Alcohol-free beer: Improved taste due to stimulation of the Nervus Trigeminus

Alcohol-free beer poured into three laboratory glasses for analysis

The market for alcohol-free beer is continuously growing – even though its taste leaves something to be desired. Its bitterness and other unpleasant off-flavors are the reasons for this. Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV are now undertaking a collaborative research project with the Technische Universität München (TUM) to address this.

Greater acceptance of alcohol-free beer

With the aim of increasing the acceptance of alcohol-free beer, diet lemonades, and mixed beverages based on beer, the scientists at the Fraunhofer IVV and TUM are studying substances that influence taste perception in the brain. The trigeminal nerve, Nervus Trigeminus, is the focus of the scientific interest. This nerve in the brain is responsible amongst other things for pain and temperature sensitivity but also responds to taste impressions. Targeted stimulation of the trigeminal nerve with added flavor compounds in beverages should positively change their perceived flavor.

Targeted stimulation of the trigeminal nerve

Substances that are able to do this include capsaicin and menthol that have been proven to stimulate the trigeminal nerve. Amongst other things, the research will determine the required dose of these flavor compounds and the associated interactions and mechanisms. Tastings will be carried out by trained test persons at the Chair of Brewing and Beverage Technology (TUM). A further step will involve studying how the substances act and the perceived enjoyment of the beer.

The project has a two year term and a total budget of 641,000 euros. The contribution of the Bavarian Research Foundation is 319,000 euros. Besides the Fraunhofer IVV and TUM there are four industrial partners, namely Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan, Hopfenproduzent Joh. Barth & Sohn, Adelholzener Alpenquellen, and Destilla (a producer of flavor compounds and essences).

Project term: 2019 to 2021
Project management
/project funding:
Bayerische Forschungsstiftung