Beer is Fermented—Does That Mean It Contains Probiotics?

Explore the age-old question—does beer contain probiotics? Dive into the intricacies of brewing, fermentation, and the potential impact on your gut health.

a woman standing in front of a body of water
By Julia Reedy
Lucia Gcingca
Edited by Lucia Gcingca

Published March 6, 2024.

A group of people sitting around a table with pizza and beer - Does Beer Contain Probiotics?

We know that many fermented foods contain live health-supporting probiotics—but does that include beer?

Unfortunately, most types of beer lose their live cultures during the brewing process. But recently, experts have suggested that specific, strong beers contain beneficial probiotic yeast. Here's what makes them special and how other beers plan to follow suit.

Overview of probiotics in beer

  • Most types of beer don't have probiotics: Only traditional Belgian beers like Hoegaarden, Westmalle Tripel, and Echt Kriekenbier contain active cultures of live probiotic yeast.
  • You can still reap health benefits from other beers: bock, abbey, ale, and wheat have some of the highest antioxidant power.
  • Researchers have developed products like kombucha beers: They retain live cultures in their bottles and have a fruity, sour flavor.

» Have you been working out? Learn how booze affects your fitness goals

A glass jar filled with pills and labeled benefits of probiotics - Beer is Fermented—So Does That Mean It Contains Probiotics?

» Check out the latest science on the benefits of probiotics

A balanced microbiome supports wellness probiotics can help

A proper microbiome balance has many well-documented health benefits. This includes:

» Prebiotic vs. probiotic? Find out which is better for your gut health goals

What promotes a healthy microbiome?

Studies show that adequate sleep, stress maintenance, and regular exercise are related.[1, 2, 3] But the most-studied method for improving the microbiome is via the foods we eat and supplements we take.

When live microorganisms are introduced to everyday foods, they can drastically alter their nutritional makeup for the better—and in some cases, these microorganisms stay in foods or beverages up through the moment we consume them.

What we mean by 'probiotics'

Probiotics are strains of microbes that are able to withstand the turmoil of the stomach and small intestine, allowing them to settle in the large intestine and combat unhealthy colonies.

Foods that contain probiotics

Some foods contain these live probiotics and are thus fermented. Fermented foods include:

  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Yogurt
  • Kombucha

But you came here to learn about a very specific beverage...

» Discover things that can happen when you stop drinking alcohol for a month

So—are there probiotics in beer?

But interestingly, experts on the topic suggest that certain types of beer have broken this barrier. More specifically, traditional Belgian beers like Hoegaarden, Westmalle Tripel, and Echt Kriekenbier contain active cultures of live probiotic yeast.

The secret? Though most beers are only fermented once (in the barrel), these brews go through a second fermentation in the bottles themselves. This extra step ensures live cultures are still present when you pop the cap, allowing you to reap the probiotic benefits.

The verdict—does beer have probiotics?

For the most part, beer unfortunately does not contain live active cultures of probiotics. Though grains and hops are indeed fermented to create our beloved brews, the acids that leech from the hops ultimately kill off any living cultures before the bottle reaches the shelf. 

A diagram of a beer brewing scheme- Does beer have probiotics?

Reaping health benefits from other beers: Polyphenols and antioxidants

In general, the concentration of polyphenols varies widely across beer types. One study found that bock (a strong German lager) had the greatest antioxidant power, followed by abbey, ale, wheat, pilsner, and lager. [5] Alcohol-free beers had the lowest antioxidant power, likely because ethanol (the alcohol in beer) aids in the absorption of phenolic compounds. [5, 6]

This combination of ethanol and antioxidants is powerful—and likely contributes to the established association between moderate alcohol consumption and reduced mortality. Antioxidants help to combat the oxidation of compounds like LDL (bad) cholesterol, while ethanol plays a role in platelet function, HDL (good) cholesterol metabolism, and the breakdown of blood clots—all of which support cardiovascular health.[6] 

What is considered moderate alcohol consumption?

Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 for men. Excessive alcohol intake can be detrimental to your health, so prioritize moderation.

» Are you drinking too much? See how alcohol consumption can affect your health

Beer's phenolic power

When it comes to alcoholic antioxidants, red wine seems to get all the glory. But beer should share in the revelry—many beers have a high content of polyphenols (a general class of antioxidants).

Thanks to the large quantities of hops used in the brewing process, it also contains xanthohumol, a phenolic compound that's displayed chemopreventative effects in cancer cells in in vitro studies. [4]

The emerging landscape of probiotic beers

"Kombucha beers" are also busting on the scene. In San Francisco, one kombucha company has created four flavors of a high-alcohol kombucha—and at 5-10% ABV, it's legally considered a beer. Plus, unlike most brews, the final bottle contains multiple strains of live active probiotics.

Did you know?

Probiotic foods and beverages are surging in popularity. Though the probiotic beer market is still in its infancy, it's safe to assume more will soon hit the shelves. 

A scientific approach to probiotics in beer

In 2017, researchers from the University of Singapore designed a novel method of retaining live cultures throughout brewing. [7]

The end product, which has a flavor profile similar to a sour beer, retains active Lactobacillus paracasei L26—a human probiotic strain the researchers report can help neutralize toxins and pathogens and support the immune system. Industry partners like Singaporean start-up 'Proficient' picked up these techniques and recently launched the world's first probiotic beer!

» Uncover how to optimize your microbiome with InsideTracker's gut health goal

Leveraging personalized data to optimize gut health

Enhance your gut health by making informed dietary decisions with the help of InsideTracker. By analyzing your blood, DNA, and fitness data, InsideTracker provides personalized insights and actionable steps to elevate your overall well-being.

*It's important to note that InsideTracker doesn't offer medical treatments or diagnoses. If you have any health concerns, it's advisable to seek guidance from a qualified physician.