Much of the acreage lost to wildfires in Idaho and the West this year means miles and miles of land opened up to cheatgrass.
For ranchers, this invasive species spreads quickly and requires time and resources to remove.
So what can ranchers do? How about making beer? Home brewer Tye Morgan explains why cheatgrass is the perfect ingredient for beer.
“People used to gather local flora to ferment out their water so their water could be drinkable," says Morgan. "And it would be a very low alcohol but it would make it so that it would kill off all the bacteria. And then all of a sudden I was like, ‘Cheatgrass is a grass.’ So I ran a quick nutritional value and found out that the carbohydrate to protein ratio is very similar to barley.”
Reno, Nev. couple Tye and Joe Morgan have been experimenting with making small batches of cheatgrass beer for three years. They formed a company and hope to start producing on a commercial scale soon. They shared their most recent batch with a group this summer, and it was a big hit.
“As a home brewer you know that one beer style is never going to please everybody," Morgan says. "And so I had also brought some light American lagers because that’s the majority of what people drink. I had the people that liked the light American lager drinking the cheatgrass beer. And they were like, ‘No, this is great, I’m actually preferring this now.’ “
Morgan says she hopes that harvesting cheatgrass could be a profitable management tool for ranchers. Her company, Bromus Tech, would like to partner with breweries around the West to produce the beer.
Tye Morgan is going to be featured on Science Friday this afternoon, broadcasting live from Boise State University at noon.
Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio