The aromas and flavours of modern craft beers come mostly from hops, specifically the flowers of the hop plant. The character of the flower (be it floral, citric, pine, or something else) defines craft beer IPAs and has become one of the main draws for particular ales, with more flavour meaning more hops added.
One of the challenges of beer production is sourcing, growing, shipping, and storing enough hops to meet demand. Growing hops is resource-intensive with 50 pints of water needed to grow enough hops for 1 pint of beer, add in transportation costs for getting from the field to the brewery, and space to store the hops, and this essential ingredient becomes an expensive component.
Enter science… The journal ‘Nature Communications’ recently published a paper by scientists at University of California Berkeley, detailing how they bio-engineered brewer’s yeast to produce traditional hoppy flavours during fermentation. Removing hops from the brewing process without, in their own tests, affecting taste.
Engineered yeast isn’t going to replace hops any time soon, but this experiment shows what is possible. Maybe in 10 years time we’ll be seeing craft beers marketed as made the ‘traditional’ way with real hops whilst the majority of the beer market moves on.