In recent years, craft beer has made a big push towards getting more portable. Gone are the days when huge IPAs only available in giant 750 ml bottles; now, you’re just as likely to find some of the world’s best brews in a can. But cans don’t solve all of the issues involved in traveling with beer: It’s still a liquid, meaning it’s both heavy and flagged by airport security around the globe. But what if beer wasn’t a liquid?
Making beer more portable by getting it out of its liquid form was the idea behind “Instant Craft Beer” – an experimental project by Tobias Emil Jensen and Tore Gynther, the brewers and owners behind the respected Danish gypsy brewery To Øl. Though a similar concept in the hands of lesser brewers would probably immediately come across as some lame gimmick, the guys behind To Øl lend this idea some real credence – and their explanation of their process and product is as honest as it is intriguing.
Writing for food site Aorta last year, the duo discussed the science and the “hours in the labs” that led to To Øl Instant Craft Beer. The key to the product is freeze drying, which they describe as possibly being “the perfect process to uphold aroma and obtain a split between Water, Dry-Matter and Alcohol – and thereby make Instant Beer.” With help from freeze drying experts they were able to utilize a larger scale freeze drying machine, and test four different beers – “a heavy deep beer brewed with coffee, a fruity IPA brewed with different tropical fruits, a Wild Yeast hop forward IPAs and a fairly dry pilsner” – and broke them down into three components: water, alcohol and the dry-matter – the latter of which is your Instant Craft Beer.
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Importantly, freeze drying beer isn’t a perfect process – at least not yet. Jensen and Gynther admitted this. “The dry-matter contains all the sugars, bitter compounds and some flavours,” they write. “The water contains a bit of the flavour from the beer. And finally, the alcohol is isolated and keeps the aromas of the beer more intensely compared to traditional distilling.” To put that in simple terms: Not all your flavor goes into the powder; some of it gets lost in the water and alcohol. It also means that some people’s favorite component of beer, the alcohol, will be missing in a simple rehydration process.
But that need to add alcohol could actually be a feature, not a bug in the system. As the duo showed in this video for Munchies from this past August, you could simply mix in whatever sort of alcohol you want: Here, they used mezcal. Again, the possibilities really depend on your imagination and creativity.
The brewers see this personalization of brews as an exciting and unique possibility that comes from the process. “[We] realized that if we produced four different dry matters and the corresponding alcohol, then people would be able to mix together various types of dry matter and alcohol to create their desired type of beer,” they explained. And though Jensen and Gynther don’t specifically mention it, the original beer recipes could also be tweaked so that the freeze-dried powder tastes as it should after the freeze drying process instead of before it – similar to how it doesn’t matter how a beer tastes before its fermented, only afterwards.
At this point, Instant Craft Beer doesn’t appear to be hitting shelves anytime soon. It’s still an experiment; one that’s been ongoing for at least over a year. But next time you’re pissed that you can’t throw an amazing craft beer in your carry-on luggage, remember there are two dudes in Denmark who are trying to solve that problem.
[h/t Grub Street]