Yeast Power

I don’t drink a lot, so I’m going to pass this along as a public service for people who do drink a lot. Plus, I’m fascinated by the main idea that’s in the Esquire magazine article, “How to drink all night without getting drunk.”

Of course the idea this idea isn’t for everybody. For some, the whole point of drinking is all about getting drunk. I haven’t tried out the idea in the article yet, but I will. And you might want to as well when you need to drink but don’t want to get drunk.

The article’s author spends time with Jim Koch, the chairman of the Boston Beer Company, sampling beers and talking about beer culture and the author claims (I’ve done some abbreviating):

I’d long noticed Jim was always lucid, always able to hold court, and hold his own with those much younger, and was doing likewise with me at 4 PM on a Thursday afternoon despite the fact we were both now several beers deep. So what was the secret?

“Active yeast. Like you get at the grocery store.”

Koch told me that for years he has swallowed your standard Fleischmann’s dry yeast before he drinks, stirring the white powdery substance in with some yogurt to make it more palatable. “One teaspoon per beer, right before you start drinking. And it’ll mitigate – not eliminate – but mitigate the effects of alcohol!” Koch told me. 

He’d learned the trick from the late-Joseph Owades. With a PhD in biochemistry and an early job in the fermentation department at Fleischmann’s, Owades probably knew more about fermentation and alcohol metabolism than perhaps any man who’s ever lived. He became good friends with Koch, helped perfect Boston Lager, and passed on to Koch his little yeast secret.

It turns out that active dry yeast has an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenases (ADH). Roughly put, ADH breaks alcohol molecules down into their constituent parts of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, the same thing that happens when your liver metabolizes alcohol. Owades realized if you also have that enzyme in your stomach when the alcohol first hits it, the ADH will begin breaking it down before it gets into your bloodstream.

Go forth and experiment.