When I drink alcohol, I wake up like a dried sponge the next day. It doesn't matter whether I drink a liter of tequila or two glasses of wine on a terrace: I wake up with horrible headache. I've tried everything—abstinence excluded—but nothing helps.
That's why I was delighted to hear that brewery De Prael in Amsterdam recently added anti-hangover beer to its the menu. Could this be my solution?
I enter the brewery on a Tuesday afternoon at half past five, and Pepijn Calis, one of the brewers at De Prael, hands me my first hangover-free beer. "We have no scientific research on the effects," says Calis. "So I cannot guarantee that you won't have a hangover tomorrow."
Calis explains why the beer was developed: "We received a request from a TV program to create a hangover-free beer, because the Spanish beer brand Er Boqueron claimed to have brew one. But that beer didn't work. The only thing Er Boqueron did was adding seawater to their beer, so we had to be more creative. Our beer was critically acclaimed. We got media attention and guests asked for the beer. Some claim to have less of a hangover, but it can also be a placebo effect.
"Together with a brewer who worked as a pharmacist in the past, we added various ingredients to the beer," Calis continues. "We added ginger to combat nausea, salt to retain water so you don't get a headache, vitamin B12 because it's often given to alcoholics (your body is depleted of vitamin B12 if you drink alcohol), and willow bark." I take a sip. Normally I don't like ginger, but you can hardly taste it in this beer. It really just tastes like beer with a salty aftertaste. The smell is a bit medicinal, but the taste isn't. Added vitamins in your beer are always nice, but willow bark? "Yes, that is the precursor of acetaminophen," Calis explains. "Of course we don't want to encourage anyone to drink a stupidly high amount of this beer, but it's nice that you can perhaps temper the hangover by using these ingredients."
I decide I'll just go for it, and drink my second hangover-free beer. With only 5 percent alcohol, it's fairly light and easy to drink. "Personally, I don't think it's the tastiest beer we have, but it certainly doesn't lag behind the rest," says Calis.
They intended to name the beer Amsterdam Helder ("Amsterdam Bright"), but on the drinks menu at De Prael you'll find it titled "Anti-Hangover Beer." In this way, it's clear what to expect.
I leave the high bar stool to make sure I won't fall off as the beers start working. Yet it feels odd. When I hear "hangover-free beer," I immediately think of non-alcoholic beer, so I don't expect to actually feel the alcohol.
Because I've drunk the beers quickly and haven't eaten yet, the interior starts to spin in no time. The idea that I'm drinking non-alcoholic beer is gone. Because I have to be back at the office in time tomorrow, and because I can't wait to see if the hangover-free beer works, I decide to go home.
When my alarm goes off the next morning, I feel surprisingly fresh. When I think of the shape in which I was last night, I'm impressed. I don't feel like alcohol has recently been in my body. It's the first time in years that I'm not suffering from a night of alcohol, and that's great.
Will it work for everyone? I have no idea. Perhaps it's a placebo. But I don't really care—I have no hangover! Let's drink to that.