Brewgooder and Brooklyn Brewery create craft beer with fonio

Purpose-led beer brand Brewgooder has linked up with New York’s Brooklyn Brewery to offer what is claimed to be the UK’s first beer using West African “super-grain” fonio.  

One of Africa’s oldest cereals, fonio has strong sustainability credentials due to its drought resistance and ability to grow in nutrient-poor soil without fertilisers and pesticides. 

The collaboration between Glasgow-based Brewgooder and Brooklyn Brewery has the dual benefit of purchasing goods from West African farmers, while also re-investing part of the funds to support the development of rural communities in fonio farming countries.

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The beer is a Session IPA canned at 4.3% ABV with a light finish, aiming to give consumers a beer choice that highlights fonio as a great-tasting ingredient, with great potential to make brewery supply chains more inclusive and less carbon-intensive.

Brewgooder said its Fonio Session IPA “pours a hazy full gold and forms a nice fluffy white head”, adding: “Bitter orange, jasmine, lychee fruit, gooseberry and mango aromatics waft out of the glass”.

“On the palate, the beer has a quick, sharp, focused dry bitterness, bright fruitiness and a fast clean finish.”

The Scottish brewer and Brooklyn’s collaboration is available exclusively for purchase as a four-pack from Co-op stores for £6, while Castle Pubs will also be stocking the craft beer exclusively on draught across the UK.

Sales of the Fonio Session IPA will enable The Brewgooder Foundation to support clean water projects in Mali, unlocking more than 20 million litres of water in a country where fonio farming is prevalent and has the potential to become a valuable source of income and empowerment for rural communities.

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The aim is to develop a supply chain that would enable more regular, at-scale use of the grain within the UK brewing industry, “setting out a blueprint for others to follow with this alternative grain as a lever for sustainable farming and sustainable brewing”.

HeraldScotland: Brewgooder's James Hughes, left, and Alan MahonBrewgooder’s James Hughes, left, and Alan Mahon (Image: Brewgooder)

Alan Mahon, founder of Brewgooder, said: “When we first started brewing, I’m not sure I would have believed it if someone said we would one day collaborate with Brooklyn Brewery.

“To work with them on a collaboration that is not only the UK’s first ever ‘at scale’ fonio grain beer but also empowering communities, while gathering learnings for more sustainable brewing, is something very special to the entire Brewgooder team.”

Garret Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery, said: “I love the impactful work that Brewgooder are doing, and first approached them several years ago about working with fonio.

“The pandemic slowed us all down, but I’m thrilled to see this project finally out in the world.

“The goal was to brew an accessible IPA that demonstrated the unique fruity flavours that fonio can bring to beer.”

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He added: “I think the entire brewing community ought to be excited about this super-grain that few of us have even heard about. I’m personally excited to be drinking our delicious beer while supporting African small-hold farmers and the land that sustains them.”

A business called Yolélé makes the ingredient available to the Western market by connecting smallholder farms with the global food economy.

Pierre Thiam, the founder of Yolélé, comes from Senegal and has dedicated his work to championing West African ingredients, making them available on a global scale while supporting local economies in the region.

Despite this potential to bring a new sustainable edge to the brewing sector, fonio has not yet been studied in terms of its carbon footprint, so Yolélé is commissioning the “world’s first” sustainability study of the super grain.

The project is a key learning opportunity for Yolélé, the two brewers and the wider industry as to how regenerative farming practices and alternative crops like fonio could drive down carbon impacts at scale.  

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