Japan's Forest Research and Management Organization has announced they've successfully developed a method to ferment wood into alcohol for drinking, while still maintaining the woody aroma. By 2020 they're looking to release it as an actual product!
Now, we all know that using wood in the maturation of alcohol is pretty awesome. It mellows out sharper edges, imparts a huge variety of flavors, and generally gives the drink a lot more depth. This begs the question: why don't we just drink the wood? Just kidding, that's not something most sane people ask. "Wood alcohol" is a name for methanol, which causes blindness and can be lethal. So yeah, we need to be careful here. Wood distillation is absolutely a real thing, but it's always been about making fuel. Do you want to drink fuel?
However, it seems that a few people have seriously considered the question of whether or not it's possible to distill wood beer for drinking and, umm, not die. When making methanol you use destructive distillation, with sulphuric acid and removal of lignins from the wood. We need those lignins for the flavor and aroma.
Instead, the Forest Research and Management Organization has developed an entirely new method that involves making a cream out of the wood, adding brewer's yeast, then following a standard ferment->distill process. Initial yields are 3.8L of brew at 14-15% abv from 4kg of wood. So far, the team has successfully made wood liquor out of sugi, silver birch, and even cherry blossom wood.
Hi there! I created and run nomunication.jp. I’ve lived in Tokyo since 2008, and I am a certified Shochu Kikisake-shi/Shochu Sommelier (焼酎唎酒師), Cocktail Professor (カクテル検定１級), and I hold Whisky Kentei Levels 3 and JW (ウイスキー検定３級・JW級). I also sit on the Executive Committees for the Tokyo Whisky & Spirits Competition and Japanese Whisky Day. Click here for more details about me and this site. Kampai!