That 'Beer Before Wine, Wine Before Beer' Rhyme Is a Lie

Science says so.
09 February 2019, 1:06am
Photo: Arthur Caranta / Flickr

Do you ever think about all the time you spent at school and how you can’t retain any of the information taught to you there – how's an oxbow lake formed, then? What’s the cellular make-up of a plant stem? What's sin–cos–tan? – but you can remember most information told to you in the form of a rough sort of half rhyme? It’s bizarre, but taps into a flaw within the curriculum: I took five years of Spanish and can only say "hello", "donkey" and "turn left". But can I remember "beer before wine, you'll feel fine; wine before beer, you'll feel queer"? I can never forget it. It is carved in runes on the inside of my skull. My very heart beats to the cadence of that sentence.

Anyway: it's all lies. The rhyme lied to us. From ITV:

"Beer before wine and you'll feel fine, wine before beer and you'll feel queer," many swear by this old saying when drinking, but scientists have concluded it's a myth.

Researchers gave alcoholic drinks to 90 volunteers, aged between 19 and 40, as they sought to examine the "influence of the combination and order of beer and wine consumption on hangover intensity".

We’ll rush over the bit where the methodology is very slowly explained, but it goes pretty fucking exactly how you’d imagine an experiment like this would go: three groups of drinkers, one going wine–beer, one going beer–wine, one just drinking beer or wine, then everyone was tested the morning after on an "acute hangover scale" (which would make a pretty solid name for your WhatsApp group chat tomorrow morning, just FYI) to see how much they vomited in the bin in their bedroom and Deliveroo’d a burger to their desk the next day. The experiment was repeated again a week later so everyone could have a swing at getting wine–beer or beer–wine drunk, and all the cumulative hangover impacts tallied. Properly sounds like an excuse to get 90 people drunk under the fragile umbrella of science to me but—

The results revealed no matter what order you knock back your drinks in – if you have too much, you are still likely to be ill.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

"Using white wine and lager beer, we didn’t find any truth in the idea that drinking beer before wine gives you a milder hangover than the other way around," said author Joran Kochling from Germany’s Witten/Herdecke University.

"The truth is that drinking too much of any alcoholic drink is likely to result in a hangover."

Good, OK. Science. Here's Dr Kai Hensel, senior author and Cambridge University lad, getting philosophical, almost: "Unpleasant as hangovers are, we should remember that they do have one important benefit, at least: they are a protective warning sign that will certainly have aided humans over the ages to change their future behaviour. In other words, they can help us learn from our mistakes." Guy’s just scientifically disproved a poem and wants to tell me to learn from my hangovers like it’s a survival technique. This big flapjack and the 1.5l bottle of fizzy water on my desk suggests that is never going to happen, mate.

The news is good, I suppose – "drink with abandon, it’s going to hurt either way" seems to be the main takeaway – but also sits uncomfortably with me. A bedrock of my personality has been "wine before beer, you’ll feel queer". Coliseums of the superego have been built upon "beer before wine, you’ll feel fine". What else isn’t true? What are the lies that rhymes have told us. What information have we consumed, absorbed, remembered over all the rest, that science might whip out from underneath us?

Perhaps this is the hangover talking (for the record: pint, pint, pint, pint, thought about a bus can but thought against it, pint, bottle, queue for the bar was a bit much so additional bottle, waitress bought a bottle over and we realised table service was a thing only after a 15-minute bar queue, two more bottles, Uber, bought six bottles each to drink on the sofa but only personally managed one, went to bed without brushing my teeth, a sin on a par with manslaughter), but it feels like the ground has been pulled out from beneath me and I am sailing through the air without a parachute. I’m looking below for some sort of solidity to rise up and meet me, but all I’m seeing is air, white air, air just rushing around me, and my legs feel weightless, and beer before wine means nothing, and wine before beer, and whatever you drink and however you drink it you are basically making a fetid cocktail of it in your body, wine and beer and stomach acid, shaken and stirred with some remnants of falafel wrap and cigarette ash and the smell of a car air freshener and ice, and no, no, I can’t take this, not today; science is everything and god is meaningless; the rhymes mean nothing anymore, no more amens, only acute hangover scales and hard, black-and-white facts. The numbers do not lie. The vomit in your bin is only chemistry. Close your eyes and welcome the abyss. You know nothing. You are nothing.


This article originally appeared on VICE UK.