Deschutes Brewery and Patagonia team up on kernza brew

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Deschutes and Patagonia team up to promote Kernza with the new brew.
Deschutes and Patagonia team up to promote Kernza with the new brew.

Related tags Organic Beer Brewing Ancient grains

Deschutes Brewery and Patagonia Provisions are exploring the potential of Kernza - an organic, carbon-sequestering perennial grain that acts as a substitute for wheat – with two new brews set to launch later this year.

Patagonia Provisions – the food arm of outdoor clothing company Patagonia – was set up in 2012 to address a ‘broken food chain’, investigating organic grains as well as seafood. It’s now teamed up with Oregon brewer Deschutes, which is the 10th​ largest craft brewer in the US.

The two companies are gearing up to launch Kernza lager and non-alcoholic Kernza Golden Brew in September: with the latter marketing the first certified organic non-alcoholic craft beer in the US.

Regenerative and organic practices

While organic has seen strong growth across food and beverage over the last decade, it’s made less impact in beer.

Most breweries source barley and hops from conventional industrial farms: which use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. In fact, fewer than 50 of the 9,700 breweries in the US produce certified organic beer, according to stats from the USDA.

Deschutes was one of the first breweries to produce a certified organic beer back in 2007, and has made it its mission to increase the number of breweries producing organic beer. That, in turn, would help increase the acreage dedicated to organic and Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC) farmland, and lower ingredient costs.

Kernza, meanwhile, is a grain that was developed by The Land Institute, a non-profit research organization, in 2009. The crop has strong, long roots which can stretch 10ft down into the ground, protecting soil from erosion and improving soil structure. It also has an important role to play in carbon sequestration.

And, alongside the advantages on the sustainability front, the kernza also brings a unique and attractive taste profile to the beer, says Peter Skrbek, CEO of Deschutes Brewery

“Kernza imparts a very pleasant slightly sweet, nutty flavor to the beer,” he told us. “It is also a higher protein grain which helps establish a nice full mouthfeel.”

The kernza beers will be brewed with organic practices at Deschutes’ brewery in Bend, Oregon. The organic Kernza for the beers will be sourced from Perennial Promise Grower’s Cooperative, a farmer-led ingredients company, and used with ROC rye.

Regenerative Organic Certified is a certification for food, textiles and personal care ingredients. Farms and products must reach high standards for soil health, animal welfare and farmworker fairness.

ROC uses the USDA Certified Organic standard as a baseline. From there, it adds further criteria and benchmarks that incorporate the three major pillars of regenerative organic agriculture into one certification. Certified products must follow guidelines for soil health and land management, animal welfare, and farmer and worker fairness.

The certification is overseen by the nonprofit Regenerative Organic Alliance.

Meanwhile, the non-alcoholic version will be brewed in-house at Deschutes through a partnership with Sustainable Beverage Technologies (SBT) and uses the company’s patented BrewVo technology in combination with Deschutes’ proprietary brewing methods.

This technology, says Skrbek, allows it to create the best-tasting flavor-forward non-alcoholic beers on the market.

kernza alc

Kernza Lager

'A bright and wildly drinkable lager featuring light floral and lemon notes, with just a hint of earthy herbal character provided by the Kernza'

Hops: Organic Helios & Organic Adeena
Malt: Organic 2-Row & Kernza ,ROC Rye Malt
ABV: 4.7%

kernza non alc

Non-Alcoholic Kernza Golden Brew

'A bright and wildly drinkable non-alcoholic golden featuring light floral and lemon notes, with just a hint of earthy herbal character provided by the Kernza'

Hops: Organic Helios & Organic Adeena 
Malt: Organic 2-Row & Kernza®, ROC Rye Malt 
ABV: <0.5%

While Kernza is more expensive than other grains, Deschutes and Patagonia have pledged that the beer will be sold at a price comparable to non-organic beers.

“We are committed to offering the beer at an affordable price point so that great organic beer is available to a broad group of fans,” said Skrbek. “We are absorbing the increased raw material costs because we believe in the potential of Kernza to positively enhance sustainable American grain production.”

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