Brewers used to quite happily go with the grain. To make beer, they cooked up heaps of malted barley, only occasionally tossing in rye for spice, wheat for smoothness, and oats for a silky mouthfeel. But if there’s one truth to the craft-beer movement, it’s that brewers don’t rest on their laurels.

To add new layers of flavor to their ales, breweries have dug into health food stores’ bulk bins, sought out ancient varieties of wheat, and sourced hybridized grains devised in laboratories during the 19th century.

The revolution may not be televised, but it will be in your pint glass. Here are eight grains, seeds, and grasses that will change the way you drink in 2014.

Carolina Rye

Down in Asheville, NC, Riverbend Malt House relies upon locally grown grains to create its lineup of boutique malts, particularly Carolina Rye. It’s concocted with a strain known as Wrens Abruzzi, which has been farmed across the Southeast since the Civil War. The rye packs a serious spiciness that’s a good fit for a cornucopia of beer styles, especially IPAs.

What to Try:


New Belgium Hop Kitchen RyePA: Cementing their local ties, the Coloradans—who recently broke ground on their Asheville brewery—use Carolina Rye in conjunction with tropical, melony Galaxy and Mosaic hops to create a full-bodied, bitter IPA.

Fullsteam The Common Good: To create this refreshing take on the Kentucky Common, the Durham, NC brewery utilizes an all-local grain bill, including grits, apple pomace, and Riverbend’s Wrens Abruzzi rye.

Danko Rye

After discovering that most grains are malted at a few massive facilities, husband-and-wife team Christian and Andrea Stanley decided to open Massachusetts’ Valley Malt. By enlisting farmers to grow specific varieties of grain, then malting them, they’re able to provide New England brewers with a new flavor palette. One clear standout is Danko, a little-seen Polish rye that offers more bready subtlety than spiciness.

What to Try:


Grimm Ales Going Awry: The Brooklyn-based gypsy brewery’s autumn abbey ale unites rustic Danko rye with caramelized beet sugar and a Trappist yeast strain. The result: fruity, bready, smooth.


In lieu of barley, many gluten-free beers are made with sorghum, a hardy grass that’s indigenous to Africa. Though sorghum is an able-bodied fermentable, it can often lend a sour note to beer. Most breweries use prepared sorghum syrup.

What to Try:


Ipswich Ale Celia Saison: Dry, zesty, and flavored with orange peel, the saison could convert skeptics of gluten-free beer. No wonder—it was originally developed by the Alchemist’s John Kimmich.

Dogfish Head Tweason’ale: The secret to the Delaware brewery’s tart, sweet, and fruity gluten-free offering? Sorghum syrup, buckwheat honey, and plenty of of strawberries. 


Ever bought birdseed? Then you’ve likely purchased millet, a pinhead-size grain that’s native to Africa. (Millet was one of the earliest grains cultivated by mankind.) Also commonly grown in Asia, especially India, the cereal grain produces a nut-like, mildly sweet profile. Increasingly, brewers use millet to make gluten-free beer.

What to Try:


Sprecher Brewing Shakparo Ale: To create this West African–style ale, the Wisconsin brewery turned to millet and sorghum. Shakparo is gentle and thirst-slaking, packing an apple cider–like profile. It’s also gluten-free.

Epic Brewing Glutenator: There’s not a speck of barley in this golden-hued brew. Instead, the Utah brewery uses brown rice, sweet potatoes, molasses, and millet in the sweet and citrusy beer.


Cultivated since 5000 BC, this nutty-flavored relative to wheat was a popular crop in Europe and, later, the United States. After the Industrial Revolution, spelt was largely replaced by modern strains of wheat, which were easier to harvest and process. In recent years, high-protein, nutrient-rich spelt has become a darling of the health-food industry, and brewers as well.

What to Try:


Foolproof Brewing Company La Ferme Urbaine: The Rhode Island brewery’s farmhouse ale contains a cupboard-clearing array of wheat, rye, oats, and spelt. It’s hazy, spicy, and—despite the 7.8% ABV—rather dry. Look for it in cans.

Pretty Things beer and Ale Project Field Mouse’s Farewell: Released during harvest season, the rich farmhouse ale is made with oats, wheat, rye, and barley, plus buckwheat and spelt. “Like what a mouse would eat,” whimsical brewer Dann Paquette once said.


Devised in a 19th century laboratory, triticale is a hybrid of wheat and rye. (That’d be a portmanteau of Triticum and Secale, the names of their respective genus.) Like wheat, triticale has high protein content, but there’s also that spiciness for which rye is so well known.

What to Try:


Deep Ellum Farmhouse Wit: The Dallas brewery’s saison-witbier mash-up is lively, earthy, and lemony, with a smidgen of peppery spice.

Stone Stochasticity Project Quadro Triticale: With a dialed-down sweetness, lush body, rich flavors of dark fruit, and a spicy snap, Stone’s potent Trappist-inspired ale stands apart from the boozy pack. Look for it later this spring.


In 1949, an American airman named Earl Dedman received 32 kernels of wheat from a fellow flyboy, who acquired them in Egypt. He mailed them back to his father’s farm in Montana, where the grains became known as “King Tut’s Wheat.” After the novelty faded, the wheat is largely forgotten until the late ’70s, when several Montana farmers reintroduced the rich and resoundingly nutty grain as kamut.

What to Try:


Birrificio Le Baladin Nora: Egypt inspired the Italian brewer Teo Musso to make Nora with ginger, myrrh, orange peel, and nutty kamut. The sweet ale is great with spicy fare.

Hopworks Urban Brewery Organic “Survival” 7-Grain Stout: Hewn from barley, wheat, oats, amaranth, quinoa, spelt, and kamut (the namesake seven grains), then finished with cold-pressed Stumptown coffee, Survival drinks silky and bittersweet.


While the name may be misleading, buckwheat is not actually a true grain. Instead, it’s the seeds of a plant hailing a family that includes the likes of sorrel and rhubarb. Nutritional buckwheat forms the backbone of soba noodles, savory French crepes and, increasingly, beer. The seeds lend an unique earthiness.

What to Try:


Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale: Made for Japan’s famed Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, the ale contains heaps of soba—well, roasted buckwheat. It supplies the medium-bodied beer with a toasty, nutty nuance.

R.J. Rockers Buckwheat After Dark: The South Carolina brewery’s buckwheat-driven dunkelweizen is toasty and bready, with flavors of cocoa and dark fruit. There’s a noticeable nuttiness too.