Seaweed beer just a taste of potential Australian industry

[Australia] A beer brewed from seaweed might be hard to swallow for some, but Queensland scientists hope it will be the perfect appetiser for a full-scale seaweed industry.

Researchers from the University of the Sunshine Coast have teamed up with Brisbane’s Newstead Brewing Co to produce the “Moreton Bae”.

Newstead brewer and former molecular scientist Evan Goulden said the beer they had developed was salty and a little sour, but captured the flavour of the seaweed in an appealing way.

“It’s going to be a polarising product but the fact that we’ve sold out in a week and a half since first producing it speaks volumes.”

The ulva farm-grown seaweed from the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Bribie Island facility used by Newstead Brewing Co to make seaweed beer

USC Associate Professor of Aquaculture Nick Paul said the beer was produced with specially-farmed seaweed called ulva, or “sea lettuce”, which was grown in Moreton Bay by USC researchers.

“People nowadays probably have exposure to seaweed through sushi, but all of that is imported, it’s all from Korea and China,” Dr Paul said.

“What we’re hoping to do is create a new industry in Australia, and obviously this beer is a bit of a novelty but it’s a great way to educate people about what seaweed can do.”

Currently, all seaweed farming in Australia is cultivating wild seaweed, with Dr Paul saying there was “zero” commercial seaweed aquaculture outside of experimental setups like their facility at Bribie Island.

However he said the potential was there for a significant local industry, especially if Australians could accept seaweed as a viable food.

“Seaweed is already used in a number of everyday items, from ice cream to toothpaste – it’s a gel called carrageenan which is extracted from a lot of species of tropical red seaweed,” Dr Paul said.

“So seaweed is already often the first and last thing you put in your mouth on a given day, you just didn’t know it.”

Many Asian countries incorporate seaweed heavily in their diet, from salads and soups to seaweed crackers and flakes to sprinkle over meals.

Internationally the industry is worth billions, with the vast majority of seaweed product coming from farms rather than wild-sourced.

Conditions in south-east Queensland wre “perfect” for growing seaweed, Dr Paul said, and they were working on getting the relevant government approvals to expand their production.

Mr Goulden said one of the best ways to increase seaweed production was to create demand, which he hoped would happen with the Moreton Bae.

“The fact that this seaweed is responsibly farmed, even though it’s a bit experimental at this point in time, you alleviate the wild harvest pressure,” he said.

“Seaweed supports the whole ocean ecosystem, so not putting pressure on that but instead using a farmed product is a no-brainer really.”

The beer is currently being judged as part of the Royal Queensland Food and Wine Show, in the running for the title of Champion Beer Utilising Desalinated Water.


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