Researchers crack the code for making non-alcoholic beer full of hop flavor

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14 Feb 2022 — Researchers have claimed to have found a way to brew non-alcoholic beer that tastes just like regular beer. In addition, the method is far more sustainable than existing brewing techniques, which a study from Denmark hailed as “breakthrough for non-alcoholic beer”.

The research takes place amid rising trends in low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beers and other beverages, as global consumers, particularly younger generations, gravitate towards healthy lifestyles that do not necessarily include the alcohol consumption observed by previous generations.

Although sales of non-alcoholic beer in Denmark and Europe have increased significantly in recent years, many people still shy away from non-alcoholic beers because they feel that the taste is not quite as good as regular beers.

improvement of the aroma
Some consumers describe the taste of non-alcoholic beer as “flat” and “watery”.

“What alcohol-free beer lacks is the hop aroma. For example, if you remove the alcohol from the beer by heating it, you also kill the hop aroma. Other methods of making non-alcoholic beer by minimizing fermentation also result in bad flavor, as alcohol is needed for hops to impart their unique flavor to the beer,” says Sotirios Kampranis, a professor at the University of Copenhagen.

But now Kampranis and his colleague Simon Dusséaux – both founders of the biotech company EvodiaBio – have made a breakthrough in the production of non-alcoholic beer full of hop aroma.

The method of giving non-alcoholic beer a hoppy taste is considered a “game changer” for the non-alcoholic beer sector.Creating a “hoppy” flavor
After years of research, scientists found a way to make a group of small molecules called monoterpenoids that provide the hop flavor and then add them to beer at the end of the brewing process to give it back its lost flavor.

“No one has been able to do this before, so it’s a game changer for non-alcoholic beer,” says Sotirios Kampranis.

Instead of adding expensive aroma hops to the brew tank only to “throw away” its flavor at the end of the process, the researchers made microfactories out of baker’s yeast cells that can grow in fermenters and release the hop’s aroma, they state in their study.

“As the hop aroma molecules are released from the yeast, we collect them and add them to the beer, bringing back the taste of regular beer that so many of us know and love. It eliminates the need for aroma hops in brewing because we only need the molecules that provide the aroma and flavor and not the actual hops,” explains Kampranis.

Brew sustainably
In addition to improving the taste of non-alcoholic beer, the method is also far more sustainable than existing techniques, according to the researchers.

First of all, aroma hops are grown primarily on the US West Coast, which requires extensive transportation and refrigeration of the harvest.

Secondly, hops need a lot of water – more precisely, it takes 2.7 tons of water to grow one kilogram of hops. This together makes it a not very climate friendly production.

“With our method, we completely dispense with aroma hops and thus with water and transport. This means that one kilogram of hop aroma can be produced with more than 10,000 times less water and more than 100 times less CO2,” adds Kampranis.

Researchers hope that making non-alcoholic beers that taste like regular alcoholic beer will help more consumers consume less alcohol.

“In the long term, we hope to use our method to transform the brewing industry and also the production of conventional beer, where the use of aroma hops is also very wasteful,” concludes Kampranis.

The process is already being tested in breweries in Denmark and the plan is to make the technology available to the entire brewing industry in October.

Edited by Gaynor Selby

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