Pathogen vs. contaminant (hist-brewing: toxicbrau)

Nick Sasso njs at
Fri Oct 22 13:15:57 PDT 1999

Several of the posts on this subject have made a left turn in discussing pathogen survival in beer and wine.  This message I chose to respond to is just a clearly stated one with good information to go with it.

No known pathogen can survive in beer or wine.

There are lots of things that can get into beer and wine to make it go off or live in it, but they are not pathogenic.  Acetobacter, lactobacillus, wild yeasts:  all can infect beer and none are pathogens.  The pathogens die in the beer making process, while chemical wastes and toxins produced by the organism may cause problems.  Yeast can cause allergy reactions in people, as can the wheat and barley.  None of these are pathogens.

 Of course your alcohol can go off _after_ you crack it open...

Some toxins produced can make it through the brewing process,
historically I have read that ergot contaminated grain was made into
hallucinogenic beer, so I guess it depends on what you call a toxin.
However, some of the contaminants growing on grain today can create
gushing, but not much more.  Several craft brewers I know have done a
sour mash attempting to grow lactic and I have not heard of any lethal
or sickening effects, (or gushing) but I have tasted some miserable

I think you need to discriminate between bacteriostatic and
bacteriocidal.  The boiling process pretty much kills everything,
proper pitching makes the beer anerobic so aerobes are frustrated.
The pH change tends to discourage anerobes.  Some can grow but are not
toxic beyond the two I mentioned earlier (note that the "acid ferment"
in lambic preceeds the yeast ferment).  Finished beer in general can
be considered somewhat bacteriostatic but not really bacteriocidal.

There is evidence from small brewery analysis that yeast will tolerate
the growth of some contaminant organizms, but somehow prevents their
growth beyond a certain level, I find this very interesting.

trimming the rest of the post :)


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