Friday, February 25, 2011

GMO Beer

GMO Corn in Beer 

Apparently a little known secret in the brewery world is that you may be drinking GMO beer if you purchase from non-craft breweries. Many of the larger breweries are using 35% malt and 65% adjuncts in their beers. That adjunct is usually rice or corn derived. Unless using organic corn, there is an 85% chance the corn used will be genetically modified (GM).  Therefore, there is a good chance that your general brewery beer may be made from GM corn. Small craft breweries usually use malt for most of their beer and of the 4 craft breweries I called in my area only one used any corn-derived products and that was in one lone lager beer. Unfortunately, they were using market corn, which means it has an 85% chance of being GM corn.

Home brewers may be using GMO's in their brewing. Some of them use genetically modified (GM) corn in the form of dextrose in the processes of making beer. Although not used so much by home brewers to brew their beer, it can be used towards the end of making the beer. To get the fizz that is in their beer, carbonation is often created by feeding a sweetener to the somewhat "flat" beer while it is in an oxygen free environment. This causes the yeast to create CO2 and is one method to carbonate beer. Many home beer makers use malt or dextrose as a sweetener to create carbonation. Dextrose gives little flavor to a beer and is sometimes chosen for this fact. Unfortunately it is usually made from GM corn. I have used malt, dextrose, cane sugar and honey to carbonate beers. However, when I recently tried to get organic dextrose for this process, I was told there was no longer any organic dextrose on the market. I can use organic cane sugar or malt in its place. I can also use other sweeteners. What I use depends on the flavor I wish to impart at the end. I suggest not using dextrose as a method of carbonating your beers since you can't get GMO free dextrose currently.

GMO Barley in Beer Soon

Additionally there are other GMO beer problems brewing on the horizon. Above, I mentioned the use of malt in beer.  The type of malt that is used most is malted barley. Beer making has traditionally used three main ingredients: water,  sweetener and herbs (More recently only hops has been used as an herb and largely malted barley as a sweetener.). Although we now use other grains and many people have went back to including other herbs in their beer making process, barley is still the number one grain used to brew beer. In Germany there are trials underway to make a GM barley seed. They are trying to create a barley plant that can defend itself from the pathogenic fungi Rhizoctonia solani and Rhizoctoniea oryzae. Unless we tell our beer makers we refuse to drink GM beers, they appear to be in our future. Even if you make your own beer, the GM barley malt may replace all other malt available.

We need to make our voices heard. If you make beer, don't purchase the GM dextrose at your local brew shop. Tell them you want organic and ask them about alternatives if you use dextrose or other corn products in your beer brewing. Tell your brew shop you also want organic malts available and let them know you are concerned about the GM barley being currently tested in Germany.