P B-65

An Economic Solution for an Environmental Problem: Cheatgrass Beer

Tye Morgan, Robert Blank
USDA/ARS, Reno, NV, USA

In the past half century, cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) has been a driving force converting millions of hectares of western native rangelands to annual grasslands. The aggressive nature of cheatgrass forces non-traditional thinking when it comes to land management. A nutrient analysis of the cheatgrass seed revealed its similarities in biochemical composition to barley. Barley is one of the key ingredients in making beer/ales. Cheatgrass seeds were then collected for a test batch of beer. A decoction mash was performed during brewing. This method was chosen because it uses highly enzymatic aliquots with non-malted products (i.e. rice, corn, cheatgrass) to achieve full conversion of starches to sugars. The test brew was measured by hydrometer and had an original gravity of 1040. After fermentation the finishing gravity was 1008, producing a 4.5% alcohol beer.  The beer went through a panel of taste testing and was recorded as a flavorful consumable product, similar to amber ales. An economic budget was calculated and the results are as follows; 1) rangeland seed densities average 3112 pounds per hectare, 2) 31 pounds of seed required per barrel of beer producing 100 barrels of beer per hectare, 3) beer can be sold for $200.00 per barrel, estimating $20,000.00 net profit per hectare.   Based off preliminary research, cheatgrass beer production could be used as a landscape treatment to reduce plant and seed densities through mechanical harvesting, and in return provide a profitable economic benefit.