homebrew beer probiotics

Does Homebrew Beer Have Probiotics? 

Have you wondered if you can convince your friends that you’re doing your gut a favor by homebrewing beer with probiotics? Although you have torturous memories of terrible stomach aches from college after a night out with beer, you may be surprised to find out the answer.

Depending on the method of brewing, beer can have probiotics when infused correctly. The following are methods of culturing and homebrewing:

  • Homebrews with commercial Lactobacillus 
  • Homebrew with ginger bugs
  • Homebrew with yogurt
  • Homebrew with grains
  • Homebrew with kefir
  • Homebrew with sauerkraut

Although it depends on the method or type of beer you will like to homebrew, there is good news! Homebrewing gives you the option to put more probiotics in your food and your beer with your creativity.

More scientists are curious, and so are beer-lovers.


Does Homebrew Beer Have Probiotics?

The simple answer is yes!

Homebrewed beer can have probiotics.

It all depends on your brew.

The following are some examples of homebrewers using bacteria to make probiotic beer.


Sour Your Brew with Commercial Lactobacillus

You can make sour brews that use probiotics such as this recipe for a strawberry brew with good probiotics.


It uses honey malt and Belgian malt to blend with the strawberry flavors.

Once you’ve done the initial filtration, it is vital to kill the harmful bacteria during the boiling process.

After the second boil, the temperature is dropped only to 100° F / 37° C, which is the critical temperature for your probiotics to thrive in.

Lactobacillus will give you a great sour flavor while being able to incorporate healthy probiotics, such as ones available on the market from Goodbelly Probiotics in your beer.

During fermentation, probiotics such as Lactobacillus, will bring out the flavors and acidity for the beer.

After fermentation, this brewer uses NorthernBrewer Willamette Hop Pellets to complement the acidic brew.

These probiotic bacteria will help with the gut bacteria but further ferment the beer and help bring out the sour flavor.

It’s definitely a great option to try out!


Other Probiotic Beers

This brew is a banana raisins (low-alcoholic) beer that uses no sugar while keeping the probiotics.

This video shows a method of using ginger bug.

TazPantry produces a small batch using just a few bananas, raisins, and some ginger bug.

In this drink, the bacteria simply feed on the banana and raisins during the first round of fermentation then stored for the second round of fermentation.

Ginger bug is a wild yeast found on ginger. It simply ferments on the sugar of the banana then produces alcohol and carbon dioxide as byproducts.


Alternative Homebrews Using Wild Yeast Brewing

The following list is from sources of homebrewers that have used common sources of “wild bacteria” to make their batches of homebrewed wild yeast beers.

Many brewers found success using the following for brewing wild yeast:

  • Yogurt Souring
  • Grains
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut


Yogurt Souring

Yogurt souring requires souring the wort with unpasteurized yogurt.

The unpasteurized yogurt, such as a standard tub of Greek yogurt, provides Lactobacillus acidophilus.

These generate 3.0-3.5 pH sour wort in 24 hours (that’s acidic!) and with it, roughly a 1-liter batch of wort.

To use yogurt souring in your homebrew, follow these steps:

  1. In this batch of wort, you will add 2-4 teaspoons of yogurt and maintain the batch in 100 to 110° F (37 to 43° C) temperature for 24 hours.
  2. After the 24 hours, when the wort reaches the low pH levels of roughly 3.0, boil the wort.
  3. Add hops as you may want to and the yeast nutrient.
  4. Cool the wort down to Saccharoymyces pitching temperatures (66 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit) to wrap up.

Certain brands of yogurt that you can use are listed below: 

  • Fage yogurt
  • Greek Gods
  • Nancy’s yogurt
  • Seven stars yogurt
  • Sigi’s Skyr yogurt


Lactobacillus from Grains

Lactobacillus starters from grains can often have microbial populations that you may not want.

If the starter has a weird aroma, this can be simply dumped, and a new malt source can be used.

Remember that microbial populations will most likely vary batch to batch and it doesn’t mean you’ll have a bad batch each time.

Follow these steps to make a wort starter: 

  1. Make a standard starter wort in a 2L flask.
  2. Add ½ tsp of 88% lactic acid.
  3. Add 2 cups of uncrushed malt and add carbonated water to the remainder of the flask.
  4. Cap with an airlock.
  5. Keep warm at roughly 100° F (37° C).
  6. After 2-3 days, strain the grains.
  7. Add the starter to the wort.
  8. Store in the fridge if it will not be used right away.

Note: Do not consume the grain starter until it is past two days of souring, and the microbes have all died from primary fermentation. Wort soured from grain can contain salmonella. 


Kefir Lactobacillus

Commercial kefir will commonly include Lactobacillus spp.

This following recipe is from Pietro Caira from Milk the Funk for a 5 gallon batch of beer:

  1. Warm kefir to room temperature.
  2. Shake the kefir in the bottle.
  3. Add to a 1-liter unhopped starter of about 1.040 SG DME wort.
  4. Incubate in 100° F (37° C) for 24 hours.
  5. Add the entire starter to the wort.

Note: Kefir is a cultured and fermented beverage that tastes a lot like yogurt! It has a tart and creamy flavor, and it’s known for its probiotic benefits. Kefir is made from starter grains with a combination of yeasts, milk proteins, and bacteria.


Lactobacillus from Sauerkraut

Culturing Lactobacillus from Sauerkraut is like culturing it from kefir.

Remember that it is best done when the sauerkraut is 7 to 14 days old.

The following steps will yield a 5-gallon batch:

  1. Use 100mL of old brine at room temperature (at least older than 14 days).
  2. Add the brine to a 1-liter starter of about 1.040 DME wort.
  3. Incubate in temperature of about 90° F (32° C).
  4. Wait for the starter to clear. This may take several days, but this is a sign of the starter being finished.
  5. Add the entire starter to the wort.


What Are Probiotics?


Probiotics are bacteria that survive in the gut, and in many instances, they are good for you and your digestive system.

These bacteria are essentially the “good” guys fighting the bad ones in your digestive system.

Probiotic bacteria are often used to balance gut bacteria better and are often taken after taking antibiotics. More or less, it is excellent for overall digestion and shown to help with some symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

These days, they are in plenty of advertisements ranging from yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, and possibly, to many arguments, beer.

Out of the types of probiotics, there are two main groups:

  • Lactobacillus is the most commonly known probiotics that you find in yogurt and fermented foods. These days, it is welcomed into the brewing world and used with pleasure behind sour beers.
  • Bifidobacterium is commonly found in dairy products and helps some symptoms of Irritable Bowel syndrome, according to WebMD.

The probiotic commonly found in beer is not a bacterium. It is a single-celled yeast called Saccharomyces boulardii.

Although most probiotics are bacteria, this strain of yeast is an effective probiotic.

The main benefit of probiotics comes from live probiotics that can fight against and kill the harmful bacteria in the gut.

Unfortunately, the acidic hops in beer tend to prevent the growth and even kill many strains of these probiotics.


Brewer’s Yeast

A brewer’s yeast is considered a probiotic and is therefore used as an aid to digestion.

A brewer’s yeast is a by-product of brewed beer, and thus, collected during the process of brewing. 

This yeast is made from Saccharomyces (yeast) species and is a good source of protein and B-complex vitamins.

You can also enhance and adjust the brewer’s yeast’s mineral content by adjusting the number of minerals added during the yeast’s growth.

For example, adding chromium increases the chromium content of the brewer’s yeast.

For these benefits, brewer’s yeast has been used as a supplement of B-vitamins and minerals such as chromium and selenium. They are comparable to the nutrients of nutritional yeast and seen as beneficial for digestive problems and even eczema.

Brewer’s yeast is often seen as a medicinal supplement.

However, you must remember that it has both pros and cons.

Some people may have adverse side effects with brewer’s yeast, such as gas and migraines.


Alternative Bacteria Sources for Brewers: Wild Yeast Beer

As probiotic beer has increased in popularity, many brewers have been exploring different methods to incorporate probiotics into their brew.

Additionally, instead of purchasing Lactobacillus from labs, many are looking through their resources to find yeast from the outside environment.

In ancient lambic brewing techniques (of Belgian beers), the wort, which was the sweet extraction from the grain mash, was left open in an open vat. Eventually the bacteria and yeast from the brewer’s ceilings and air seeded the wort.

Then, the brewers would ferment the beer for years in barrels for softening the bitterness and bringing out the aromatic compounds of rose, vanilla, and even caramelization.

From the history of yeast and bacteria addition, wild yeast is a collection of different strains of yeast from the environment within or around a brewery in nature.

This could mean the surrounding room to your brewer’s beard. Although it isn’t easy to accomplish at home, many brewers are using this “wild yeast” from yogurt or simply environments in or around their brewery.

Lactobacillus are available in various forms included unpasteurized products and general probiotics. With this comes meticulous attention to which strains are extracted, maintained, and so forth. This requires attention to properly have repeatability beer with some control.

Without this, it will be hard to have the same brew each time and not have a spoiled beer. To keep products pure, brewing industries use agar plates to isolate colonies and strains.

If you want to watch more discussion of beer and the brewer’s modern gold rush for Lactobacillus, check this video out. Don’t forget to grab your glass of beer to join the conversation.


Science Behind Probiotics and Beer

As this curiosity for sour beer and probiotic beer has started, many scientists are chiming in to contribute more knowledge about strains of appropriate bacteria and yeasts to use.

Some just start with curiosities of the bacteria’s tolerance to beer and are finding more unique flavors and tricks for the future brewing world.


How Many Times do You Ferment Your Beer?

Some scientists argue that some beers are healthy (in moderate consumption) because of the yeast they contain.

The health factor is heavily correlated to how many times you ferment the beer during the process.

Beer is fermented using yeast or Saccharomycetes.

Unless filtered, the beer will contain yeast.

Most commercial beers, except for wheat beers, are filtered and contain no yeast or probiotics.

As for homebrew beer, you have that flexibility and to add your own probiotics, as mentioned previously.

In commercial beers, you will find digestion-friendly beers such as dark Belgian beers.

Professor Eric Claassen of Amsterdam University, a scientist and entrepreneur, studies probiotics. At an event held by Yakult! (Japanese probiotic drink company) explained that strong Belgian beers (examples given, Westmalle Tripel, Hoegaarden, and Echt Kriekenbier) are beers rich in gut-friendly bacteria.

Photo credits: Adam Barhan sous Creative Commons 2.0

How are these specific beers probiotic-rich and considered healthy while the other types of beers didn’t make it on the list?

These beers are fermented twice.

The second fermentation process was mainly for bringing the unique flavor out (drier and more robust flavors), but the second fermentation also breaks down more of the sugars while producing acids. This acid is known to kill bacteria that cause human illnesses.


Understanding Secondary Fermenters

If you want to try brewing at home with secondary fermenters, you must learn about them.

In general, you will need to minimize the headspace in the secondary fermenter so you can control the amount of fermenter exposed to the oxygen, which could negatively affect the overall process.

You will want to follow these procedures leading to a second fermenting step:

  1. Allow the primary fermentation stage to cease and slow down. This will generally take up to 6 days. You will see this when the pitching is complete, and the bubbling lessens to approximately 1 to 5 bubbles per minute.
  2. Use a sanitized siphon to rack the beer into a new fermenter.

If you stay in this secondary fermenter for a long time, the addition of fresh yeast may be necessary to keep good carbonation. 


Infusing Beer with Probiotics

Thankfully, an undergraduate student at the National University of Singapore, Chan Mei Zhi Alcine, had the wonderful curiosity to create a sour beer with probiotics. According to a scientific patent being filed by the probiotic-enthusiast, there are methods to purposely infuse a beer with the optimum count of live probiotics.

It took her nine months in the NUS lab to come up with this method. In this study, they’ve incorporated the Lactobacillus paracasei (L26), common to the human intestine, into the beer brewing process.

In her method, a lactic acid bacterium is introduced as the probiotic micro-organism. This probiotic uses the sugars in the wort to produce the sour taste of the lactic acid, which creates the sharp and tart flavors of the sour beer. This is different from where beer usually gets its sharp taste.

In her experiment, the Lactobacillus paracasei was assessed conjointly with the Saccharomyces cerevisiae (yeast) in an unhopped wort. Then, before storing the beer at room temperature and a cold temperature (5 Degrees Celsius), they added the hop extract.

During the co-fermentation, L. paracasei maintained high cell counts. During the storage with the added (isomerized) hop extracts, both the L. paracasei and S. cervisiae were present, which showed good conditions for both probiotics.

Overall, this beer contains 1 billion probiotic colony-forming units per serving and has 3.5% alcohol content. So, raise a glass to Miss Chan Mei Zhi Alcine, then watch her quick interview on the topic of keeping the gut bacteria alive for our beer past the attack from the hops.


More Curious Researchers

In a study by a biotechnology team at the University of Chemistry and Technology, a new niche of beer that can be an innovative offer for beer brewers has been discovered.

The team studied the characteristics of probiotic yeast: Saccharomyces boulardii, specifically, in the presence of Alcohol-Free Beers (AFBs).

They studied the way it characterizes a beer and its flavor, and the suitable method to inactivate the probiotic yeast.

In overview:

  • The highest specific growth rate of the probiotic yeast was in glucose (0.44 ± 0.03 1/h) at 30°C.
  • The growth rate was lower by 34% with maltose. Furthermore, the growth rate was lower by 89% with maltotriose.
  • For ethanol (5% v/v) and iso-alpha-bitter acids, the specific growth rate decreased by 20 and 23%, respectively.

More on this paper here at ScienceDirect.

As a homebrewer, you also have the option to make alcohol-free beers (AFBs), which can be a healthy alternative to other selections of beer. 


Conclusion: Health and Beer

Keep in mind that this does not mean that your beer is “medicine” and that you should chug all the beer you make in one sitting (perhaps, that is up to your decision).

But great news! Even though beer is normally harmful to the gut, if it is consumed at moderate levels and fermented with healthy levels of probiotic yeast, it can be helpful for your gut health. And as they say, a happy gut reflects a happy person.

According to the NHS and WebMD, probiotics are a great source to help with bloating and other common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

Be cautious making your own wild yeast beer and always do your thorough research to properly consume your beer after all harmful bacteria is gone.

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