While beer menus has become more accomodating for those with an intolerance to gluten, the options still involve some departure from the traditional recipe to avoid grains as the source of the starch. But Australian scientists have developed a type of gluten-free barley that has been used to produce the world's first barley-based gluten-free beer. The brew lands on the shelves of German supermarkets today.
The Kebari barley was developed by scientists at Australia's CSIRO in an effort to address the need for safe food products among people with celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Using what they describe as conventional plant breeding techniques, the scientists were able to develop a barley grain wherein the concentration of hordeins, the type of gluten in barley, was cut to 10,000 less than regular barley. While they couldn't expel it completely, this brought it below the 20 parts per million threshold recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for gluten-free classification.
All of this has caught the attention of German brewing company Radeberger, which has now used the Kebari barley as the basis for the world's first barley-based gluten-free beer. "Pionier" is available in Germany today, and has been verified as gluten-free under German Beer Purity regulations known locally as Reinheitsgebot.
"It's really exciting seeing the first product made with the malted version of our Kebari grain, we hope it's the first of many products," says Dr Crispin Howitt, CSIRO Principal Research Scientist.
In its current form, the Kebari grain is not a panacea for beer-thirsty celiacs the world over. While below WHO's recommendation for gluten-free products, its traces of hordein are still too much for certain food standard codes to stomach, like those in place in Australia and New Zealand, for example.
Nonetheless, the scientists are refining their work with a view to ushering in a host of new food options for those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance, who can be driven to diets that are expensive, low in fiber and high in fat and sugar.
"We're also working on a hulless version of Kebari which is preferable for use in a range of foods like breakfast cereals, soup, even pasta and flatbreads, which will be the first part of the next generation of gluten free products helping people with celiac disease to increase fiber, promote bowel health and enhance nutrition in their diet," says Howitt.