In an era when brewers are experimenting with an increasing array of ingredients, an Adelaide Hills brewery is today releasing the country’s first lentil beer.
“It’s something exciting, it’s something new,” said Alistair Turnbull from Lobethal Bierhaus.
“It’s used extensively in food so why shouldn’t it be in beer?”
Mr Turnbull was a relatively early player in Australia’s craft brewing industry, a sector which has taken off in recent years with more than 400 brewers nationwide.
He had never considered incorporating lentils until he was approached last year by pulse processing company AGT Foods Australia.
“When I received the lentils, it was the first time I’d ever even seen what they look like in that form,” said Mr Turnbull.
AGT Foods Australia is part of a major global player in pulses — AGT Foods and Ingredients.
It had already developed the first lentil beer in Canada, partnering with Saskatchewan based Rebellion Brewing.
“The lentil cream ale is now one of our core beers that we produce all year round,” said Rebellion Brewing Company president Jamie Singer.
“Overall it has been a huge hit in Saskatchewan.”
That success prompted staff at AGT Foods Australia to push ahead with a local version.
“It was too irresistible for us not to do something with,” said Hayden Battle from AGT Foods Australia.
“Historically Australians don’t consume a lot of pulses.
“Almost everything we grow here in Australia is exported … so for us it was a good way to try and promote the pulse industry.”
The local lentil pale ale still has a sizeable percentage of malted barley in it to produce fermentable sugars.
But Mr Turnbull, who has been guided by Rebellion Brewing, said a lot of the flavour and texture comes from the addition of the pulse.
“It adds an earthiness,” he said.
“You’re using it probably the same way as you might use rolled oats — for instance, in a stout — to give it a little bit more body, which then translates into more head retention or mouth feel.”
South Australian pulse farmer Ben Wundersitz is already pretty happy with how his lentils are performing after a season of high prices and record yields.
“It’s the best it’s ever been and we might never see it this good again,” he said at harvest time.
As one of AGT’s major suppliers, the Yorke Peninsula grower is also chuffed that a small portion of what comes off his paddock may end up in a pint.
“For farmers our job is to grow food and I suppose if we can extend that to produce beer, well that’s a bonus,” Mr Wundersitz said.
“We have a beer at the end of the day often, so if there was a lentil beer on offer we’d certainly give it a crack.”