In news to delight eco-friendly hipsters the world over, boffins at the University of California, Berkeley, have come up with a way of creating hoppy craft beer without recourse to, er, hops. Hops, while key to imparting flavour and aroma, are a bit of an environmental disaster, with 100 billion litres of water required to …
I could definitely do without that, so I'm all for the hop-free IPAs if it leaves that "feature" behind...
I have really started to get into IPAs in the past five years, but the fact I fall asleep about 45 minutes after sitting down in front of the TV when I get home is really annoying. If I've had a nap in the evening it typically takes me 6-8 hours to get sleepy again, which leaves little if any time before I have to get up! Sitting in front of the computer isn't a problem, so I'm forced to go online and post while buzzed until the wee hours when I'd normally go to bed!
Or, are they suggesting we keep our hop-free ale chilled as though we're all filthy colonials?
As a filthy colonial it always made me laugh when in some British pubs they served up mostly mainstream Aussie
Piss beer as Posh Foreign Beers. It was either that or a pint of Wife Beater :)
I'd normally say each to their own, but sadly many pubs put on three or four overly hopped pale ales and neglect to offer a standard Best Bitter.
These so called 'craft beers' ( purely a meaningless marketing term) usually come from new inexperienced breweries and they all taste of grapefruit or elderflower due to the American variety of hop used.
It's the lack of choice masquerading as diversity that gets me. And the 'lets just whack a load of cascade hops in' masquerading as 'craft'.
To clarify, I'm writing from the UK. In the USA 'craft beer' is a legal term because it can only be used by breweries whose output is less than X gallons a year (where X is actually a fairly big number). Such beers used to be referred to as 'Regional Beers' since the sheer size of the US means that it is impractical to transport anything which isn't pasteurised and kegged. In the, 'craft beer' doesn't have any protected meaning, unlike 'Real Ale' which does.
In the UK this fashion for US style 'craft beer' started in London amongst those follow anything else to come out of Portland, Oregon.
(where X is actually a fairly big number)
6,000,000 barrels1 per year is only a fairly big number?
I also don't know that it's a legal term as it's defined by the Brewers Association.
1. Per barrel that's 31 US gallons, ~26 UK gallons, or 20.2455 footballs in proper units.
Let not be too hasty to judge, it is nice that the yanks have remembered how to brew real beer again, rather than the 'making-love-in-a-canoe' type efforts of the previous few decades.
Still though, not only do they seem to add as many hops as they can fit in, but most American craft beers seem to be aiming to be as alcoholic as possible. Personally I'd rather have a nice session ale, say about 3-4%? That way I can drink more than a couple without wanting a snooze.
over-hopping their IPAs and turning them into bitter, undrinkable crap
To be fair, most beers are bitter undrinkable crap..
(I might be slightly biased given that anything other than Weissbier gives me appalling headaches. Cider doesn't - or at least, proper cider doesn't. The cheap fizzy alcopops masquerading as commercial cider sometimes does)
When I first tried IPAs I found them exceedingly bitter - I am very sensitive to bitter and can't stand even the tiniest sip of coffee! Maybe not "bitter" as such (I don't know exactly how that is tasted) but whatever it is that makes coffee taste bitter I absolutely cannot abide.
The craft brewers have got better at getting the hoppy flavor without the bitter accompaniment, and while there are still some I can't manage most of the IPAs - even a few double or triple IPAs - now avoid the extreme bitter sensation. You might be surprised at how much things have changed in the past five years.
In Germany there is this nice law called the Reinheitsgebot which so much dictates that if you label your beverage as "beer" and want to sell in Germany then it had better be made with the three main ingredients of beer: Water, Hops and Barley.
Needless to say that this mockery wouldn't be allowed there, which I only consider to be good news!
"And, as beer aficionados are all too aware, hops can subtly change in flavour from year to year, resulting in some deeply unpleasant surprises."
In other words: brewers need to know what the heck they're doing. And if they screw up then that could have its result in the drink they're brewing. Welcome to real life!
Seriously: this is how it's supposed to be. Sure, the flavor can change, but that's what makes the whole thing great. A beer from 2 years ago could taste slightly different than this year. I don't see the problem.
To me it's just like saying that all wine should taste the same. Because oh dear: some people don't like certain wines so in order to cater to them we'll just make all the wine taste the same!
Are we sure this experiment wasn't secretly done in an attempt to get people to stop drinking beer?
The EU doesn't allow GMO to protect it's farmers against American imports, so this wouldn't fly in Germany anyway, but ignoring that you could put a minute amount of hops in to qualify it as a beer.
If this beer means that one of the main hops in beer can be replaced with just the yeast, that means lower prices *. Pale ales often contain one hop variety, so we could do away with expensive hops altogether in those drinks.
* Unlikely at the pump, but increased profits for pubs wouldn't be a bad thing these days.
We used to have the same Beer Purity Laws in England a hundred odd years ago, but some brewers became so rich that they successfully lobbied to have the law repealed.
In Germany and the Czech Republic, the title of Brewmaster carries serious social standing, just as they respect proper Engineers. Shit, in the UK the title of Engineer is abused by applying it to the *technician* who fixed your photocopier. It's like calling a paramedic a Doctor.
In Germany and the Czech Republic, the title of Brewmaster carries serious social standing
I'm sure this has no connection with the fact that the Czechs drink more beer per capita than any other nation on Earth (142 litres per year, or 250 pints in real money).
which is why Budweiser as in the American kind is not beer according to the German Laws. Why? Bud use Rice in the brewing process.
Here's a thought... Hows about we grow the hops and send them to the USA???? The Hops grown near me don't need any irrigation. The clay soil really holds the water.
Ah Wait... this comes from California. The state where most crops grown south of San Francisco need huge amounts of extra water. Perhaps it is time to abandon the central valley as a place to grow stuff?
Indeed, I was amused by the environmental disaster stuff - not if you grow them somewhere appropriate.
They grow like weeds here in the UK (and with the gentler climate get subtle flavour differeces compared to grown in more harsh climate)
Caveat - I like a hoppy beer .. occasionally, but also like trad bitter on occasion.
Only reason for US style chilled hoppy beer is hot Summer (that 1 or 2 days in the UK) as cooling beer alternative to a cold lager
Germany's beer laws have done some good but they've also stifled diversity.
The reason German beer is good is that by and large their brewers are skilled and their customers are discerning - restricting ingredients doesn't by itself guarantee anything in terms of quality.
In any case I don't think the Reinheitsgebot (or its subsequent updatings) would prevent this brew as they are proscriptive rather than prescriptive so not having any hops would not be a problem. (If there's an expert who can confirm or contradict this that would be great).
as they are proscriptive rather than prescriptive
It's like the difference between UK Common Law and the majority of European Law systems (mostly those based on the Napoleonic Code). Here, what isn't expressly forbidden is allowed. There, what isn't expressly allowed is forbidden..
Actually, lots of great German beer are made with wheat, which was one of the reasons to come up with the law. Wheat for bread, barley for beer. Also, in 1516 they didn't knew about yeast which is a mandatory ingredient of beer. They thought the beer had to be blessed by a priest so fermentation would occur. But these days the isn't being strictly followed, is it? :)
Hops have a number of roles in brewing beer. Firstly they are used to bitter the beer as it is very sweet in its raw state. A second role is to add flavour and aroma. Thats why they are added at various stages of the brewing process. They also help protect the beer from infection.
If you aren't using hops where does the bitterness come from?
To be fair, decent beer was probably harder to find where Randal Munroe grew up. Even those of us who were blessed enough to be surrounded by good beer and a good beer culture had to grow acclimatised to it as youths.
Note that the XKCD stickmen are drinking bottled beer from a fridge. A lot of cold things taste much the same.
@AC, the point of the comic is not to say that beer is bad, it’s trying to make a joke on how some people feel peer-pressured into pretending they enjoy a beverage that tastes bad in their mouth. Beer is an acquired taste, the bitterness could have put me off it but my mates seemed to enjoy it so I went on, now I appreciate it. Same for coffee.
Objecting to this comic because you actually like beer is showing a poor sense of humor.
To save on the cost of sugar, GK used waste onion and garlic pulp from the BushBoakeAllen flavouring plant in Glemsford, Suffolk.
It was waste from making garlic and onion extract for food flavour, and full of carbohydrate. It was a case of either giving it to the local pig farm, or selling it to GK.
I believe most of it went into their Harp Lager production
No idea if they still do it
Seems from the article that this was tested in the good ole US of A who if I recall correctly don't have a particularly good Pedigree with proper beer, Vary little Pride and therefore they can Triple fff off with their new fangled brew.
Besides here in good old Blighty, rainfall isn't so much of an issue so Ale be damned if I'm going to give up my favourite Hop infused beverages.
I've been making beer without hops for years. There's a fair few recipes here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sacred-Herbal-Healing-Beers-Fermentation/dp/0937381667 (which is every bit as woo-woo as the title suggests but the recipes are fun). I've also made a really good summer beer (light and refreshing) using Mugwort and lemon for flavouring. Hops were approved of because some of the other ingredients used for flavouring had some interesting* effects on the drinker whereas hops tended to calm them down. Not sure about that last bit mind (even if I have read it from multiple sources), Friday nights in most towns suggest that people will still get rowdy despite the hops.
* For a given definition of interesting
Many years ago I worked in Leeds and a new pub opened up near the office. One of the conditions of the licence was that all beer had to be served in a natural manner, i.e. no use of carbon dioxide in its delivery. Hand pumps only or straight from the barrel by gravity.
One lunch a chap came in, ordered a pint, took a sip and uttered the immortal phrase "Ah nectar". Many years before Del Boy but some people were thinking the equivalent of "Ah plonker".
One of Terry Pratchett's lesser known books is called Real Cats, some parts of which are a thinly disguised dig at the committee in-fighting of self-appointed CAMRA blokes. Though they are much better behaved now than when the book was written, the dynamic of impassioned amateurs swaying decisions can still hold true.
One such decision is the CAMRA ban on using a nitrogen blanket to replace the beer drawn from the cask. Nitrogen is inert. It does not enter the beer. Its only role is to prevent prevent oxygen from harming the beer. Now, in a busy pub with high turn over this is seldom an issue, but in the current climate pubs need all the help they can get.
They've been trying to push GM frankenfoods on us for years based on the easily refutable lie that the world will starve if we don't all surrender and eat it. Note that this yeast strain will presumably be licensed so breweries will either be prevented from growing their own yeast in the traditional manner, or will have to pay a regular monthly license fee in order to do so. The parts of Herefordshire and Kent where they grow hops look environmentally rich and diverse to me.
Of course the employees of the evil corporation which wants to foist this on breweries and drinkers can be encouraged to say it tastes good. I guess they would, wouldn't they.
The think they seem to have missed is hops dont just provide flavour. They are normally boiled with the wort for 90 minutes or so and that produces a shit load of chemical reactions where the hop chemicals react with the malt sugars to produce molecules that not only affect the flavour but the mouth feel of beer. Leaving out the hops and the boil will make it feel like watery piss and not beer.
So many environmentally-concerned folk may also be anti-GMO for no reason than it's the latest fashion and it's a new invention so must be bad.
But good for the environment?
Personally although I am concerned that our environment is looked after, I have never heard of hops being a problem. And I have no problem at all with GMO, whether natural (yes it happens naturally) or man-induced.
Where did it say this research was motivated by environmental concerns? Hops like any other crop are susceptable to good years and bad - a coupla of years back English fuggles had a poor harvest so French grown fuggles with a lower quantity of some compound were used instead, causing the beer to be less bitter.
It would appear that these researchers are attempting to make a beer independent of hops for consistancy reasons. It won't interest traditional brewers, but the big brands love consistancy - and cost savings.
The environment affects hops far more than hops affect the environment.
Now, where this sort of research can really aid the environment is if they could put the active parts of the coca leaf into yeast and render the result into cocaine without pouring tons of waste solvent into the Amazon. It would seem that making the stuff illegal has had little effect upon its consumption, but has blighted thousands of lives along its supply chain.
Where did it say this research was motivated by environmental concerns?
Uh... paragraphs 1 and 2 of the article?
Agreeing with David Nash on this one. Apparently Berkeley's strident rule against GMOs was changed. It no longer includes GMOs developed by Berkeley. Got it.
Well the article did mention the prodigious amounts of water required to grow crops, which is often a concern in the western US where most hops are grown. They don't 'affect the environment' but they affect the amount of water available for other uses in times of drought, and in places like California's central valley where aquifers are being drawn down at an alarming rate (land in some places has lost 6-8 feet in elevation over the last few decades) that's a very real concern.
In my mind there's a difference between borrowing genes from related plants to confer characteristics like different taste or color, versus adding genes for stuff like resistance to herbicides so you can soak the plants in them. I doubt that there are any harmful effects from consuming a GMO plant with a Roundup resistant gene, but consuming a plant that's been exposed repeatedly to Roundup is a different story.
Banning all GMO plants is the easy way around the quandry of trying to define which uses of GMO are "OK" versus those that should be prohibited. Given a large enough budget and number of years, I'm sure scientists could crossbreed yeasts to give them these hoppy genes instead of using science to insert them. However, you might end up with other genes you don't want coming along for the ride, or losing desirable genes from the yeast, since crossbreeding is not an exact science. So in some ways GMO may be superior to the old world way. The problem is that it can easily be misused by companies like Monsanto.
"Farmers have been modifying the genetics of their crops and livestock for millennia."
That's true, and as another poster above mentioned, improving the certainty of cross-breeding and/or breeding for desired traits can be done with sensitive GMO. But creating goats that produce spider silk might be a step or nine too far.
I live in the USA, and have been a beer aficionado for many years. Long before you could get decent beer in most places in the US, and choices at bars were mostly limited to "Bud", "Swiller", or some Canadian brew that while slightly better, would leave you with a pounding headache the next day if you had more than a couple. Currently I'm drinking a beer from one of my favorite local brewpubs that is made with heather instead of hops for a bit of bitterness, and it is delicious. Another favorite actually grows their own hops in the summer, weather permitting.
"Craft" beer has come a long way in a short time (thankfully), but like any fool that can hang a shingle out that says "Mechanic" without being certified in anything, anyone can brew with various degrees of success. That said, some of the best diagnostic mechanics I've known were not certified, some of the most clueless IT folks I've known have had an MCSE, and some of the best beer I've had has been from tiny little places without much exposure.
The results were [...] more hoppy than the control brew [...]
More importantly, there were no unpleasant flavours.
[I'm sure this will get plenty of downvotes, but...]
That's completely contradictory, since hoppy _is_ an unpleasant flavour!
Obviously I really, really don't get the whole IPA fad...
whole IPA fad
IPA wasn't a fad - it was an attempt to make beers that could survive being taken out to the Empire trrops in far-flung foreign parts without going bad.
Most beer at the time had limited hops since it was (generally) made and drunk in the local area and within a couple of days. But the beer for the troops in (say) India had to be able to stand a 6-8 week ocean voyage without going bad and it was found that increasing the hops did that.
Hense IPA was made - not as a fad but so that the troops had something to drink other than local beverages of dubious provenance.
 The Navy approach was to add cheap brandy or rum to the beer and make grog. And, once the beer had run out, the added spirits also helped to make the water potable and (at least) minimally palatable
I remember reading once that Ale as pointed out above didn't have any hops historically and was only added at the request of some clergymen to stop the overly amorous potency of the herby brew prior to the soporific hops being added:
"One factor is that hops create a sedentary spirit in the imbiber. Amongst those knowledgeable about herbs, hops tea is well known as a catalyst for dreams, and creates drowsiness for the beer drinker. Hops is also an anaphradesiacal herb - meaning that it lessens sexual desire." - http://www.homebrewing.com/articles/gruit/
There's actually a great little brewery in Ghent, Belgium - Gruut - that brews hop free beers that are very tasty, worth a visit for any beer fans - http://www.gruut.be/en
It tastes like it was either brewed at too high a temperature, or the yeast had mutated badly (both will cause fruity esters). All in all, it reminds me of a homebrew that's been aging in a garage with uncontrolled temperatures.
Would I purchase it? Absolutely not. I'd rather drink water.
Besides, my hops are being nicely irrigated by a little spring rain ...
If this GM yeast reduces the demand for Hops for traditional brewers it is a good thing (from my point of view)... It means that I will be able to get the good beer (without the GM yeast) at a reasonable cost as the cost of Hops will drop or stabalize due to the reduction in demand... and the heathens that drink the crap, GM Yeast based, beer won't know the difference.