Beer Farts; fact, fiction, or just funny

2 November 2012 by , 1 Comment

Depending on the day, and depending on what I’ve eaten, I have at least a dozen excuses for why I fart so damn much. I also have another dozen excuses for why those tiny expulsions are wretched enough to kill either one large elephant or the entire population of a small petting zoo (visiting children and parents included).

It starts with a low giggle on my side of the couch, followed by a worried look on my wife’s face. Cue a mostly-sincere apology that I’m trying to bury in a now full laugh, and my wife is sprinting across the living room. “It was the half-rack of ribs, chili, tofu rueben, veggies and hummus . . .” whatever I had just eaten an hour earlier. The last thing I would see is poor Jenny waving a pillow as she stumbled into the hallway, somehow – miraculously – still conscious and still in love with me.

An honest look at my diet would really only prove one constant. Beer. Homebrewed, locally brewed, or bottled in some wonderful far off city; the gang’s all here. This led me to the inevitable Google search, “Are beer farts real?” Turns out, no one really knows, or at least they can’t agree on anything.
Some folks posit that beer farts are produced when complex sugars left in a beer for body and sweetness are broken down by the micrflora in our guts. This process produces a mixture of gases that don’t appreciate their surroundings and are always on the lookout for an exit. This isn’t dissimilar to the fermentation process, where brewers yeast produces carbon dioxide (and alcohol) when it consumes fermentable sugars. Trap CO2 from a fermenting beer and you end up with natural carbonation. Hold in a fart, however, and you end up with a shart.

Still others insist that saccharomyces cerevisiae, the brewers yeast itself, is the culprit. Unfiltered and unpasteurized beers (Real Ale anyone?) contain trace amounts of live yeast. Sometimes, as is the case with the mighty hefeweizen, there is enough yeast left in the glass to cloud the beer. Live yeast, they say, continues its activities inside your stomach, producing more claustrophobic gas that always finds a way out. Can brewers yeast survive a drastic temperature increase and a gut-full of acid? I dunno, but that doesn’t stop some people from theorizing.

Brewers yeast has become a popular nutritional supplement (not to be confused with nutritional yeast, which is a deactivated sample) and all of the purveyors of this miracle medicine warn of flatulence as a possible side effect. Still, the fact that people are selling brewers yeast as a supplement speaks volumes to the health advantages of Real Ale. If you’re gonna fart anyway, why choke down the yeast by itself when you could just drink a few beers.

In truth, everything we eat and drink has a part to play on our fart stage. Flatulence is primarily nitrogen and carbon dioxide, so any carbonated beverage will lend itself to the cheek slapping fun. As far as food goes, I don’t need to tell any of you that secondhand broccoli isn’t fun. Most websites I look at (and believe me, this was one of the most extensive fart searches Google has ever seen) recommended reducing or eliminating all carbonated beverages from my diet and cooking all my veggies before eating. Water and steamed veggies on a summer day? Nope. Try unfiltered English Mild and a ploughman’s lunch of cheese, honey and raw veg.

But I’ll tell you what I will do. I’ll grow the hell up, walk to the bathroom to fart, and try to stymie my laughter before I apologize. Road trips are another story, though, especially when I’m driving through Ohio, land of Skyline Chili. Oh, God, my poor wife.