Can You Get a Buzz From Caffeinated Beer?

Caffeinated Beer Has a Kick

Molson Kick caffeinated beer
Molson Kick.

If you've ever watched "The Drew Carey Show," you may be familiar with their brand of caffeinated and coffee-flavored beer, aptly called Buzz Beer. For a period of time, brewers and drink manufacturers launched beers that had added caffeine. When those products began to face warnings from the FDA and legislation in some states, many of these faded away. Meanwhile, craft brewers continue to experiment with adding coffee to their brews, resulting in some amount of caffeine in the drink.

Coffee Beers

Craft brewers add coffee to beer in at least three different ways. Brewed coffee can be added directly to the beer after the primary or secondary fermentation, although this is not common as it adds too much acrid roasted flavor. Coffee beans (whole or ground) can be added to the beer after primary fermentation. Or, cold-brewed coffee or coffee extract can be added to the beer.

These methods all add some caffeine to the beer. Examples on each end of the caffeine spectrum include Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout, which has the equivalent of a shot of espresso in each 22-ounce bottle, and Pipeline Porter from Kona Brewing Company with only a tiny amount of caffeine that would require you to drink more than a case to get the effect of a cup of coffee.

Brewers must be sensitive to state and national laws when making coffee-containing beer. If you are sensitive to caffeine, you should probably research your coffee-flavored beer with the brewer before consuming it.

Beers With Added Caffeine From Guarana

Several beer brands added caffeine from guarana as part of the caffeinated alcohol fad that swiftly faced the wrath of regulators.

  • Labatt Shok: (No longer produced) This caffeinated beer was a potent brew. Not only did it have 60 mg of caffeine, it also had a high alcohol content of 6.9 percent in a smaller 250 mL bottle. There were so-called "berry aromas" added as well, making for an unusual flavor that you might not expect in a beer.
  • Molson Kick: (No longer produced) This lager had 55mg of caffeine added, but tasted like a regular lager. It had a modest 5 percent alcohol.
  • Anheuser-Busch BE or Bud Extra: (No longer produced) This brand name was read "B to the E", where the E stands for Extra. It was a sweet/tart and berry-flavored brew, with not only guarana for caffeine but also ginseng. A can netted you 54mg of caffeine and 6.6 percent alcohol content.
  • Moonshot: (No longer produced) Found in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Georgia, it was a smooth beer with no unusual tastes. However, they ceased production due to bans on caffeinated alcoholic beverages.
  • Sparks - Not really a beer, but a malt-based caffeinated beverage with guarana, alcohol, and ginseng.

    Concerns Over Caffeinated Alcoholic Drinks and Bans

    The FDA warned producers about adding caffeine to alcoholic beverages in November 2009 with letters to 30 manufacturers. These warned that there were no food additive regulations that permitted adding caffeine to alcoholic beverages. This warning came on the heels of complaints from the attorneys general of 18 states about alcoholic energy drinks. Several states went on to ban beer to which caffeine was added, but in general allowing production of beer that is brewed with natural sources of caffeine such as coffee beans, coffee, or tea.

    Experts and regulators worried over the health impact of these types of drinks. Some fear these products lead people to think they will stay more alert on account of the caffeine, which can lead to excessive consumption or even increased instances of drinking and driving.

    As a result, far fewer beverages with added caffeine are seen as production and marketing was halted in many cases. Seven manufacturers were required to reformulate their drinks in 2010 or face a ban.