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Vegemite beer? Aussie researchers say it's possible

Xinhua | Updated: 2016-08-16 13:55

Australian researchers have proven the national condiment can in fact be brewed into a beer, confirming a longstanding myth that been credited to cause widespread disruption in Aboriginal communities.

Australian Senator Nigel Scullion caused a political uproar August 2015 after he claimed Australia's iconic Vegemite spread -- a popular yeast extract used on bread, toast and other ingredients in foods that gives a salty aftertaste -- was used as in ingredient for home brew in Aboriginal communities. Critics said Scullion was "peddling negative stereotypes" about Australia's indigenous population as fermentation experts claimed the dead yeast couldn't make home brew.

University of Queensland (UQ) researchers on Monday confirmed microorganisms necessary for fermentation couldn't be cultured, consistent with food-grade spreads being essentially sterile, but with a sprinkle of sugar and live yeast, it is possible.

"Our data showed that home-brewed Vegemite beer could be easily made from sugar, Vegemite, and yeast -- but not from just Vegemite and sugar, or sugar and yeast,"the study's co-author, University of Queensland yeast researcher Dr Ben Schulz, said in a statement.

"The Vegemite added the nutrients necessary for the fermentation process, but there are also many other sorts of food apart from Vegemite, such as fruits or ginger, that could provide those additional nutrients."

It all adds up to an incredibly affordable grog with a real-world cost of 9 Australian cents (6.91 U.S. cents) per 375 millilitres (mL), compared to bulk commercial beer at 1.60 Australian dollars (1.23 U.S. dollars) per 375mL.

The end product was a bland tasting brew that looked like a ginger beer, but with a Vegemite aftertaste, Schultz said.

Vegemite has been banned in prisons in Australia's Victoria state since 2007 after it was linked to a grog supply chain, while in 2013 the spread and grape drink Ribena were linked to home brew rackets in aboriginal communities with alcohol management plans.

In 2009, a similar spread called Marmite caused access to fruit in UK prisons to be restricted after it was believed the combination created a homebrew that sparked an increase in prison assaults.

The study by Szhultz and UQ Honours student Edward Kerr was published in the biological and medical sciences journal PeerJ.

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