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Hemp beer: hemp could replace hops in beer

Amandine André’s team at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) has succeeded in brewing a hemp beer that is indistinguishable from a commercial lager.

ZHAW sda-ats

Hops don’t grow well in Switzerland, but hemp does. Researchers at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) have conducted tests to substitute the former for the latter in beer production.

For centuries, beer has been brewed in Europe from a mixture of hops, malt, yeast and water. However, hops are in trouble due to global warming, the ZHAW said in a statement Thursday.

Amandine André’s team came up with the idea of using industrial hemp flowers, which are considered a waste product in this production process. Hemp and hops belong to the same botanical family and both have enough bitterness to brew beer.

With support from the Spark program of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), the project has yielded its first results. Unlike commercial hemp beers, the main objective was to prevent the beer from tasting like hemp.

After three years of testing, the researchers selected two hemp varieties with sufficient bitterness and the right aroma. They then submitted their beer to a panel of tasters.


Three quarts of hemp

The results: to achieve a similar bitterness, three to four times as much hemp as hops were needed. Up to three-quarters of the hops can be replaced by hemp.

In a blind tasting, the seven specialists were unable to distinguish the ZHAW beer – which contains only a quarter of hops – from a commercial lager. Amandine André and her team will now devote themselves to perfecting the recipe and trying to find a brewery interested in their project.

At present, 90% of Switzerland’s hop needs are met by imports. Hemp, which requires very little fertilizer, pesticides or irrigation, is therefore an interesting alternative. It is also much more resistant to heat.

Don’t drink and drive. Enjoy responsibly.

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