On April 1, 2014, beer lovers believed that using carbon dioxide during the fermentation process was over and were convinced that helium became a magic new beer ingredient. Boston Beer Co. and Stone Brewing claimed that this revolutionary invention was almost ready for sale, and most beer admirers would adore it.
Many people wanted to check if this news is true. Beer enthusiasts demanded to know more about the enigmatic beer that could give drinkers a distinctive high-pitched voice. Some of them wanted to produce it on their own. So, let’s solve the mystery and find out the answer to the question – Is helium beer real?
What Is Helium Beer?
Although most beer lovers are not ready to believe it, helium beer is only a myth. Two reputable breweries decided to make an April Fool’s Day joke in 2014. That day, they simultaneously announced the revolutionary project.
Jim Koch, Sam Adams’ founder, made a video about unique and extreme HeliYUM beer and posted it on Youtube.
The same day, Stone Brewing Co. informed beer lovers about Stochasticity Project Cr(He)am Ale with helium.
Sam Adams’ YouTube video
Koch claimed that his company perfected the Noble Hops flavor. According to him, they discovered HeliYum that took advantage of the helium properties making the production of a truly remarkable brew possible.
Thanks to helium’s unique refractive index, the new beverage was brilliantly clear and provided a fantastic light mouthfeel. Koch even explained that this noble gas prolonged the beer shelf life because it didn’t oxidize.
To be as convincing as possible, he took a sip of this radical ‘helium beer’ and immediately started to speak in a high-pitched voice. The deception was complete, and the result was fantastic.
Since that day, their fiction has started the helium beer myth many people still believe in. You can even see a video with people convincingly introducing their incredible new product.
There were claims that both stories have roots in a hoax email from 1994 concerning a hydrogen-infused product, ‘Suiso.’ Even though there was ample evidence that Asaka Beer Corporation was a non-existent company, the story about unbelievably fun beer quickly went viral. According to YouTube data, a search for ‘helium beer’ still reaches over 40,000 results a day.
Stone Brewery history of hoaxes
Before this ‘helium beer’ hoax, this company made the prank with non-existing ‘extreme lemony-lime.’ In 2004, this brewery gave false information about fast-tracking the process, fulfilled the aim of the April Fool’s Day announcement, and came up with a ‘justification ale.’
Following the new trend connected with stimulants like caffeine, the same company released information about a new ‘bastard oxide energy ale’ in 2006. The next hoax came in 2009 when the company came up with a bizarre idea about a black pilsner.
However, it seems all that was not enough. After a few less successful pranks, people quickly believed in the April Fool’s Stochasticity Project from 2014 about helium beer.
The company claimed that new helium beer with double dry-hopped and unique tropical touch in cans of 16 ounces (473 ml) was distributed to most stores, bars, and restaurants.
People started to look for the new product, but no one could find a place where it was selling. Still, the myth has never disappeared. People want a funny beer and refuse to believe that it doesn’t exist despite all subsequent evidence attached.
Die BierProbierer podcast
Even though Samuel Adams eventually denied the helium beer existence, two beer testers Alex and Ralf, revived the joke the following year. The German Die BierProbierer made a podcast and claimed that they got a bottle of the limited special ‘helium beer’ edition. Those two guys pretended to taste helium beer that has changed their voices.
The video was funny and witty, so many started to believe that legend is actually true. Since the subsequent video postings didn’t include the disclaimer, many viewers stayed confused about it.
To make things more complicated, many people have kept making taste test videos or even claim that they ‘ have cracked the code’ and brew homemade helium beer.
In these videos, you can see people drinking helium beer and enjoying their changed voices. Although all of them are fake, the illusion of this magical beverage still exists. Nowadays, the myth has gained incredible dimensions, so that many believe that this story is the absolute truth. The only problem with this story is that such beer doesn’t exist.
Is Producing Helium Beer Possible?
As you have probably known, you can’t find helium beer anywhere on the market. Even though there is no physical law that could make the production of such beer possible, some scientists claim that it is a matter of time.
Theoretically, you can make helium beer because of the similarities in helium and nitrogen solubility levels. The idea is to replace nitrogen with helium in the same way that Guinness replaced carbon dioxide with nitrogen.
No one has yet managed to prove this thesis, but many fans of this idea would be disappointed even if it were possible. Namely, everybody agrees that the voice changing effect is not realistic in any way.
C&EN published an article in 2015 about making ‘heliuminated’ beer. They based the idea on Guinness’ beer that contains nitrogen instead of carbon dioxide. Since helium and nitrogen have relatively similar solubility levels, they replaced a carbon dioxide tank with the one filled with helium.
Helium couldn’t dissolve because of its immutable properties, but it piggybacked on the carbon dioxide. As a result, the produced creamy, milky beer got bigger bubbles that rose faster during the process.
Even though C&EN claims that helium beer production is possible, it is unlikely to show up on the market. One of the primary reasons is the absence of funny voices and belches, which would make it uninteresting.
Advantages of Non-Existent Helium Beer
The discussion began to emerge about the advantages of helium over carbon dioxide, which has prolonged the controversy. There are a few of the most famous ‘proofs’ of HeliYum beer advantages:
- It has a lighter composition, and its excellent refractive index allows soft feeling and unrivaled clarity
- It is odorless, which can enable you to experience all the natural beer aromas
- It won’t oxidize, so that you can store it for long
- It will elevate your voice’s pitch like after breathing helium from a balloon, but with the additional refreshing effect
Why Helium Beer Is Impossible to Make?
Unlike nitrogen and carbon dioxide, helium is practically insoluble in water, which is the primary reason why you will never be able to experience such a beer. In fact, it is 700 times less soluble compared to carbon dioxide:
- 5 grams of CO2 can dissolve in a liter of beer
- 0016 g of helium can dissolve in a liter of beer
You can’t dissolve it in beer, infuse it into this liquid, or carbonate beer with it. In fact, you need a temperature of -220 F (-140 C) to change liquid helium to gas. In other words, any possible adding it would result in frozen alcohol.
Even in an impossible situation to add helium to a beer, the desired effect would be weird since beer goes to your stomach, while this noble gas tends to end up in your lungs. Not to mention that you would get gushing in such a case since – helium is not soluble in beer!
Don’t believe me? OK, imagine that someone somehow manages to force and seal helium into the beer can. What would happen in such a case? Absolutely nothing! Undissolved helium would rise straight out the top, gush out of the can as soon as you open it, and you would lose most of the beer after shooting out.
Weird Beers You Can Try Instead of Helium Beer
I know that you are probably disappointed because of the impossibility to try such an exciting beer like the one made of helium. However, there are other strange but existing beers you can try:
- Celest-Jewel-Ale – Dogfish Head has produced space beer with infused lunar meteorite dust!
- Hvalur Beer – Stedji Brewery from Iceland produces this beverage made of sheep dung and whale testicles.
- Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout – This beer brewed by Wynkoop Brewing Company contains bull testicles. It started as an April Fool’s joke, but this meaty and savory beverage is a reality nowadays.
- Mamma Mia Pizza Beer – Pizza Beer Company from Illinois offers beer with pizza flavor that will leave you speechless.
- Saturday Morning Beer – Believe it or not, Smartmouth Brewing from Virginia produces a beer with the taste of your kid’s favorite treats.
- Ghost Face Killah – Twisted Pine Brewing Company produces this super spicy beer with six different chili peppers.
- Snake Venom Beer – Brewmeister produces a beer with 67.5% ABV, making it the strongest one in the world.
The possibility of helium beer’s existence is exciting, and I am sure you would like to try such a beverage. Unfortunately, it is a hoax, and there is no chance to make and drink it. All the laws of physics are behind this claim, and it is impossible to change them ever. What a pity!