Graham and Hoffman at the instance of a prominent English brewer, Mr. Alsopp, and in consequence of reports, originating in Paris, that English ale and beer' occasionally derived its bitterness from strychnine, have carefully tested various specimens of these beverages, but without discovering a trace of the poisonous alkaloid. St.-ychnine when present in no greater quantity than 1-1000 of a grain may be detected by the following process:— The suspected powder is to be moistened with a drop of undiluted sulphuric acid, and a few fragments of bichromate ot potash added. An intense beautiful violet color immediately appears at the points of contact which quickly spreads through the whole fluid, and after a few minutes again vanishes The presence of small quantities of organic matter prevents this reaction; in testing beer the authors adopted the following process :— Halt a gallon of beer to which one-half a grain of strychnine had been added was shaken with two ounces of animal charcoal, and the fluid allowed to stand over night. The next day the beer was found almost free from bitterness, the strychnine hiving been precipitated with the coal. The coal was thrown on a filter, washed, boiled with alcohol and the alcohoEc filtrate distilled. The residue in the retort was shaken with a few drops of a solution of caustic potash and about an ounce of ether. The etherial solution evaporated on a watch glass gave a mass in which the presence of strychnine was easily detected by the test above given.
This article was originally published with the title "Adulteration of Beer with Strychnine" in Scientific American 8, 9, 72 (November 1852)