Cheers! Scientists bring hoppy flavour to non-alcoholic beer

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have developed a technique that adds the hoppy flavour back to non-alcoholic beers in an environmentally friendly way.

When alcohol is removed from the beer, for example by heating it up, the aroma that comes from hops is also removed. Other methods for making alcohol-free beer by minimising fermentation can also lead to poor aroma because alcohol is needed for hops to pass their unique flavour to the beer.

Now with the application of previously published research, the Copenhagen scientists have produced a group of molecules called monoterpenoids, which provide the same hoppy flavour when added to the beer at the end of the brewing process. Instead of adding expensive aroma hops in the brewing tank, just to ‘throw away’ their flavour at the end of the process, the researchers have turned baker’s yeast cells into little factories that can be grown in fermenters and release the aroma of hops.

“When the hop aroma molecules are released from yeast, we collect them and put them into the beer, giving back the taste of regular beer that so many of us know and love. It actually makes the use of aroma hops in brewing redundant, because we only need the molecules passing on the scent and flavour and not the actual hops,” said Sotirios Kampranis, one of the authors of the paper.

Aside from making non-alcoholic beer taste more like beer, the use of the technique can also offer some benefits in sustainability. Not having to add aroma hops means that fewer ingredients need to be shipped to the brewing facilities, which reduces the carbon emissions that go into the non-alcoholic beer’s production. Additionally, since hops need water to grow, bypassing them means saving water in the farming process.

“With our method, we skip aroma hops altogether and thereby also the water and the transportation,” Kampranis said.

The paper describing this method was published in PNAS and two of the research authors founded EvodiaBio, which is now developing the technique commercially. It is currently being trialled in breweries in Denmark and plans are in place to have it ready for widespread use in the industry by October 2022.

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