Chemistry of beer

Me, holding a beer carrier

The end of the week is near: beer is waiting for us.

Beer is a fermented beverage composed by four ingredients only:

  1. water
  2. barley malt
  3. hop
  4. yeast

Barley is mashed into malt and then water is added. At this point starch is degraded by enzymes. The addition of hops gives bitter notes to the beer and finally yeast, which is the responsible for the fermentation process.

The bitterness of beer is due mostly to two molecules present in the hop, humulone and lupulone.

Some types of beer, IPA, for example, have a strong fruity flavor. This could be given by isoamyl acetate (banana flavor), ethyl hexanoate (apple flavor) and phenethyl alcohol (honey flavor).

As you know from my previous articles, I always try to give a scientific excuse for drinking (in a moderate way, please).

Today I want to talk about the analgesic effect of alcohol. Thompson and collaborators from Greenwich University discovered that two pints of beer enhance the pain threshold and therefore reduce the intensity of perceived pain. That perhaps can explain the abuse of alcohol of people with persistent pain.


De Keukelerie, “Fundamentals of beer and hop chemistry”, (1999),

Thompson et al., “Analgesic Effects of Alcohol: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Controlled Experimental Studies in Healthy Participants”, (2017),

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