A popular foundation for brewing in Africa, sorghum is a versatile crop and has begun making inroads in the western world, with a number of beers being marketed as ‘gluten-free’ for drinkers who cannot tolerate gluten.
One of the top cereal crops in the world, sorghum has a number of uses both as a food item and in other areas like bio fuel, animal feed, dyes and as an alternative to wood. But a use, which has been largely unknown outside of the Far East and Africa, is its use as a basic ingredient for alcoholic beverages. As large scale brewing with barley is costly in these regions compared to sorghum, it makes a reasonable alternative for brewing.
It has a number of names, burukuto in Nigeria, pombe in East Africa, bil-bil in Cameroon, bjala in the North Sotho region – it’s even used to make a local version of Guinness in South Africa! In China it’s used to make distilled spirits called, amongst others, kaoliang and maotai.
All that’s changing, though, as a number of western brewers are using sorghum now to make beers such as:
- Anheuser-Busch’s Redbridge Beer [ http://www.redbridgebeer.com/ ]
- Lakefront Brewery’s (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) New Grist beer [ http://www.lakefrontbrewery.com/new_grist.html ]
- Both of the UK brewers St Peter’s Brewery’s G-Free beers – G-Free and Dark G-Free – are made with sorghum [ http://www.stpetersbrewery.co.uk ]
- Bard’s The Original Sorghum Malt Beer (Minneapolis, Minnesota) [http://www.bardsbeer.com/ ]
- New Planet’s all gluten-free beers (Boulder, Colorado) [ http://newplanetbeer.com ]
- Green’s in the UK, – although they use millet, buckwheat and brown rice as well as sorghum [ https://glutenfreebeers.co.uk/ ]
- There have even been gluten-free beer festivals in the US and UK!
So, with a regular crop of sorghum being grown twice a year in central Africa, this could be the next big thing for brewers, particularly as there are an estimated 3-4 million people with celiac or celiac disease in the US alone.
If you’re interested in learning more about sorghum, contact us today.