Building a Better Low-Alcohol Beer

Light beers have a bad flavor reputation, but a team of researchers in Ireland is hoping to change that
 Building a Better Low-Alcohol Beer

It’s a simple fact – when it comes to taste, low-alcohol beer doesn’t always have the greatest reputation. The production methods that give beer variations robust and complex flavors tend to be the same methods that give them higher ABVs, whereas low-alcohol beers usually indicate washed out ingredients. But what if somebody could change that? A team of researchers in Ireland is trying.

Beverage Daily has reported that a research team led by Dr. John Morrissey of University College Cork (UCC) is working with an as-of-yet unnamed brewery to develop a better tasting low-alcohol ale and lager. “What we want to do is take the same starting ingredients, follow the same process, and end up with a product that has less ethanol, but everything else is the same,” Morrissey told Beverage Daily reporters.

In order to accomplish that, Morrissey and his research team are reportedly looking at the genome sequences of different yeast strains, identifying which genomic sequences are responsible for metabolic differences, and using that information to their advantage by swapping out swatches of yeast genetic material with different metabolic rates. The idea behind it, says Morrissey, is to affect yeast production in such a way that it would digest sugar at a similar rate (creating a similar flavor) but produce ethanol at a reduced rate (bringing down the alcohol percentage).

At first glance, it all sounds like a rather unique and cottage industry form of genetic modification – a far cry from large industries like corn and soy, but still in the same vein, and a surprising one for a company in Europe where GMOs are generally less welcome. But the report asserts that the research team is looking at non-GM options in creating these hybrid strains of yeast, with Morrissey expressing confidence in the team’s ability to “engineer out the GM part of it.”

This experiment is one that has reportedly been tried before, but scientists have yet to produce a result that tastes as good as its high-alcohol predecessor.  But the team is hopeful that they will be able to provide a beer good enough for retail within three to five years.

Of course, it all begs the question: why produce a lower-alcohol beer when the original versions taste just fine? In a nutshell, there is already a market for those who seek out light beers. For decades the light beer formula has gone relatively untouched – it could be a boon for business if that formula could be improved. In addition, while traditional beer is a thing of beauty, it might be nice to one day be able to enjoy a few more delicious brews while slowing down the side effects that come with it. If Morrissey and his team are able to bring a viable product to market, a lot of people could feel better for it in the morning.


[SOURCE: Beverage Daily]

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