There aren’t many things I enjoy more than wasting away my Sunday afternoon by ordering way too many buffalo wings and cracking open a cold one (or, realistically, a bunch of cold ones) with the boys. I’ve probably been conditioned to like this tradition thanks to the thousands of beer commercials I’ve been exposed to over the course of my life, but if being a cliché is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
Based on the number of episodes of Man vs. Food that I’ve seen, I’m well aware that milk is the best antidote to dulling the effects of spicy food, but because I’m not a member of the McPoyle clan, I tend to gravitate towards other (largely alcoholic) beverages to numb the pain.
If you happen to take the same approach, it turns out you might want to rethink your strategy.
The Denver Post caught up with Nicole Garneau, a scientist who recently gave a talk at a beer festival in Colorado. Garneau has devoted her life to studying the science of taste— paying special attention to the relationship between beer and food— and she said most people are shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to using beer to try and counteract spicy cuisine.
The pain that comes with consuming too many hot wings is caused by capsaicin, which doesn’t dissolve in water. As a result, beer— which is almost entirely water— only exacerbates the problem thanks to its carbonation. However, there is one style that can have an especially detrimental effect thanks to their notable bitterness: IPAs, the darling of the craft beer world (Garneau also suggests avoiding the sours that are rapidly emerging on the market).
She notes sugar seems to balance out capsaicin, so European ales tend to be a good bet. However, it appears there isn’t a better antidote than the one that makes the most sense: milk stouts— especially those on nitro.
With that said, I think there’s really only one solution people should turn to in order to dull the pain: follow in the footsteps of the dude and have a White Russian on hand at all times.