Legumes, such as broad beans and peas, would not automatically be associated with the production of an IPA beer or gin. However both of these have actually been used and created in Scotland as part of trials to develop climate positive products.

A legume is a plant in the family Fabaceae (or Leguminosae), or the fruit or seed of such a plant. The seed is also called a pulse. Examples of legumes include alfalfa, clover, beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, peanuts, and tamarind. From an environmental perspective, Legumes are notable in that most of them have symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria in structures called root nodules. For that reason, they play a key role in crop rotation (intercropping). At a recent webinar by Abertay University on Gin Research and Education, Kirsty Black from Arbikie Distillery and Professor Graeme Walker shared many insights into Gin education and research being conducted currently. Kirsty also shared some information on recent developments in the use of legumes for the sustainable production of drinks. The James Hutton Institute joined forces in 2019 with Barney’s Beer in Edinburgh and Abertay University in Dundee, through joint PhD student Kirsty Black, to create a new ‘Cool Beans’ Faba Bean IPA.  This environmentally sustainable, gluten-free and vegan beer was made with 40% faba beans and 60% barley.

Dr Pete Iannetta, an agricultural ecologist at the James Hutton Institute’s Ecological Sciences group said “Beans foster sustainable food production, as they require no synthetic nitrogen fertiliser – half the synthetic nitrogen fertiliser which is applied to other crops is lost to pollute water systems or contribute to greenhouse gases. Crops like beans can access (or ‘fix’) atmospheric nitrogen into biologically useful forms, an ability they derive from a unique symbiosis with a certain type of soil bacteria found in their roots.”

“We’ve brewed with faba beans because they’re doing magical things for the sustainability of the food and drinks industry.”

“These little legumes are nitrogen-fixing, meaning they can create their own nutrients and leave them behind in their soil, reducing the need for unsustainable synthetic fertilisers.” Dr Pete Iannetta

Likewise Arbikie, the field to bottle Highland Estate distillery based on the East Coast of Scotland (pictured above), also launched their carbon neutral gin, Nàdar (nature in Gaelic). This is the world’s first climate positive gin made from peas. A revolutionary spirit for the drinks industry, with a carbon footprint of -1.54 kg CO2e per 700ml bottle.

“Our ethos at Arbikie from our inception has been to try and create world-class premium spirits where all ingredients are grown on our Single Estate farm. Minimising our carbon footprint and working with the wonderful home grown ingredients to create one of the world’s most sustainable distilleries. ” John Stirling, Arbikie Distillery Director

“Our Nàdar Gin goes one step further and looks to make a positive, instead of neutral impact, in terms of long-term sustainability.  It also tastes fantastic which is a credit to our distilling team – I hope you enjoy.”

As reported by Abertay University, this environmental performance by  Nàdar Gin is significantly better than traditional wheat gins — mainly achieved by utilising all useful components of the peas from the dehulling (de-skinning) and distilling process, to create home-grown animal feed.

It also takes advantage of the peas’ natural ability to source essential nitrogen for growth from the atmosphere through a process known as ‘biological nitrogen fixation’, negating the need for environmentally-damaging synthetic fertilisers.

In addition, during harvesting, some nitrogen is left behind in-field in crop residues, improving soil fertility and function for the next crop in the rotation, thereby further reducing the need for synthetic fertilisers.

Arbikie followed the Gin with the release of Nàdar Vodka, again harnessing the power of nature and science to create this world first vodka spirit.

Hopefully in future more producers will be able to utilise Legumes to create sustainable drinks, such as in the production of neutral (legume) spirit made from peas or beans. This would in turn allow them eventually to sell some of their excess production capacity to the wider Drinks Industry and create an increase in demand for these raw materials (such as peas) from farmers also.

For reference – Inside the Cask blog posts on sustainability:

For reference – this was a session facilitated by Abertay University (see below).

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