What are “natural flavors” in beer and what are they used for?
Surely in your favorite beer store you have often caught the eye of a bottle with the words “brewed with natural flavors.” What does this mean?
In fact, it can mean almost anything. But do not think that this post is from the series “You Won’t Believe What They Add to Your Beer”
I became interested in natural flavors because of the growing popularity of “craft beer,” which flourishes by adding a variety of ingredients of this kind. Blue Moon, America’s most popular beer, also contains natural flavors, as well as the Leinenkugel line of shandy beer cocktails, which in 2013 became the fastest growing segment of the beer market.
However, not only large manufacturers add natural flavorings to beer – they can also be found in beer from Sam Adams, Shipyard, Rogue and many other US breweries.
So why use them? Because they greatly simplify the process.
Take, for example, the numerous walnut ales known for the various flavors of taste that malt gives them (toffee, caramel or toffee), as well as the pronounced nutty flavor. Why do brewers prefer natural flavors to nuts? Because nuts contain oils that have a negative effect on foam resistance, and the brewers, of course, do not like it. In addition, nuts can be quite expensive.
The same goes for the use of meat – as in beer with bacon. Animal fats contained in meat do not allow foam to stick for a long time and significantly increase the risk of foreign flavors.
That is why the taste of bacon is given to beer simply by using smoked malt. For example, Rogue uses smoked malt Briess Cherrywood and Weyermann Beechwood to add flavor to their Voodoo Maple Bacon Ale. At the same time, according to the brewers, they also add bacon smoked on apple chips to the drink.
Why is the term “natural flavoring” used? It can be assumed that in order to have a certain impact on the perception of the product by the consumer, while not violating any legislative rules for labeling. If you place the name of a certain taste in the very center of the label – for example, “lemonade” on Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy – the consumer will have no doubt that he is buying. For a summer beer, this is logical.
But on the label of Blue Moon, the inscription “natural flavor” is placed on the side – probably MilerCoors wants customers to think about the variety of flavors, and not focus only on the citrus component.
On the other hand, if you write “citrus flavor” on the label, and the consumer does not feel it, he will obviously be dissatisfied.
But what exactly does the inscription “natural flavor” mean on the beer label? Here is an excerpt from the requirements of the Food and Drug Administration for the labeling of US food products:
(3) The terms “natural flavoring” and “natural flavoring” refer to essential oils, oil resins, essences and extracts, protein hydrolyzate, distillate, or any products of calcination, heating, or enzymes, that contain flavoring components derived from spices, fruits, or fruit juice, vegetables or vegetable juice, food yeast, grass, bark, kidneys, roots, leaves or similar plant material, as well as meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products or their fermentation products, essentially Twain function of which in the composition of a food product is more flavor than nutritional. Natural flavors include natural essences and extracts obtained from plants specified in paragraphs. 182.10, 182.20, 182.40, 182.50 and in part 184 of this chapter, as well as substances specified in 172.510 of this chapter.
… and from the provisions of the US Government Printing Office on the Use of Natural Flavors in Beer and Related Labeling:
(b) The use of flavors and other non-alcoholic ingredients containing alcohol in beer production is permitted. Flavors and other non-alcoholic ingredients containing alcohol should account for no more than 49% of the total alcohol content of the finished product. For example, in a finished beer with an alcohol content of 5.0%, at least 2.55% by volume of the alcohol content should be provided by fermentation of the ingredients in the production process, and not more than 2.45% by volume of the alcohol by the addition of flavorings and other non-potable alcohol-containing ingredients. If the volumetric alcohol content in beer exceeds 6%, the addition of flavorings and other non-alcoholic ingredients containing alcohol should provide no more than 1.5% of the volumetric alcohol content.
I don’t think I have ever met a beer in which, in addition to malt or unmalted raw materials, food additives would be used to increase the alcohol content.