Terpenes Twist: Hope for Hop-less Ale

The New York Times: If Americans will eat a burger with no meat, will they drink a beer without hops? Charles Denby, a biochemist at the University of California, Berkeley, might have made it an option. Dr. Denby works in a lab that focuses on creating sustainable fuel out of plant molecules called terpenes … When he learned that some terpenes could, in small doses, impart the taste of hops — the small, green flowers that give beer its bitter, citrusy flavor — he decided to perform a side experiment.”

“Dr. Denby and his colleagues infused brewer’s yeast with DNA from basil and mint, two plants that naturally produce the hop-flavored terpenes. The scientists were aiming to recreate the flavor of Cascade hops, which are most popular among craft brewers. They used the engineered yeast to brew a hops-free ale … Once they perfected the formula, the tasting began … the researchers asked Lagunitas Brewing Company in California to help them convene a double-blind taste test involving 40 participants. When asked to compare the brew’s hoppiness relative to traditionally brewed beers, the participants placed it above most of the competition.”

“The findings, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, could contribute to a more sustainable future for beer production … Over the past two decades, as craft beer has boomed, Americans have developed a strong preference for hoppy brews like India pale ales, driving up demand for the crop. But farmers can’t keep up, and brewers are facing a hops shortage that some say is slowing the growth of the craft beer industry. Dr. Denby’s process, which he is hoping to commercialize, is a long way from putting hops farmers out of business. Still, he said, the technique could also help brewers produce a more consistent product.”

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