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Beer Lovers Rejoice: Gluten-Free Barley is Here

Thanks to a new Aussie invention, gluten-free barley beer is hitting the shelves in Europe and Australia, and will soon reach the U.S. 

Scientists from Australian research agency CSIRO, with co-funding from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), have bred Kebari: a new barley variety with ultra low levels of hordeins, the type of gluten found in barley. 

The new barley has taken thirteen years of careful development. "Using conventional breeding, we've reduced the gluten levels to 10,000 times less than regular barley, which more than meets the World Health Organization's recommendation for calling a grain gluten free," explains CSIRO Principal Research Scientist Dr. Crispin Howitt. At 5 parts per million, it falls well within the WHO's recommendation of gluten-free products being under 20ppm. 

The grain has been named and trademarked Kebari, in honor of an archaeological discovery at the Sea of Galilee in Israel, where evidence of the Kebaran people growing, harvesting and processing barley 23,000 years ago was recently uncovered.

Kebari was developed in response to the large and growing global demand for food and beverage products to meet the needs of people with celiac and gluten intolerance. And what beverages can be made with barley? Beer, of course. Kebari barley is now being used to make the world's first commercially produced, full flavored, barley-based gluten-free beer.

Recently, German beer brewing company Radeberger has used Kebari barley to develop the barley based gluten-free beer, Pionier. 

In Germany, the production of beer is regulated by the German Beer Purity Law, which allows only water, barley, yeast and hops to be used in beer making. This means that lots of the gluten-free beers brewed without wheat or barley cannot even be considered beer in Germany. By using Kebari grain, Pionier Beer is officially the first gluten-free beer to meet German beer purity standards! 

Dr. Howitt hopes that this is the first of many products utilizing the new gluten-free barley, which could be used to develop an entire range of foods including pastas and flatbreads.

Bellfield Brewery, a Scottish boutique brewery set up by two celiacs, launched its first two gluten-free beers this past March and has now been licensed to use the new Kebari barley in small-scale non commercial trials to develop a wide range of brews. They are hoping this will lead to a variety of gluten-free beers in different styles, and are particularly interested in developing darker and heavier beer options, which are especially lacking in the gluten-free beer market. 

Owner and co-founder Giselle Dye explains that currently, gluten-free beers are primarily produced using added enzymes to clarify and remove the gluten. Gluten-free barley beer will provide more choice for customers, who are often frustrated with their options and would prefer a naturally gluten-free beer that hasn't been treated with enzymes. 

Brewer and brewery manager Kieran Middleton added that the new trials continued the brewery's strong commitment to research, development and innovation in brewing. "Last year we completed a research program with Heriot-Watt's institute of Brewing and Distilling and we will soon be starting another round of research and recipe development so that we have a pipeline of tasty gluten-free beers," he said. 

Since launching in the spring, the brewery supplies around 100 outlets in the central belt of Scotland and has started to supply its range in London.

While the gluten-free beer industry has exploded over the last few years, it still leaves much to be desired, especially when it comes to darker beers and stouts. Thinking of all the possibilities with gluten-free barley makes us excited for what's to come! We will continue to bring you updates and information as soon as these new beers are available in the United States. Cheers! 

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