As an avowed fan of both beer and dairy—yet somehow not a Wisconsin native—I hit the jackpot when I recently discovered research into “dairy beer.” As published in no less a mainstream news source than Dairy Reporter, Cornell University scientists are working on a “beer” made from a by-product of Greek yogurt production. Before you can even ask—no, it’s not a milk stout.
The research is designed to solve a problem in the yogurt-making biz: Production of Greek yogurt creates lots of acid whey, a low-protein liquid that doesn’t have many current commercial uses. It’s difficult to dispose of, and yogurt companies would love a method to turn that whey into profits. Chobani and Fage—two major Greek yogurt companies, in case you haven’t grocery shopped in the last decade—have big production facilities in upstate New York, making the question especially relevant for Ithaca, New York-based Cornell scientists.
“If we could convert whey into something that people want to drink, it opens an entirely new economic arena for entrepreneurs and brewers to explore and innovate within,” Sam Alcaine, an assistant professor in the school’s Department of Food Science, tells Cornell’s news website.
Turns out, Alcaine was previously a product innovation manager at Miller Brewing Company, so his first thought, clearly, was: Can we make alcohol out of this? The answer is yes, but not much of it. An early prototype of “beer” made from the leftover acid whey only clocks in at 2.7 percent ABV, compared to the 4-6 percent ABV of standard beers. Researchers say it has a tangy, salty flavor similar to a gose, a German style of wheat beer that has a signature salinity and lactic tang. While it sounds bizarre, dairy products have been a part of the brewing world since the day some brewer used lactose to sweeten his stout. Fun bit of trivia: Cream ales don’t actually contain cream, and Greek yogurt beer won’t significantly add to your daily protein intake.