Beer Hangover Study

Happy National Beer Day to all the foam lovers! Whether you’re going to crack open a can of ice-cold beer today or not, a hangover might get you sooner or later. We all know such a hateful feeling of a heavy head in the morning after a holiday. EduBirdie thought, why spend so much effort to endure and fight a hangover when you can prepare in advance and just buy the right product? Some of you know we were looking for Hangover testers earlier to test which beer brands cause the most intense hangover, and now is the time to get the results..

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Setup and Sample Range

During one month, we were selecting and hiring beer enthusiasts in the United States and Canada who were destined to become our professional hangover testers. Each hired person was provided with a full set necessary to test the selected brands of beer for themselves and up to 3 of their chosen friends, including drinks, snacks, and water for proper hydration both during the test and the next morning. Every participant tested from 2 to 4 brands of beer during 3.5 weeks.

Each test included 3 stages of research on the effect of a hangover from a certain beer brand:

  • Medical indicators
  • Specifically tailored test productivity test
  • Participants’ personal judgment

Each stage is described in detail in the Results and Methodology section.

At first, we wanted to limit the candidates for the research with the age group of 21-40, but receiving a huge amount of applications and comments from the older generation, we decided not to impose any age restrictions in case of good physical fitness.

As a result, 37 people with their friends conducted a total of 126 tests (at least 6 tests for each of the 15 beer brands according to methodology + 9 additional ones were required to avoid conflicting results). The study involved selected testers and volunteers from among friends. We are especially grateful to the people who tried to bring different friends to the follow-up tests for increasing the possible sample range. In the end, we tested the effect of a hangover from different brands of beer on 211 people.

Brands Tested

Picking the right selection for the test was one of the most challenging parts. We wanted our sample to be as wide as possible without sticking to one company or brand group. We tried not to pick more than 2 products of the same brand but still keep it among the most beloved beers in Canada and the US. At the end of the day, it brought us to the following set:

  1. Bud light
  2. Corona Extra
  3. Coors light
  4. Heineken
  5. Budweiser
  6. Guinness Draught
  7. Guinness Original
  8. Samuel Adams Boston Lager
  9. Modelo Especial
  10. Yuengling Lager
  11. Pabst Blue Ribbon
  12. Blue Moon/Belgian Moon Belgian White
  13. Stella Artois
  14. Miller Lite
  15. Natural Light

Safety

Hangover test is not considered a clinical trial but was still carried out in accordance with the ethical principles for medical research involving human subjects. Written informed consent was obtained from each participant. 

Healthcare professionals checked testers’ good physical fitness, determined the maximum safe amount of alcohol for each one, and were stationed nearby to assist during the test if necessary.

To minimize the risks, exclusion/eligibility criteria for the participants were determined (annex 1).

No unforeseen accidents occurred throughout the study.

Results and Methodology

Productivity Test

Every tester and friend volunteer was asked to take a performance test we developed before any actual beer and 12 hours after each drinking session. The test included 10 general logical reasoning questions, 10 visual and audio questions to measure the ability to perceive information, and 10 practical questions aimed to test the ability to search and process information. The last step was to solve a simple puzzle box.

Each participant took the test separately. We compared the time taken to pass the test and the number of correct answers. Then we compared the difference between the original results and the hangover ones to calculate the productivity change taking into account the possible observational error.

Beer Hangover Productivity Decrease

On average, a beer hangover in the morning reduced participants' performance by 24.6%, increasing the test time by 11 minutes compared to original 36 minutes and the number of incorrect answers by an average of 13.1%.

The biggest challenge for aftermorning performance was a Budweiser hangover (36.2% productivity decrease). A particular problem testers faced were audio and visual questions, where the number of correct answers decreased by an average of 4.1 or 42.2%.

Blue Moon or Belgian Moon showed remarkable results. Despite the fact that the overall final hangover index at the end of the study for Belgian White is far lowest (1st place on dry mouth and 2nd on fatigue level), the differences in performance results were the smallest for its testers (13.2%). The testers themselves commented on the situation saying that the beer left a flying-empty-head feeling and some body weakness, but did not prevent them from focusing on work when they had to. At least in the short term. It is worth noting that Belgian White is the only beer from our selection, which is considered to be witbier. It contains wheat in larger amounts and orange peel which may have caused the differences of its hangover.

Dark beers represented by Guinness Draught and Guinness Original scored second best place, decreasing the performance rate by 18 and 19.2% respectively. As the rest of the sample is light/pale lager beer, it lead us to a possible conclusion that lager beer hangover might be more impactful on person’s productivity without being more intense feelingwise.

Testers’ Scores

The main part of the test was the assessment of their hangover condition by the testers themselves. We wanted to make this research as human as possible because, and this part was key to us.

Each tester was asked to assess their condition on a scale of 1 to 10 according to the following main criteria:

  • Dizziness Level
  • Head-cracking Intensity
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Dry Mouth
  • Extra Light Sensitivity

After the participant passed all their tests, they were given the opportunity to adjust their scores based on hangover experiences from the new tests. Based on this data, we have derived the main Hangover Severity Index. It has become a key indicator of hangover intensity, which takes into account all of the above criteria.

Planning the research and calculating the individual ratings the testers gave to each of the products based on their own feelings, we ran into a problem. Since none of the candidates have tasted the hangover of all 15 products, how can you say that their assessment is accurate regarding the brands they have not tried? To deal with it and provide accurate results, we developed a double-elimination-like system with dynamic evaluation of an integral series of the sample studied within each test to weight every criteria according to the current group and the beer brand (check more details on the math behind the study in annex 2.) In simple terms, by crossing and choosing which brands people test, we created a sort of tournament bracket with beer brands or their groups being the teams. The only thing is, we did 3 tournaments at once to make sure the intermediate results were accurate and to build the right ranking for the least hangoverful beers as well.

beer Testers Scores

The beers that brought the biggest hangover based on our testers reactions were Budweiser with the Hangover Severity Index of 19,2 and Coors Light with 18,3. Budweiser got one of the highest scores according to most of the criteria and the top highest fatigue and sickness score and dizziness level. As for Coors, it was among the top with the most criteria and earned the third worst score in the Head-cracking Intensity.

The least hangover-impactful beers we discovered are Samuel Adams Boston Lager (14,2) and Miller Lite (13,9). It doesn’t mean you won’t get hungover with them but it would be way easier to survive though the day. 

The rest of the results are in the table below.

Brand

Dizziness Level

Head-cracking Intensity

Fatigue and weakness

Dry Mouth

Extra Light Sensitivity

Hangover Severity Index

Budweiser

8,8

9,4

9

8,4

8

19,2

Coors light

8,2

8,9

7,1

8,4

7,5

18,3

Pabst Blue Ribbon

8,5

9,5

7,2

7,1

7,6

18,2

Guinness Original

8,1

6,8

8,8

7,5

7,6

17,6

Bud light

7

8,5

7,5

7,1

6,9

17,1

Blue Moon/Belgian Moon

7,2

5,5

8,9

9,1

5,2

16,8

Guinness Draught

6,9

6,6

6,2

7,4

6,8

16,4

Heineken

7,1

6

6,7

7

6,9

16,1

Yuengling Lager

6,4

6,7

7,3

7,1

6,1

16

Stella Artois

8,1

7,2

5,1

6

6,5

15,5

Modelo Especial

6,5

6,2

6

6,6

7,5

15,3

Corona Extra

6,7

5,9

6,2

6,4

5,8

15,1

Natural Light

6,3

6,6

5,4

7,5

6

14,9

Samuel Adams Boston Lager

6,1

6

5,1

7,1

6,1

14,2

Miller Lite

6

6

5,3

6,9

5,9

13,9

We all have the parts of hangover we like the least. Some can deal with dry mouth but cannot stand the light sensitivity. Others can work around headaches but cannot get up because of the body weakness. Based on these results one can choose the beer scores to prioritize and try the perfect beer for a hard party.

“Winners” in other nominations:

Head-cracking Intensity - Pabst Blue Ribbon

Dry Mouth - Blue Moon/Belgian Moon

Extra Light Sensitivity - Pabst Blue Ribbon and Guinness Original

Medical Indicators

We wanted to base our research not only on tester’s personal assessments and productivity, but also on objective medical data. In addition to the safety medical examination, we took a number of indicators to compare them before and after the test with different brands. These indicators include:

  • Heart rate
  • Blood pressure
  • Breathing rate

To minimize the individual characteristics of the body and derive a universal score, we weighed this part’s averages depending on how many brands a person tested. The better we got to know a person and their body, the greater was the weight of their results on the overall assessment. So, the medical indicators of people who tested only one brand could not be taken into account because they could simply be a certain person’s specific reaction to alcohol or beer in particular. In the case of multiple tests, these anomalies and deviations could be traced.

Heart and Breathing Rate Impact

Blood pressure numbers were mostly independent of the hangover state in 12 hours, when the second test was taken. We considered them irrelevant and decided not to include them in the final results and the report. It is known that alcohol intake increases blood pressure but most of it is relevant at the time of alcohol intoxication itself. When the body starts recovering from the hangover consequences, blood pressure level usually evens out or might even decrease.

The heart rate indicators turned out to be quite close. On average, a hangover increased our testers' heart rate by 18.8% or 15-25 beats per minute.

We should not name the winner or call it the safest beer for your heart, because we did not measure the long-term effect on the body. At the same time, in terms of the current-morning ability to function, an increased heart rate can interfere with performing any work, especially physical activity.

Therefore, the beers influencing the heart rate the least were Natural Light (av. heart rate increase by 16,2%), Samuel Adams Boston Lager (17%), and Corona Extra (17,1%). We have not identified any recipe or ingredient reason for this.

Beers that had a higher impact were Guinness Brands (21,1% for Draught and 20,9% for Original), Yuengling Lager (21,1%), and Pabst Blue Ribbon (20,9%). 

Regarding the breathing rate, in many cases we could see the connection with the heart rate, but the leading positions were taken by different brands. Miller Lite, Stella Artois, Coors light hangovers caused the least breathing rate increase with 11,3%, 12%, and 12,1% respectively. On the opposite side, we had Heineken (18,2%) and Guinness Original (18,9%).

Coors light ended in the unexplainable position with being among the most impactful among the heart rate and among the best ones with the breathing rate increase.

Drawing conclusions on the medical part, it’s hard to determine certain favorites but there are surely brands to check out taking other hangover test parts into account.

Annexes

[1] (back to “Safety”)

Determined exclusion criteria for our testers were: aversion to beer or beer products, a history of drug or alcohol abuse, complete alcohol abstinence or intolerance, acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, evidence of liver dysfunction, or history of any of the following: alcoholic liver disease, viral hepatitis, hepatocellular carcinoma, chronic pain, epilepsy, Wernicke encephalopathy, thiamine deficiency, Korsakov syndrome, gastritis, bariatric surgery, immunosuppression, or recent history of infection.

Additional non-eligibility criteria were current pregnancy or breastfeeding, depression or anxiety, frequent use of pain medications, the use of medications known to interact with serum alcohol (antibiotics, opioids, nitrates, antidepressant etc.)

To minimize the risk of spreading COVID 19, each selected tester was tested for virus or provided a document confirming getting over the disease within the last six months or a document confirming the fact of a recent vaccination.

[2] (back to “Testers’ Scores”)

Our participants tested the beer brands in rounds using the double-elimination-like method. We created three brackets with all the 15 brands in each one. Each bracket was divided into higher and lower sub-bracket. Each test round was to determine the winners of the current stage using the system described below. The winners of the higher sub-braked moved to the next stage while the losers were dropped down to the lower sub-bracket with a chance of still getting the most severe hangover index. (read more about double elimination tournaments). Three main brackets were used to prevent the controversial results and rate not only the top 4 but all the 15 brands. Additional tests are additional stages in the specific stage if the results from three brackets were mixed.

To build a correct comparison at each stage, where all the hangover 5 criteria would have the same weight, we used a dynamic evaluation of an integral series to calculate an intermediate rating. This rating was used to determine the winners of the certain rounds in the system described above.

The algorithm for the comparative rating assessment of the state of the beer brand on the intermediate stage can be represented as a sequence of the following actions:

  1. The initial data presented in the form of a matrix Hij, i.e. tables, where the numbers of criteria are written in rows (i = 1,2,3, 4, 5), and in columns - number of the beer tested in the current round (j = 2,3, or 4)
  2. For each i, the maximum value is found and used to form a new column of the top-model beer for the current test group (b).
  3. The initial indicators of the matrix are standardized accordingly based on the top-model beer column: xij=hij/bij
    Where hij is a current average reversed score of the group for j beer brand.
    We use reversed scores just for the beauty of numbers so that the higher index would mean more severe hangover in the end
    xij is standardized score for j brand.
  4. Hj = √(( 1 - x 1j )2 + ( 1 - x 2j )2 ... - ( 1 - x 5j )2
    H is the intermediate hangover severity index for j brand in the current round.

Brands with the higher intermediate hangover index in the current round proceed to the next one.

All the final hangover severity indexes we used in the results are multiplied by ten (10) to create a greater impression.

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