Sorghum is a grass that provides a gluten-free grain that is grown widely as a food crop in Africa and Asia, as well as in parts of the Americas, and in Oceania. Sorghum is related to millet, and although there are numerous species under the sorghum genus, the main crop variety is sorghum bicolor. In the United States, it is chiefly cultivated as a substitute for corn for livestock feed and/or bio-ethanol production. It is also turned into sorghum syrup. Sorghum is well adapted to growing in hot, arid climates and requires sustained high temperatures for a high yield. Sorghum subspecies are grouped into grain, grass, sweet, and broom corn varieties. Grain and sweet sorghums can be used in brewing.
The use of sorghum as a brewing grain is traditional in Africa, where sorghum-based alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages have been made on a small homebrew scale for centuries. Sorghum is also widely used in the modern African industrial brewing, because domestically produced sorghum is less costly than imported barley. Guinness stout, for instance, is made in Nigeria from a sorghum mash and malt extract. Sorghum can be malted in a fashion similar to barley but requires higher temperatures for germination.
In North America, the increasing incidence of celiac disease has led to the production of several gluten-free commercial beers, made from sorghum in conjunction with other gluten-free grains, including rice. Lakefront Brewery of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, launched its New Grist in 2006; Anheuser-Busch produced the first nationally distributed gluten-free beer, also in 2006, under the brand name of Redbridge. More recently, the first commercial American beer brewed from 100% malted sorghum was introduced by Bard’s Tale Brewing Company, Buffalo, New York.