Fancy a Pint? Alcohol-Related Patents

By Nick Davies, Trainee Patent Attorney

With the Christmas party season a distant, perhaps slightly hazy, memory, Dry January® is now officially in full swing for millions of people partaking in this annual event, which, as the name suggests, results in participants consuming no alcohol during the month of January. While a month off alcohol is certainly advantageous in that any pesky hangovers are avoided, it is also purported to be associated with many health benefits.

Fortunately, a range of alcohol-free alternatives are available. One such example is disclosed in Japanese patent JP4819182B2, which relates to a method for producing an unfermented beer-flavoured malt beverage that contains zero alcohol. A typical method used to brew beer comprises the following steps: (i) mashing malt, such as that obtained from barley, adding water and heating the malt-water mixture in a process known as saccharification, a process whereby starch is converted into sugar, resulting in a product called wort; (ii) filtering the wort, adding hops and boiling the wort-hops mixture in order to add flavours and aromas that one might associate with beer; and (iii) cooling the wort-hops mixture and adding yeast to promote fermentation, thereby producing alcohol within the mixture. As explained in the patent, completely removing alcohol from beer following fermentation proves challenging and omitting the step of adding yeast to the mixture, thereby producing no alcohol, may result in a beer with an unpleasant taste. To this end, the inventors found that by treating wort with activated carbon, the unpleasant flavour associated with wort is adsorbed and removed from the beverage, resulting in an unfermented malt beverage with an appropriate beer flavour containing zero alcohol.

Professor David Nutt, a world-leading psychopharmacologist, published a controversial research paper concluding that he believes alcohol to be a dangerous substance, with a perceived harm greater than many controlled substances as classified under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and that, were ethanol-based drinks invented today, that those drinks might also be controlled under this act. To this end, Alcarelle, a company co-founded by Professor Nutt and who acts as Chief Scientific Officer, aims to produce an alternative to alcohol that mimics the good effects of alcohol while leaving behind the bad ones. Two patents entitled “mood enhancing compounds” have been filed relating to this chemical compound but have, unfortunately, not been published at the time of writing. With Professor Nutt claiming that hangover-free alcohol could replace all regular alcohol by 2050, perhaps these up-and-coming alcohol alternatives will be available in a bar near you in the not too distant future.

However, for those experiencing any of the various unpleasant symptoms associated with drinking alcohol, all is not lost. Chinese patent CN102218096B discloses a composition that aims to relieve the effects of alcohol, prevent hangovers and disintoxicate alcoholic drinks, by employing a mix of Ju Hovenia fruit extract concentrate, nicotinamide, prickly pear extract, lotus extract and Huang Qi extract, using a particular method of extraction and preparation. In a similar vein, US patent US10376554B1 is alleged to alleviate hangover symptoms by cleansing the body and filtering out any toxins, while replacing nutrients. More specifically, this patent relates to a composition and method comprising administering to a subject experiencing a hangover juiced onions, juiced cucumbers, and juiced leafy green vegetables, in varying proportions. Whether or not these hangover prevention formulae are effective or not is yet to be confirmed by the author.

With alcohol-free bars appearing in London, consumers shunning alcohol, and NHS guidance stating that there is no cure for a hangover, alcohol-free beverages appear to be big business. For those looking to take advantage of these trends, develop alcohol-free drinks and enter into this emerging market, it is important to have a robust IP strategy in place.