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Characterization of the bitter compounds found in hemp, and application toward beer production

Hemp flower and beer glass

At a glance

  • Project leader : Dr. Amandine André
  • Project budget : CHF 97'280
  • Project status : completed
  • Funding partner : SNSF (Spark / Projekt Nr. 195327)
  • Contact person : Amandine André


For centuries, hop (Humulus lupulus) has been considered an essential ingredient in the beer brewing process, as certain molecules contained in its cones give the drink its typical bitterness and aroma. Hop cultivation, already delicate, is now threatened by global warming. Domestic hop production in Switzerland currently covers only 10% of the demand of Swiss breweries. Therefore, the country's brewers are largely dependent on imports of foreign hops, which does not allow them to control neither their costs nor the quality of this important raw material. The search for a satisfactory alternative to hops for brewing beer is today a strategic research area for the brewing industry, yet one that has been neglected. It is in this context that the present research project, which proposes the search for an alternative source of bitterness for beer production, is being carried out. The proposal is to study hemp (Cannabis sativa spp. sativa) since, in addition to belonging to the same botanical family (the Cannabaceae), some varieties have a pronounced bitter taste, as well as aromatic descriptors common to those of hops. After a chemical study of the bitter and taste-active compounds of different hemp cultivars, we propose to produce a prototype beer which will be evaluated from a sensory point of view. The goal is to use hemp as a functional ingredient, in order to provide the brewery with a key ingredient with a bitter taste and aromatic characteristics similar to those of hop, in order to partially substitute it in brewing.