Updated at: 06-07-2023 - By: John Lau

If you’ve ever wondered, “Why does beer give me a headache?”, you’re not alone. This common problem is often due to the dilation of blood vessels caused by alcohol.

In this article, we’ll explore the various reasons behind beer-induced headaches and how to prevent them.

So, let’s dive in and finally answer that burning question!

Causes of Beer Headaches

Why Does Beer Give Me A Headache


Often overlooked, congeners play a significant role in your beer-related headaches. These are by-products generated during the fermentation and ageing process of beer, contributing significantly to its taste and aroma.

However, they’re not just about flavour; these compounds can be headache triggers for many people.

Fusel alcohols fall under this category and are notorious for their link with hangovers and migraines after consuming alcoholic beverages like beer. The more fusel oils present in your drink, the higher chances you have of nursing a throbbing head later.

Notably, darker beers tend to contain a higher concentration of congeners than lighter ones—aligning with reports that they often lead to more severe hangovers.

Proper hydration can help combat congener-induced headaches as it assists the body in processing these substances more effectively. Combining this with selecting beers lower in congeners could make all the difference between savouring a pint hassle-free or coping with an unpleasant aftermath.

Ethanol or Alcohol Content

Alcohol content plays a significant role in the headaches that some people experience after drinking beer. When we consume alcohol, such as ethanol found in beer, it causes our blood vessels to relax and dilate, leading to increased blood flow to the brain.

This increased blood flow can trigger migraines or worsen existing headache symptoms. Additionally, ethanol can also cause dehydration due to its diuretic effects, further contributing to headaches.

It’s important for individuals struggling with alcoholism to be mindful of their consumption and consider the potential impact on their overall well-being.


Histamines, a compound found in beer and other alcoholic beverages, can be a culprit behind those pesky headaches. When we consume alcohol, including beer, our bodies release histamine as part of the immune response.

This histamine release can cause blood vessels to dilate and lead to inflammation, triggering headaches in some individuals. It’s worth noting that certain beers may contain higher levels of histamines due to factors like fermentation or brewing techniques.

So if you’re prone to alcohol-induced headaches, it might be helpful to choose low-histamine beers or explore other options that are less likely to trigger discomfort.

Additionally, if you have a specific sensitivity or allergy to histamines, consuming beer could exacerbate your symptoms. Some individuals have an enzyme deficiency called diamine oxidase (DAO) deficiency that affects their ability to break down histamine effectively.


Polyphenols are a group of compounds found in beer that can contribute to headaches for some individuals. These compounds, which include flavonoids and tannins, are also found in various fruits, vegetables, and beverages like wine and tea.

While polyphenols have been associated with health benefits such as antioxidant properties, they may trigger headaches for some people.

In particular, certain flavonoids found in beer called phenylethylamine can cause blood vessels to dilate, leading to increased blood flow to the brain and potentially triggering a headache.

Additionally, tannins present in beer can act as vasoconstrictors or substances that narrow blood vessels. When consumed in excess or by individuals who are sensitive to them, these polyphenols can lead to head discomfort.

It’s worth noting that not everyone experiences headaches from polyphenols in beer. Factors such as genetics and individual sensitivities play a role in determining how different components of alcohol affect each person.

If you’re prone to beer-induced headaches or migraines after drinking alcohol-containing beverages like beer, it may be helpful to pay attention to your body’s response and consider moderation or choosing low-polyphenol beers as potential strategies for prevention.


Sugar is another culprit when it comes to beer headaches. While beer typically contains a moderate amount of sugar, excessive consumption can lead to an imbalance in blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar spikes and then crashes, it can trigger headaches and migraines.

Additionally, the body metabolizes alcohol before it metabolizes sugar, which means that excess sugar can be leftover in your system and contribute to those pesky beer-induced headaches. So, if you’re prone to headaches after drinking beer, try monitoring your overall sugar intake and opting for beers with lower amounts of residual sugars.

Suggestion: Blue Moon Belgian White or Guinness Draught are two popular beers known for their lower levels of residual sugars – perfect options if you’re looking to enjoy a cold one without the throbbing headache afterward.

Prevention and Treatment of Beer Headaches

Choosing low-congener beers

Why Does Beer Give Me A Headache

Low-congener beers can be a great choice for individuals experiencing headaches after consuming alcohol. Congeners are substances produced during fermentation that contribute to the flavor, aroma, and color of beer.

However, certain congeners like methanol and acetone can also trigger headaches. By opting for low-congener beers, which have lower levels of these compounds, you can reduce the risk of getting a headache.

Light-colored beers such as lagers and pilsners generally have fewer congeners compared to darker varieties like stouts or porters. So next time you’re reaching for a cold one, consider choosing a low-congener beer to enjoy your drink without the unwanted headache afterward.

Avoiding trigger ingredients

Why Does Beer Give Me A Headache

To avoid beer headaches, it’s important to be aware of and avoid trigger ingredients that may exacerbate your symptoms. Some people are sensitive to certain compounds found in beer, which can lead to headaches.

For example, histamines, polyphenols, and sulfites are commonly found in beer and have been known to cause headaches in some individuals. By choosing beers with lower levels of these compounds or opting for alternatives that don’t contain them, you may be able to prevent or reduce the frequency of beer-induced headaches.

Additionally, it’s essential to stay hydrated while drinking alcohol. The diuretic effect of alcohol can lead to dehydration, which is a common trigger for headaches. Make sure to drink water alongside your beer consumption and replenish fluids throughout the night.


In conclusion, beer can give you a headache due to various factors such as congenersalcohol contenthistaminespolyphenols, and sugar. However, there are ways to prevent and treat beer headaches.

Hydration is key in avoiding dehydration-induced headaches while moderation and choosing low-congener beers can help reduce the likelihood of getting a headache. Additionally, being aware of trigger ingredients and avoiding them can also make your beer-drinking experience more enjoyable and headache-free.

Remember to drink responsibly and listen to your body’s signals to avoid those pesky post-beer headaches.