Edinburgh craft brewer uses fava beans for new '˜green' beer

Once celebrated as the ideal accompaniment to human liver and Italian wine by cruel villain Hannibal Lecter, fava beans have now been chosen by a Scottish brewer to make a beer that's kinder to the environment.

Andy Barnett of Barneys Beers will be at the Beer FestivALE at Summerhall to promote his new brew. Picture: Greg Macvean
Andy Barnett of Barneys Beers will be at the Beer FestivALE at Summerhall to promote his new brew. Picture: Greg Macvean

Named Tundra, the India Pale Ale brewed by Edinburgh-based Barney’s Beer contains 40 per cent whole fava beans – most commonly grown as a food for salmon, poultry and pigs, and 60 per cent malted barley. It is believed to be gluten-free.

The new brew has environmentally friendly credentials because it is made from legumes, which need no nitrogen-based fertilisers, and because it utilises parts of the crop not needed for the production of animal feed.

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Aficionados have described it as “light amber in colour with assertive bitterness and a distinctive hoppy character”.

It was born out of a project seeking novel uses for fava beans that would increase their market potential and reduce wastage.

Andrew Barnett, of Barney’s Beer, said: “We decided to go with an IPA, adding some depth to the flavour with Belgian malt and spicing things up with US hops. It’s cool to be involved in a project at such an early stage that has potential to revolutionise beer-making.”

Dr Pete Iannetta, a molecular ecologist at the James Hutton Institute, is leader of the Beans4Feed research project and has helped develop the ale.

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“Pulses such as fava beans are high in starch as well as protein, essential minerals like iron, zinc and magnesium, and are gluten-free,” he said. “Their consumption helps promote low glycemic index, offsetting diabetes, and can safeguard good cardiovascular function. They also foster sustainable food production, as they require no nitrogen-based fertiliser.

He’s so pleased with the results that he has commissioned 6,000 bottles, so far.

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The use of pulses in brewing is not as “out there” as it sounds, since enterprising individuals in days of yore would have fermented boozy drinks from whatever they could lay their hands on.

Barnett added: “It’s not unusual for unconventional ingredients to be used to make beer. The pint we know today has evolved over years, and all sorts of fermentable sugar sources have been used in the past. I understand peas and beans are common ingredients in beer in Japan.”

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Dr Iannetta believes the fava bean crop has a massive potential in Scotland. “The idea, if you can imagine the by-product going into producing quality meat and fish, is to marry legume-supported crop systems with two of Scotland’s biggest industries – aquaculture and beer and spirit production. To me it’s a no-brainer.”

To sample Tundra head along to Edinburgh arts hub Summerhall this weekend for the Beer FestivALE, which kicks off on Friday night.