Brewers use a range of fining strategies throughout beer production to prevent cloudiness in beer. The global beer market is dominated by pale lager beers (>90% volumes), with the majority of consumers expecting their beer to be served clear and bright. A traditional product used in beer fining is isinglass, which is prepared from the swim bladder of certain tropical and sub-tropical fish. Its use poses a problem for vegetarians and vegans who enjoy a pint. Therefore the brewing industry have been on the search for an alternative, but equally effective, fining agent.
University of Nottingham brewing scientists, led by Prof David Cook, have discovered a new fining agent in the waste stream from hop processing. The hop-derived fining agent is a sustainable and vegan-friendly product, as it is a natural ingredient in the brewing process and is of non-animal origin. The spent hops fining agent was found to be very effective at clarifying beer. Also, it was shown to bind metal ions, which gave it potential to slow oxidative reactions and prolong beer shelf-life. Ongoing research is testing the effectiveness of the product for flavour stabilising effects.
The novel hop-derived fining agent has two clear advantages over traditional finings: (1) the plant-based alternative will enable brewers to market their products as vegan, which is an ever-growing trend in the UK; (2) it is a sustainable product, readily available from the hop processing waste stream. Furthermore, the product can be used at various stages of the brewing process as part of the brewer’s overall fining strategy.
The research team have worked closely with their commercial partner Barth Innovations, part of the Barth Haas group, a major supplier of hops and processed hop products to the global brewing industry. The novel hop-derived fining agent could develop new market opportunities for Barth Innovations, developing a value added product from what is currently waste material.