An Earth Day Beer That Explores a Sustainable Grain’s Viability

It naturally makes sense for companies to use Earth Day as an organic tool for signaling what they’re doing to be sustainable and environmentally conscious.

Being responsible stewards of the environment has long been part of LUKI Brewery’s identity. The brewery organized an Earth Day event that served to share the results of their yearlong self-reporting efforts and discuss how they had worked to conserve natural resources and unveil a new beer using a sustainable grain derived from a wheatgrass first used for livestock fodder.

Luki teamed up with Scraps Mile High, a compost pick-up service, to brew a beer using a sustainable grain called Kernza from Sustain-A-Grain. The perennial grain grows year-round and has massive roots that help improve air, soil and water quality. 

Mobius Loop, a light Blonde Ale with a slightly sweet, nutty flavor, as well as a five-gallon cask-version of the beer with local honey from the downtown Denver rooftop beehives at Civic Center Plaza, was set to tap on Earth Day.

Co-owner Jeff Smith said Kernza — which was first tried out in home kitchens for baking about 15 years ago — is relatively new to the brewing world.

“We learned about it last fall at a Colorado Brewers Guild event during the Great American Beer Festival. It’s not in widespread use, because a lot of research and development still needs to be done,” Smith said. 

READ MORE: Hopworks Urban Helps Explore Applications of Sustainable and Perennial Variety of Wheat

Smith explained that using Kernza was a very different experience compared to conventional grains, and said the brewery went through several small-scale mashing experiments to see how it would behave and understand what percentage of the grain bill it could replace. 

“For starters, it’s a very small grain — you can’t use your normal roller grain mill, it needs to be hammer milled to crack the husk,” Smith said. “Thankfully, they can pre-mill it for you. Common use now is unmalted, but I know the team behind Kernza is working on malting concepts. It will also need to be a bit more competitive in pricing before any wide-scale usage would occur.  Pricing is going to be the biggest hurdle for it to catch on and get more use.”

Smith said LUKI chose a Blonde Ale for his brewery’s first foray into Kernza to highlight the flavor of the grain.

“We’ll stick with pilot batches for the foreseeable future, but we are interested in taking it in different directions, looking at wheat beers and saisons,” Smith explained. “The Kernza has a nice nutty flavor so we’ll see what we can pair it with, including deeper complexity with stouts.  Ultimately our guests will decide if we continue [with it].”

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