Terpenes and Beer
How Terpenes Can Enhance Your Brews
When it comes to terpenes, we often don’t consider their impact on beer but it turns out these compounds make a huge difference in the drink’s taste, smell, and quality. In-fact, concentrations of various terpenes in hops are sometimes used to determine the beer’s varieties. Many breweries are now turning to terpene isolates and blends to enhance their adult beverages.
Why add terpene isolates to beer?
To get the delicious beverage we know as beer, a grain is first chosen. The grain undergoes a process known as malting, where it is dried, heated, and cracked. Those grains are then placed in hot water to activate enzymes and release sugars (think of when you steep your tea). The water produced from heating the grains (wort) is then taken and boiled. It is when the wort is boiling that spices and hops are added to the mixture. From there, the mixture is drained, cooled, and yeast is added. The wort is then put into a chamber to ferment as the yeast eats the sugars and produces alcohol. Finally, the mixture is bottled, carbonated, and set aside, resulting in beer!
Unfortunately, throughout the brewing process a lot of the natural terpenes that come from the grain, hops, and spices are lost. Terpenes are very sensitive compounds and when exposed to high temperatures (such as those that occur when boiling wort) the more volatile ones such as myrcene and beta-caryophyllene are damaged and lost. The loss of terpenes can lead to a change in flavor and less aromatic beer. Luckily, with terpene isolates and blends, they can be added back! This is the route many brewers have taken in recent years as terpenes have become more accessible. In many cases, brewers are even adding new terpenes to their beers to create unique, signature drinks.
Common terpenes found in beer.
Considering adding terpenes to your alcoholic drinks but are not sure where to start? Here is a list of terpenes commonly found in beers that may help guide you.
- Myrcene: herbal and spicy, also found in herbs
- beta-Caryophyllene: spicy, clove, woody, also found in allspice
- Limonene: citrus, fruity, also found in lemons
- Humulene: woody, earthy, spicy, also found in sage
- alpha-Pinene: pine and woody, also found in conifer trees
- Linalool: floral, citrus, sweet, also found in lavender
- Geraniol: rosey, floral, also found in lemongrass
- alpha-Terpineol: pine, lilac, floral, also found in mint
Whether you want to add terpenes back to your beer or enhance its taste and smell, isolates are a great way to do it. Using terpene isolates you can create unique blends only you will be able to replicate that will keep people coming back for more!
Download our "Brewing with Terpenes" document
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Steven J Pittman. “The Oxford Companion to Beer Definition of terpenes.” Craft Beer and Brewing Magazine.
“How Beer is Made.” Beeriety. 6 July 2009.