brian yaeger

Beer For My Horses: WTF? (Who’s a Thirsty Foal?)

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Sometimes… words fail. Like, I really wanted to write a powerful lead to introduce this subject, neigh, this brewing company, but that’s no cinch. Because when I first heard about it, I thought, this really chaps my hide. So let’s start from the starting gate.

Oregon has a new brewing company (I mean, Oregon has around a dozen new ones, but one in particular) that is contract brewing beer for a very, very, highly specific market: horsies. “At the end of a long ride,” goes their marketing pitch, “you and your horse both deserve a nice cold beer.” Okay, let’s loosen the reins on the target demo just a smidge: horsies and their owners.
The business, Beer for My Horses, evidently takes its name from the Toby Keith country duet with the otherwise impugnable Willie Nelson. Do most non-country fans know the admittedly catchy song? Keith’s 2003 tune reached #2 on the Billboard Country charts and won video of the year at the Country Music Awards. It’s an ode to vigilante lynching, the stuff of short ropes and tall trees, and the end of the chorus goes, “We’ll raise up our glasses against evil forces / Singing ‘whiskey for my men, beer for my horses’.”
It’s bad enough the song spawned a movie in 2008 starring Keith alongside country comedian Rodney Carrington (who wrote the beer-soaked tune Titties & Beer so I’m waiting for someone to erect that brewery, too). Willie, obviously, cameos in the “film” along The Nuge. It received no positive critical reviews (although this one by my friend, film critic Amy Nicholson, comes close.)
As for the beer, the first brand is Strydor’s Stout and has so far received two reviews on Untappd including, “I like the can better than the beer!” I haven’t tried it, but it’s an oatmeal stout brewed by Seven Brides in Silverton, so I wonder if it’s similar if not the same as their Oatmeal Ellie. If Strydor, the beer’s namesake horse, could talk like Mr. Ed of course, it looks like even though he appears to be a sloppy, wasteful drunk, he’d give it four hooves up.
An official response I got from the whisperers behind Beer For My Horses, though not from Denay the owner, says:

Strydor’s Stout is a beer that is fit for humans and horses! It does contain alcohol (it’s a normal stout) and horses can drink beer with no ill effect. In fact, it would take a lot of beer to get a horse drunk since they usually weigh 800+ lbs. The beer can be good for their digestion as well.

The concept of feeding actual beer to actual horses isn’t new or unfounded. It is given to prized thoroughbreds though less enjoyed by equines at the Kentucky Derby than bourbon and mint juleps by their owners. The actual veracity of beer’s benefits is oft debated, and I immediately imagined it cannot possibly be good for a horse since how likely is it that their livers process alcohol the same way a human’s does?
It’d be easy to simply pick on this beer and marketing concept as silly and potentially hazardous to horses, but I didn’t want to come off like a jackass. (“Too late,” I can hear Denay braying.) So, to look for answers, I turned to Alltech, a company based in Lexington, Kentucky—with an Irish biochemist founder with a degree in brewing and distilling—I profiled in my first book. The biotech firm’s mission is to improve animal health, performance, and production through yeast fermentation and enzyme technology. All of their products are all natural, making them safe and healthy for the animal, the consumer, and the environment. So while you may not be familiar with Sel-Plex®, their organic selenium product, you can be sure ranchers and farmers across the planet are. And yes, humans are animals, too, so Alltech produces natural supplements for people. Bio-Mos FG™ anyone? It’s a glycan, whatever that is, extracted from a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (brewer’s yeast). Oh, that’s not all Alltech makes. They also make beer. Steven Elliott is Alltech’s Global Equine Director (actual title) and he states:

Horse trainers have been feeding beer to horses for many years.  In particular, it is believed that stout beer can be beneficial in helping horses that are having trouble sweating (Anhidrosis), but tradition has made this a regular practice for many older trainers/horsemen who believe beer offers many positive nutritional attributes. You will find it used mostly in the racehorse and Hunter/Jumper industries, as many of these trainers are of European descent and have brought that tradition with them.

It is thought that the beer is a good source of B-vitamins, and minerals (iron, copper, manganese and selenium), which are beneficial in helping horses recover from exercise stress. For many years trainers believed that they needed to use an iron supplement to help their horses build endurance (iron and other minerals help make more red blood cells, which can increase the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood) so something like a ‘good stout’ made for a viable option. The Irish were some of the first to adapt this approach so ‘a Guinness a day’ became common at many horse barns.

Other components in the beer may have additional benefits.  For example, the hops in beer are believed to help settle the intestinal tract of nervous horses.  This may be contributed to the ‘antimicrobial’ properties or some of the ‘phytochemicals’ that have been identified in the hops. These components may be why trainers believe that horses with ‘ulcers’ and ‘digestion problems’ are helped by supplying them with ‘A daily beer…or two’. It is interesting to note that ‘light beers’ do not seem to work.

There we have it. Strydor’s Stout is the ideal beer for all your horse rearing needs and I’m glad I didn’t stick my hoof in mouth. Next time you go for a long ride on your horse (as you do), afterward pony up for a can of Beer For My Horses. If you’re horseless, I’m sure there’s a drinking game that can be created involving a 4-pk and the movie’s many scenes involving bathroom humor.

So I gotta ask. Do you own horses and if so, will you start feeding them beer, and again if so, will you buy this one in particular? If you somehow don’t have a stable, but you see cans of Strydor’s Stout on the shelf at your local Green Zebra (yes, that’s one of their accounts), will you try it anyway? And finally, how do you think Strydor himself would feel if he caught you drinking a can of his stout while playing a game of horseballs?

Brian Yaeger

Brian Yaeger is the author of Red, White, and Brew: An American Beer Odyssey. He contributed to the Oxford Companion to Beer and writes for All About Beer, Draft Magazine, CraftBeer.com, Portland Monthly, Willamette Week, and more. He earned a Master in Professional Writing (with a thesis on beer). Other than GABF, his favorite, can’t-miss event is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest where he’s drawn to any band with a tuba. Along with his wife, Half Pint, he runs Inn Beervana Bed & Beer in Portland where he also lives with his baby boy I.P.Yae, and German Shorthair Pointer, Dunkel. 

3 Comments

  1. Scott Cohen

    April 21, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    Wow, quite a long review for never actually tasting the beer. Let me be more concise: Strydor Stout is a damn good beer and you will not find very many stouts on the shelf like it. Maybe you’re not into country music or horses? Me neither, really, but good beer I like and Strydor is good beer.

  2. Denay Love

    April 30, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    Brian – Strydor would like to personally invite you out for a beer. Better yet he would love to challenge you to a good old fashioned game of quarters. You can find him at The Corner Saloon Saturday May 17th from 5-7 pm
    Cheers,
    [email protected]

  3. Brian Yaeger

    April 30, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Denay – If that wasn’t the beginning of Dutch Beer Week and I weren’t in the Netherlands, I’d totally accept…But Strydor’s out of his league if he’s challenging me to quarters (unless that’s actually code for Quarter Horse?!) He should stick to his strengths…like playing horseshoes.

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