Beer and Patents

Many of us like a good beer. Apparently, it’s the world’s third-most-popular beverage to consume after water and tea. Beer is so ingrained in our culture that it even has its own worldwide CPC patent classification C12C. Patent classification C12C includes all patent documents relating to “Beer and preparation of beer by fermentation” and you can browse them at your leisure by clicking here. There are almost 300 published in 2020 alone so far.


This classification is also further divided into “Preparation of malt”, “Treatment of hops”, “Preparation of wort” (the liquid extracted from the mashing process), and a particularly interesting one – “Processes specially adapted for making special kinds of beer”, which likely has some hidden surprises in there.


All in all, beer is a “hop” topic – the C12C class has over 9000 global patents and applications covering beers through the (recent) ages.


One of the earliest beer patents comes from the GCSE History (Medicine Through Time!) giant Louis Pasteur. While I only recalled his famous pasteurizing of milk, I’m ashamed to say I didn’t remember him as he should be – ‘the first person to understand the process of fermentation and the importance of microorganisms in the production and spoilage of beer’ – I guess I was only 15 at the time! Anyway, Louis Pasteur’s patent, US 135,245 (1873), relates to his work with heat treatment of beer to prevent microbial spoilage titled “Improvement in Brewing Beer and Ale” and was one of the very first beer patents.


Fun fact: It is said that Pasteur was not a great lover of beer. His drive to create better beer came from his animosity towards all things German after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. He just wanted to create better beer than the Germans. Pasteur apparently stated himself – his aim was to create a “Beer of National Revenge”! I’m not sure this entirely worked as I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking one of the best reasons to go to Germany is for the beer!