Some people find the taste to be flat and watery and this has a natural explanation, according to Sotirios Kampranis, a professor at the University of Copenhagen.
“What non-alcoholic beer lacks is the aroma of hops. When you remove the alcohol from beer, for example by heating it, you also kill the aroma of the hops. Other methods of making alcohol-free beer by minimizing fermentation also lead to off-flavor because alcohol is needed for the hops to impart their unique flavor to the beer,” he says.
But now Kampranis and his colleague Simon Dusséaux – both founders of the biotech company EvodiaBio – cracked the code for making a non-alcoholic beer full of hop aroma.
“After years of research, we found a way to produce a group of small molecules called monoterpenoids, which provide the hopped flavor, and then add them to beer at the end of the brewing process to restore 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 aromatic hops to the brew kettle just to “throw away” their flavor at the end of the process, the researchers turned baker’s yeast cells into micro-factories which can be cultivated in fermenters and release the aroma of hops, they specify in a recently published study.
“When the hop aroma molecules are released from the yeast, we collect them and put them into the beer, restoring the taste of regular beer that many of us know and love. This actually makes the use of aroma hops in brewing redundant, because we only need the molecules transmitting the smell and flavor and not the hops themselves,” says Sotirios Kampranis.
Much more durable
In addition to improving the taste of non-alcoholic beer, the method is also much more sustainable than existing techniques, according to the researchers.
First, aroma hops are grown primarily on the West Coast of the United States, which requires extensive transport and the cooling of crops in refrigerators.
Second, hops require a lot of water – more specifically, it takes 2.7 tons of water to grow one kilogram of hops. This combined makes it a climate-unfriendly production.
“With our method, we completely omit aromatic hops and therefore also 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,” says Sotirios Kampranis.
Good news for society
The researchers are happy to be able to contribute to a much healthier lifestyle and hope that their new invention will help more people reduce their alcohol consumption, as they will now have equally delicious alternatives.
“In the long term, we hope to change the brewing industry with our method – also the production of ordinary beer, where the use of aroma hops is also very expensive,” concludes Sotirios Kampranis.
The method is already being tested in breweries in Denmark and the technique is expected to be ready for the entire brewing industry in October 2022.