Beer: that ice-cold, refreshing hoppy taste. Or malty taste. Or creamy taste? From macro-brews to micro-brews, IPAs to Stouts, the varieties of beer are endless. However, do we ever think of the environmental impacts whenever we crack open a can of beer after a long day? Patagonia, everyone’s go-to sustainable clothing (or lifestyle?) company, is leading the way for a revolutionary beer brewed with Kernza. In collaboration with Patagonia Provisions and Hopworks Urban Brewery, the Long Root Ale is brewed with this environmentally friendly wheatgrass variety, boasting a refreshing Grapefruit hop flavor.
The Land Institute in Kansas helped selectively breed this variety of wheatgrass; Kernza is a perennial (which simply means it is grown year-round) with incredibly long roots that can grow up to ten feet in the ground. Since this is perennial, farmers will not have to reseed this crop with every new season. Due to the long roots of this crop, it is an incredible soil replenisher. The long roots help fight erosion and pests; less erosion means fertilizer is more prone to staying in the soil longer instead of being easily depleted. Kernza also uses less water while preserving biodiversity and retaining soil nutrients. The wheatgrass apparently soaks up carbon while requiring less tilling. Kernza also helped reduce nitrate from seeping out by 86% compared to wheat.
But this specialty crop is far from being widely available to the masses. With only a handful of food organizations being able to access this wheatgrass, it will take several years before it’s introduced to the human diet. It took six years for the seeds to double in size to make this grain a possibility for human consumption. Technically, it’s only one-quarter the size of a wheat berry ; it contains a small amount of gluten, leaving it difficult to work with and incorporate into food. However, it is extremely encouraging to watch numerous organizations and scientists attempt to develop a more sustainable way of agriculture. Kernza is definitely a grain to keep a watchful eye over in the future.