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True Blood, Beverages, and One Weird Patent

For years now young adult entertainment series’ like Twilight, Underworld and True Blood have been sweeping the nation, proving that few can resist the allure of glittering vampires and a world where fairy-hybrids and humans coexist. Fans who can’t get enough of their favorite books and TV episodes can find even more excitement in products like Tru Blood (a carbonated blood orange flavored beverage) packaged and produced to resemble the real deal. If you’ve never seen the show True Blood on HBO, here’s a quick summary of what you’re missing:

Unbeknownst to most, Vampires (and an assortment of other supernatural beings) have been roaming the earth since the dawn of time, and it isn’t until the creation of synthetic blood (cleverly named Tru Blood) that they are finally “allowed” to reveal themselves to the human race. The series begins two years after this “Great Revelation,” and follows a telepathic human-hybrid named Sookie Stackhouse while exploring the concept of human-vampire coexistence in the small Louisiana town of Bon Temps.

Fortunately for most, there’s no actual blood in the Tru Blood recipe, but did you know that blood used to be a fairly common ingredient in other drinks? Before it was outlawed in the U.S., blood was actually used as a fining (and coloring) agent in many wines. The process of fermentation generally leaves behind a jumble of solid waste (grape skins, seeds, etc.) which makes the process of “racking” the wine necessary to filter most of this from the good stuff. However, even after this initial filtering process, some small particles do remain, which can lead to an additional step called “fining.”

Though there are a few different ways to perform this next step, one popular way is by adding something to the mix that will attract those leftover particles so that they can more easily be extracted. Beaten egg whites, for example, are a fining agent still used to this day, but they weren’t always the agent of choice. Casein derived from milk was, and still is, a popular method used to help clarify white wines, and Isinglass, a protein derived from the air bladders of some fish, is also used to help remove particles and aid in general clarification. Even dried cattle blood was used at one point as a rapid fining agent in many red wines, though it is now illegal in the United States.

Blood was also used commonly in beer in order to remove “chill haze,” a cloudiness appearing in light-colored beer caused by microscopic proteins leftover from the brewing process. While these proteins have no flavor or effect on the overall beer, brewers began adding blood to remove them in order to enhance the appearance of the beer when poured from the bottle into a clear glass. Though the extent to which commercial brewers used this process is unknown, it was at one point patented by Dow Chemical Company.

In April of 1963, Dow received US patent number 3,086,865 for “Clarification of beverages with animal blood albumin”, a protein found in blood plasma. Generally, it was bovine blood plasma that was obtained by removing the blood cells by either sedimentation or centrifugation procedures. This too, however, was outlawed in the U.S.

Want to read more about Dow’s unique patent? Crack open a cold one and click here.