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I recently picked up a Mr. Beer DIY Northwest Pale Ale Beer Brewing Kit, and when I told my Mom I was brewing some homemade beer. She said she wouldn't drink it because it might be poison. Is there any why to explain to my mom that my beer would be quite safe to drink?

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    Welcome to the site, DWMII. I hope you get some good answers to your question. – Ken Graham Apr 28 '17 at 11:58
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I think the first step in attempting to change a belief of another person is always to understand why they hold that view. That can even help with determining how likely you are to be successful. For example, if her concern is that you may be actively trying to poison her, you're probably not very likely to change her mind. But if instead her concern is just that you may screw up something and produce a contaminated and therefore unsafe drink, that may be easier to handle. But you would use a different argument than if her concern was that you obtained the ingredients from an untrusted source.

To address the latter two options, the simplest way may just be too brew your beer, drink in on several occasions, and then have your continued health be the evidence that it's not poisonous. This has the added benefit of checking it first to make sure it tastes reasonably good (poisonous or not if it doesn't come out well you may want to wait till next time to have her try it).

Attacking it from a more logical perspective, there are a few other arguments you can make:

  • Beer was, for quite some time, a product that was made more because it was safe to drink than because it was tasty. Not being able to trust their water sources, brewing beer was a way to make a drink that was not only less likely to make your sick but also an important source of nutrition.
  • From the research I've done, I couldn't find any instance of someone becoming dangerously sick from homebrew. Maybe the occasional upset stomach or bathroom problems but as long as you're being reasonable about cleaning and sanitizing the equipment an infected batch is almost certainly just a matter of it tasting bad, not a matter of your health.
  • A big part of the reason for the above points is that the alcohol produced during fermentation should be enough to inhibit the growth of any dangerous microorganisms. That should hold true for even extremely low ABV beers (<1%).

Unless you're using dirty, hand-me-down equipment and either aren't cleaning it or aren't properly sanitizing it, you shouldn't​ be able to end up with anything dangerous*. Even then you're more likely to just end up with something you don't like. Long story short, if it tastes and smells good, you'll be fine.

* One caveat here: bottle grenades are a serious issue and can be dangerous. Make sure you clean and sanitize your bottles well and don't bottle until your beer has reached its final gravity. That said, this is more of a physical safety issue than something that makes the beer unsafe to drink.

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    Thank you for your intricate and detailed answer. This has given me the most insight of all the answers as to, not only what I need to be doing in order to follow a safe brewing process, but how I can brew better beer and why I should brew better beer. I love the history you gave and your advice and manner is top-notch! – DWMII Apr 28 '17 at 19:18
  • This really is the best answer. People don't need to have their minds changed. Sometimes, you'll find that changing someone's mind leads to them having a resentment for you for convincing them to break with their beliefs. I have a friend that won't drink because four of their close friends were killed by drunk drivers. They might like it; but, is more of a way to remember them. – BryceH May 1 '17 at 18:25
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To the other answers I would add: point out that you're working from a kit. Like prepared kits for bread-machine bread, stir-fry sauces, and spice mixes, your beer kit is designed to minimize variables and avoid beginner mistakes. If you follow the instructions in the kit, you can't screw it up -- and if you did, the worst outcome would be that you don't like the taste. (Assuming your equipment is clean.)

Your mother, not being a brewer, probably has no idea what's involved. If you explain the kit concept by comparing it to kits she's already familiar with, you should be able to persuade her that your kit is safe.

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Perhaps your mom is thinking that home brewing is like home canning, where a mistake can have disastrous results like growing botulism toxin. A little research into that problem shows that one of the common precautions in home canning is to add citrus juice or vinegar to the mixture of food being processed, and that it isn't required for tomato-based recipes such as stewed tomatoes or pasta sauce. Why does this help? Because there are no known pathogens that can live in acidic solutions, and citrus, vinegar and tomatoes all have relatively low pH.

And this is why home brewing is a safe pastime: wort is naturally too acidic to support pathogen growth. Any microorganisms that grow in wort are safe to consume. Most of them will affect the flavor of the beer, and that is why we do our best to control them, but none of them can harm you.

  • She also might have the idea that making beer is like making bathtub gin and all the horror stories that are associated with that. I experienced that misconception when I first started brewing ("Is that even legal?"). – Dave Sep 21 '18 at 17:27
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Does she bake? If she does, and especially if she bakes bread, then ask her how you know her baked goods aren't poison. Beer has been known as liquid bread for many centuries for good reason; it contains essentially the same ingredients (with a bit of hop for taste so you may have to term it herb bread). If she doesn't agree that home-baked bread could be poison as much as homemade beer could be then she is being irrational. That leads me to the second idea. Does she trust commercial beers not to be poison? Why? They are made in a chemical factory. This is a chemical factory holding tonnes of potentially lethal chemicals (particularly the chemicals used to clean the vessels but also if you have a bag of barley fall on you it is lethal(!)). Large commercial breweries (Heineken etc. rather than, say, Sambrook's) are even worse as they inject all kinds of chemicals into the natural product to keep it from spoiling and to add fizz.

The only reason why she should be worried is if she doesn't trust you and, in the end, if your mother doesn't trust you to make food or drink no one can solve that.

  • While I definitely get where you're coming from and think that your second point (about commercial breweries and the chemicals used) I'm a bit hesitant about the initial point about bread. With bread you apply heat post-fermentation. Any microorganisms in the dough should be killed during this process and at the end you're left with a product that is pretty definitively just food. With beer, especially homebrew, heat is applied prior to fermentation. Especially for bottle-conditioned beer, there is live yeast (and possibly other microorganisms) that you are ingesting along with the beer. – thesquaregroot Apr 28 '17 at 14:11
  • Experience tells us that ingesting these microorganisms is safe, of course, but that's not necessarily obvious or to be taken for granted. Especially when you consider that many breweries filter out the yeast before packaging, a step that is generally impractical on a homebrew scale but may add an additional sense of comfort for some consumers. – thesquaregroot Apr 28 '17 at 14:13
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    I see your point, I come from an "alcohol kills everything nasty" culture so hadn't thought of that. I'd mention the bread thing though for non organically produced poisons. It can't hurt to mention that the ingredients are non-harmful! – MD-Tech Apr 28 '17 at 15:14
  • I see your point there. Thank you, MD-Tech. It's a trust issue. – DWMII Apr 28 '17 at 19:13

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