This grain fights climate change -- and makes a tasty Minnesota beer

This grain fights climate change -- and makes a tasty Minnesota beer

Kernza's a sustainable wheat that could revolutionize agriculture, if only farmers had a reason to plant it. Beer might just do it, and it turns out the Twin Cities is a hotspot for Kernza brew.

Kernza is a potentially revolutionary grain — a self-sustaining, climate change-fighting wheat that can boost soil and water health and keep carbon locked in the ground.

But it's also a pain to grow. It can be hard to process and even harder to convince farmers to plant it. While it's found its way into artisan breads and other niche foods, Kernza could really use a high-demand consumer product to ignite the mainstream market and get farmers energized to grow it.

Something like beer.

Yes, beer may offer a path to mass production for Kernza. And it turns out the Twin Cities is hotspot for Kernza brew.

'Bring it to market'

In northeast Minneapolis, Fair State Brewing Cooperative has created a crisp golden ale using Kernza, made for drinking on a hot summer day.

Head brewer Niko Tonks said Kernza tastes like wheat, but has a unique, earthy flavor.

"I think to me it's more interesting than the white wheat we get for brewing," he said. "I was kind of enjoying kind of snacking on a handful of it while we were brewing."

St. Paul-based Bang Brewing and other craft brewers have also launched beers with Kernza.

Fair State's beer is made from all Minnesota-made ingredients, which is something Tonks has wanted to do for a while.

"People talk a lot about local beer, but the truth of the matter is for the most part beer is produced locally with ingredients that are sourced globally," Tonks said. "We sit at the very tippy top of this huge supply chain."

Getting his hands on enough Kernza was difficult, however. It took help from Adam Fetcher of the clothing company Askov Finlayson, which also does some environmental advocacy on the side.

Fetcher and Tonks knew each other from their student days at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. So when Askov Finlayson pitched the idea for a Kernza beer, Tonks saw an opportunity for an all-Minnesota brew.

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