This just in: craft beer just joined the powdered beverage party. Brewers and owners of To Øl brewery in Denmark, Tobias Emil Jensen and Tore Gynther, recently accomplished their dream to make beer accessible in all situations: from cruising in a plane to hiking in the wilderness.After hours in a lab manipulating the properties of water with some guidance from GEA, Jensen and Gynther successfully separated beer into its constituent parts: dry matter, alcohol and water, which created a variation of beer via freeze drying.
Who knew that you could freeze dry beer just like strawberries?
How does this work?
Basically, to make powdered beer, To Øl freeze dried regular beer via sublimation to extract the the liquid parts of the beer (water and alcohol) and leaving behind the dry matter (sugars, bittering compounds and some flavors).
The process of sublimation (when a substance goes directly from solid to gas) is possible at very low temperatures and very low pressures. So the beer is first exposed to a deep freeze then placed in a freeze dryer for a few hours at -40 degrees Fahrenheit under vacuum-like pressures.
Consequently, the water is sucked out and the alcohol vapor (now concentrate alcohol) is collected on the bottom. The dry matter is the only component left behind. Since this process does not involve heat, the delicate aromas survive.
So far, To Øl has created powdered versions of their coffee stout, fruity IPA, wild yeast IPA, and a dry Pilsner.
Is it worth trying?
As a food science major, I believe in trying any food at least once. I mean, you can't knock it 'till you try it, right? However, I don't think that I want to source all of my beer from a powder for the rest of my life, and here's why.
What makes beer the most popular alcoholic drink in the world is the taste imparted by the process itself. Malting the grains, cooking the mash, filtering out spent grains, boiling the wort, adding hops, conducting a fermentation and lagering a beer include a few of the basic steps that give a beer its unique and distinctive flavors.
As soon as you start chemically or physically modifying a finished beer, then you're inevitably going to change fundamental flavor characteristics that make a dank IPA or malty amber ale your beverage of choice on a Friday night.
All things considered, I do not expect beer derived from its powdered form to taste anything like its upstream relative (actual beer). So in a way, you can't really compare the two products, meaning you should view them as separate classes of beverages that satisfy different needs.
What does this mean for the craft beer industry?
Realistically, you must acknowledge that this product is impractical to manufacture and attracts a very small consumer demographic. Who knows, the "powdered beer trend" may take off as beer lovers embrace the novelty, convenience and flexibility of instant craft beer.
In addition, powdered craft beer offers beer connoisseurs the flexibility and creativity to create their own unique concoctions by mixing various dry ingredients with different alcohol concentrations—now this opens up a whole new world of experimentation.
Does this mean that you will now be able to find your favorite craft beer in the grocery store in powdered form alongside Kool-Aid, Tang, Folgers and Muscle Milk anytime soon? Not exactly. But does instant craft beer have the potential to expand the possibilities of when and where you can enjoy a pint? Most definitely (and you can bet I'm for that).
I'm all for experimentation, innovation and new product development and am eager to see if, and when, To Øl will market their product. As long as powdered beer doesn't undermine the sanctity of the brewing process in the consumer's eyes, then I will happily welcome instant beer powder to the craft beer market.