Does Drinking Alcohol Really Keep You Warm When It's Cold Out?

Joe Robbins / Getty
Joe Robbins / Getty

Daven Hiskey runs the wildly popular interesting fact website Today I Found Out. To subscribe to his “Daily Knowledge” newsletter, click here.

Here's something tailgaters, ice skaters, skiers and other cold weather fans might want to keep in mind: Drinking boozy beverages will make you feel warmer, but it doesn't actually keep you warm or prevent hypothermia. Instead, drinking alcohol lowers the core temperature of your body.

According to Dr. William Haynes, director of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Iowa, “Consumption of alcohol undoes many of the human body’s healthy reflexes, one of which is keeping the core body temperature warm in cold weather.” It doesn’t even take that much for this effect to kick in—just one alcoholic drink will start the process that results in a lowered core body temperature.

How does alcohol do this, and why does drinking alcohol make you feel warmer, even though you actually are getting colder?

You Booze, You Lose (Heat)

Alcohol is a vasodilator. It causes your blood vessels to dilate, particularly the capillaries just under the surface of your skin. When you have a drink, the volume of blood brought to the skin’s surface increases, making you feel warm. (That dilation is why slightly or exceedingly intoxicated people look flushed.) This overrides one of your body’s defenses against cold temperatures: Constricting your blood vessels, thereby minimizing blood flow to your skin in order to keep your core body temperature up.

Someone enjoying a drink in the cold may feel warmer from the extra blood warming his skin, but that blood will rapidly cool thanks to the chill in the air. Plus, the warmth caused by blood rushing to the skin will also make him sweat, decreasing his core temperature even further. The rapid drop often occurs without the drinker realizing it, because his skin will still feel fairly warm, which makes it doubly dangerous to drink alcohol in extremely cold weather. (You might want to put down the coffee, too; caffeine has a similar effect.)

The Big Chill

This isn’t the only bad thing about drinking alcohol in the cold. According to a study done by the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, drinking alcohol in chilly weather also reduces the body’s ability and tendency to shiver, taking away yet another method your body uses to help keep warm when it is cold.

Bottom line? The age-old practice of drinking alcoholic beverages to keep the body warm in cold weather is the exact opposite of what you should do.

11 Amazing Gifts for the Beer Geek in Your Life

ValentynVolkov/iStock via Getty Images
ValentynVolkov/iStock via Getty Images

Whether you're picking out a gift for the beer lover in your life or just want to grab something for yourself, you're going to want to do better than the same old “Will Work for Beer” T-shirt that you've seen a million times before. That's exactly why we compiled a list of the best beer-related artwork, books, and accessories to complement your love of suds.

1. The Very Many Varieties of Beer; $40

PopChart Labs's Very, Very Many Varieties of Beer Poster.
Pop Chart Lab/Amazon

It can be hard to find tasteful home décor that reflects a love of beer. Luckily, Pop Chart Lab has you covered. The design outfit has created a number of beer-themed posters over the years (sadly, the scratch-off beer poster is no longer available), and The Very Many Varieties of Beer is their most awe-inspiring. The 24-inch-by-36-inch poster maps every type of beer style available, along with its suggested glassware, so you'll never again confuse a porter with a stout.

Buy It: Amazon

2. uKeg 64 oz Pressurized Growler for Craft Beer; $149


GrowlerWerks/Amazon

Growlers offer a great way to bring home a beer that doesn’t make its way into cans or bottles, but they’re not perfect. Unless you plan to drink all 64 ounces in a single sitting, you’re likely to end up with flat beer. Presenting, a solution: The uKeg 64 Pressurized Growler uses a CO2 cartridge to ensure that the last pour from this growler is as lively as the first, and its custom tap makes it easy to pour one out.

Buy It: Amazon

3. The Oxford Companion to Beer; $43


Oxford University Press/Amazon

Beer lovers can be a little obsessive about their passion, and if you’re shopping for someone who’s thirsty for knowledge, there’s no better place to start than this comprehensive reference. Edited by Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver, the Oxford Companion crams an incredible amount of information about beer culture, history, styles, brewing methodologies, and more into 900 pages. Even the most well-versed know-it-all will learn something from this text. And if you’re shopping for a beer-loving foodie, Oliver’s classic book The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food makes an excellent gift, too.

Buy It: Amazon

4. USA Beer Cap Map; $35

USA Beer Cap Map on Amazon.
Beer Cap Country/Amazon

Brewers keep making more intricate and beautiful bottle caps, and it’s a shame to just chuck that art into the trash each time you pop a bottle. If your giftee is trying to drink their way through all 50 states, this fun wooden map helps them keep track of progress while preserving standout caps.

Buy It: Amazon

5. Libbey Craft Brews Beer Glass Set; $30


Libbey/Amazon

Pouring a beer into a glass enhances the whole sensory experience each sip offers. By allowing the user to better see and smell what they're drinking, the glass is a valuable aid in fully enjoying each brew. And since different shapes of glasses suit different styles of beer, a beer geek’s glassware collection can never be too large. While there’s a dizzying variety of cool brewery-branded glassware on the market, this six-piece set from Libbey covers all the bases and enables your favorite beer geek to sip everything from dense Russian imperial stouts to refreshing German hefeweizens. Plus, at just $30, it's a steal.

Buy It: Amazon

6. Brooklyn Brew Shop Beer Making Kit; $48

Beer Making Kit.
Brooklyn Brew Shop

With a little know-how and the right recipe, home brewers can make beers that rival the offerings of their commercial counterparts. If someone on your list wants to dip their toe into the home brewing waters, Brooklyn Brew Shop offers kits that come with almost everything they'll need to make a gallon of beer. With styles ranging from Everyday IPA to Chocolate Maple Porter to Jalapeño Saison, there’s something for everyone.

Buy It: Brooklyn Brew Shop

7. BEER SOAP VARIETY PACK; $35


Swag Brewery.

For a number of reasons, it can be hard to enjoy a delicious, hoppy IPA whenever you want one. Enter the next best thing: catching a pleasant whiff of brew. Swag Brewery crafts soaps made with real beer. Available in nine varieties—including oatmeal stout, IPA, and Belgian witbier—these soaps will finally give you even more reason to wash your hands.

Buy It: Amazon

8. The Comic Book Story of Beer; $15

The Comic Book Story of Beer.
Ten Speed Press/Amazon

There are centuries of history in every pint you drink. And in this punchy comic book by writers Jonathan Hennessey and Mike Smith, with art by Aaron McConnell, you can learn about the story behind beer, from its most primitive days as a curious drink fermented in clay pots to its impact on European culture and its rebirth as a booming industry after Prohibition.

Buy It: Amazon

9. Coasters with Built-In Bottle Openers; $18

Beer coasters with built-in bottle openers.
FuhlSpeed/Amazon

These stainless steel beer coasters don't just feature cool art that any hophead can enjoy, they also double as bottle openers to make your brew a bit more convenient. This is one of those ingenious products that makes you just sit back and wonder why you never thought of it.

Buy It: Amazon

10. Westmark German Hermetus Resealer Bottle Opener; $10


Westmark/Amazon

Downing an entire 22-ounce bomber of a boozy imperial stout or double IPA in a single sitting can be a delicious but questionable decision. With Westmark’s clever bottle opener, saving part of the bottle for the next day is a little easier. The Hermetus opener pops caps like normal, but once your giftee is ready to call it quits, it slides across the top of the bottle to form a tight, bubble-preserving seal.

Buy It: Amazon

11. Beer of the Month Club; $40 and up


BreakingTheWalls/iStock via Getty Images

Don’t overthink this. If you’re shopping for a beer lover, you can’t go wrong by simply getting them what you know they love—beer. Craft Beer Club takes the guesswork out of choosing the right brew by sending out 12 or 24 bottles of craft beer (in four different styles) with each shipment. You can choose from monthly, every-other-month, or quarterly packages.

Buy It: Craft Beer Club

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

This Advent Calendar From Costco Features 24 Premium German Craft Beers

photologica/iStock via Getty Images
photologica/iStock via Getty Images

Wishing that Oktoberfest-ivities continued all the way through the holiday season? There’s an Advent calendar for that.

Thrillist reports that Costco is now selling an Advent calendar that includes 24 16.9-ounce cans of premium German beer—one to warm you up on each cold, dark December day ahead of Christmas.

Kalea german craft beer advent calendar
Kalea

You won’t likely come across these beers in your go-to supermarket; Kalea, the European craft beer distributor that creates the annual calendar, only features beers from small, privately-owned breweries across Germany. Though the specific breweries are a surprise, Kalea promises to cover all your favorite types of German beer: Pils, Helles, pale ale, stout, bock, Weizenbock, and pale and dark wheat beers.

If simply sipping on various specialty beers as you count down to Christmas is fulfilling enough for you on its own, then head to your local Costco immediately without bothering to read the next paragraph.

If, however, you’re curious to know more about the beers themselves and the talented folks who engineered them, you can scan the label on each can using Kalea’s BeerTasting app for details, reviews, and more.

You can get the Advent calendar at Costco for $60, which is quite a bit cheaper than having individual craft beers shipped to you from tiny breweries in Germany. And while this particular product might not seem as magical to the younger members of your household as you think it is, who says you can’t have more than one Advent calendar this holiday season? Go all out with this Harry Potter sock calendar from Target—and don't forget a treat-filled calendar for the cat.

[h/t Thrillist]

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

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