Though anaphylaxis is rare (alcohol accounts for only a small percentage of the United States' 150 annual food-related anaphylaxis fatalities), allergic reactions to wine and beer are relatively common. The causes of these reactions range from sulfites to sturgeon swim bladders. A single bottle of beer, for example, can contain more than 10 allergens, including preservatives, histamines, animal products, pesticides, wheat, yeast and corn. Why are these allergens added and what symptoms do they cause?
In the early 1990s, Melody Swan, a graphic designer, was enjoying a New Mexican dream of a life. She lived on a ranch, ran her own successful business and was the proud mother of a teenage son. Then a normal event in the life of women her age—menopause—left her laid up on a friend’s couch. The change of life brought with it such a severe case of fibromyalgia that Swan could no longer run her ranch or her business. She sold one, shuttered the other and sent her son to live with friends.
Gluten-sensitive people used to stick to hard ciders as the next best thing to beer. These days, however, new options abound. Many smaller breweries now produce gluten-free beers. Giants like Anheuser-Busch are also joining the fray. Brewer Kristin Zantop says the company’s Redbridge is a sorghum beer without added wheat or barley.