beverages was apparently responsible for the germ destroying action, which however, was not in accordance with the experiments made by the Imperial Health Commission with fruits containing a higher acidity than normally contained in the beer.  Grape juice and wort of the same degree of acidity as the tested beers and wines have a far less germicidal action than fermented beverages.  Only fruits having a high acidity of about 2% approached beer and wines in their action and in all other instances a prolonged action of the sour fruit juices for several days finally destroys the germs.

But the knowledge of the processes of fermentation has advance considerably since the epidemic at Hamburg.  We have learned that fermentation by yeast is not only a production of alcohol, carbonic acid gas and a few other less conspicuous substances, but that the grape juice and the beer wort suffer a complete physiological change.  The yeast cells are no incidental producers of the before mentioned substances.  After having once obtained a firm foothold in the fermentable liquid, they arrange affairs comfortable for themselves and prepare themselves to combat foreign intruders.  No sooner fermentation sets in the grape juice or wort, than protecting substances are secreted, thus assuring monopoly of the nutritious liquid.  To these substances belong those already mentioned, the higher alcohols, aldehydes, small quantities of volatile and non-volatile acids, acid ethers and derivatives of albumin.

Opposing foreign micro-organism these substances produced by their enzymes combating enzymes – constitute single or as a total, a very active preventative, destroying the intruders without injuring the yeast itself.

It is evident that with the production of these substances a deep seated change occurs in the chemical composition of the wort or the grape juice.  Such substances as easily assimilated by the yeast to give rise to bodies which serve for the building up of the cell, or serve to stimulate life activity of the cell.  After these bodies, which give rise to the most favorable nutritive condition, are then assimilated by the cell, there remains only a small residue, difficult attackable by micro-organisms which serves to produce the most unfavorable condition for development.

There are consequently two reasons according to which the finished fermented beverage must be considered as difficult to assimilate for micro-organisms.  The lack of suitable nutritive excluded at the outset a further development; the presence of protecting substance produces simultaneously a checking and destroying, which occurs the faster the more protecting substances are produced in the beverage.

By fermenting, the beer or the wine has therefore attained certain properties which are entirely wanting in the malt extract or in the grape juice.  Without the addition of the yeast, without its activity the grape juice or wort would be subject to natural changes, to souring and even to decomposition.  The fermentation made them sound and durable for weeks, months and years, provided we observe that these acquired properties will not be lost.

Laymen and sometimes even physicians say that beers containing a small quantity of alcohol and which are oftentimes turbid as the Berlin weissbeer, should be avoided during such epidemics.  The above mentioned work of the Imperial Health Commission showed a direct opposition to such views.  The inoculation of cholera germs in weissbeer results in much quicker destruction than with other beers.  The reason is presumably that the combined action of yeast and lactic acid bacteria.

Opposition may say that the stomach is not a test tube and whatever may be true with the laboratory tests, does not necessarily have value for the human body.  Now as there is no opportunity for the cholera and typhoid organisms to develop in beer, the opportunity for development is lessened in the stomach when the germ destroying juices of the stomach and the beer come into play, but to be sure with a moderate use of the beverage, that is a quantity of beer which is adapted for the individual person.  The requisitions made by physicians especially during epidemics for moderation in eating and drinking must also be upheld in regard to beer.  The brewers of Hamburg, as well known, have not lost a single employee during the epidemic and still everyone drank his usual quantity of beer, or we may say he remained well because he drank that quantity as it has become habitual with him.

A healthy body, a suitable nutrition, and occasionally a glass of beer or wine according to the requirements of comfort, offer an invaluable guarantee against contagion.

The abstinent movement has favored us with a number of productions which maintain just the opposite of that said about wine and beer.  We have but recently offered to our readers a glance into the shop of a manufacture of alcohol-free beverages.  A syrup is made from sugar, water, tartaric acid and fruit essence, then it is diluted with hydrant water and charged as required.  Let us assume that the water used for dilution is infected with the disease germ; the germs will not find substances produced by fermentation obnoxious to them, but instead the most suitable saccharine media for development.  The small quantity of tartaric acid amounting to less than 0.2% is without influence, for the experiments of the Imperial Health Commission showed that fruits containing double the quantity of acid first influenced the cholera organism after several days and here in addition to this the harmful action of the concentrated saccharine solution and other characteristic substances as tannic acid and the like also come into play.

The Peace Sanatory Report of 1884/85 mentions a typhoid epidemic in the garrison at Mainz which was traced to the use of infected artificial carbonated water.  The bacteriological tests showed the presence of the germ in the water.

When the government cautions against the use of fresh fruit, where could this be better applicable than with the use of lemonades?  Who will overlook the small lemonade establishments, who will attempt to subject even a small portion of the manufactured sodas to a tolerable reliable control and finally who believes that the continual use of the sugar solutions with their additions to be healthful?

Guided by their blind fanaticism and opposed to everything fermented on containing alcohol, utterly unscrupulous for the advances in science and technics, the abstinent has sowed a seed which might reap the most evil harvest during an epidemic.  May a fortunate destiny protect the community in times of epidemics from learning the doubtful value of such products.

However we can expect that our municipal authorities will direct their attention to these kinds of beverages, for their method of manufacture and their chemical composition do not offer the slightest guarantee that they are healthful and free from injury, and even a single establishment using infected water, be it only for cleansing purposes, may give rise to appalling calamities.

Ztg. f. d. g. B.

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