15 April 2016

Cheers! Here's to gluten-free barley beer

Thanks to an Aussie invention, the world’s first gluten-free barley beer will appear today in German supermarkets.

Kebari ultra low gluten barley

Show transcript

[Music plays, CSIRO logo appears on bottom right hand corner of screen and text appears: Kebari barley, A CSIRO innovation]

[Image changes to show Dr Crispin Howitt and text appears on screen: Dr Crispin Howitt]

Dr Crispin Howitt: One in five people in the Western world avoid gluten in their diet, some by choice, and some through necessity, such as Coeliac’s. Their diets are often nutritionally poor, high in fat and sugar, and low in fibre. To help solve this problem we’ve developed the world’s first gluten free barley.

[Image changes to show a man inspecting barley plants]

Using conventional breeding we’ve reduced the gluten content in this grain over 10,000 fold, such that it more than meets the World Health Organisation’s recommendation for classification as gluten free.

[Image changes to show Dr Crispin Howitt standing in a field]

This field behind me came from a single barley grain that we developed in 2009.

[Image changes as camera pans across the field]

[Image changes to show Dr Phil Larkin and text appears on screen: Dr Phil Larkin]

Dr Phil Larkin: We’ve called this barley Kebari, and that’s, too, in recognition of quite a remarkable archaeological discovery not so long ago at the Sea of Galilee. There was a community there called the Kebaran, 23,000 years ago they were growing and harvesting and processing barley, so we call it Kebari in honour of that very ancient use.

The first version of Kebari we’ve produced is a hulled version, that’s got the husk still on it, and that’s used for malting and making beer, and stuff like Milo as well.

[Image changes to show Kebari grains in the palm of a person’s hand]

We’ve got naked grain versions coming on behind that, which will be used for food.

[Image changes back to Dr Phil Larkin]

Kebari has been used by a German brewer called Radeberger, who have made the world’s first commercially brewed, full flavoured barley beer labelled gluten free.

[Image changes to show a beer bottle appearing to the right of the screen]

And that’s now available in Germany. We’re excited about that.

[Image changes back to Dr Crispin Howitt]

Dr Crispin Howitt: From a single seed came all of this.

[Image changes to show Dr Crispin Howitt holding up a seed in his hand, then spreading out his arms, and the camera pans out to show the barley crop growing in the field behind him]

[Image changes to show beer being poured into a glass from a bottle labelled Pionier Glutenfrei Pilsener]

[Text appears on screen: www.csiro.au/Kebari]

[CSIRO logo appears with text: Big ideas start here www.csiro.au]

Hide transcript

CSIRO’s Kebari barley has been used to make the world’s first commercially produced, full flavoured, barley-based gluten-free beer.

This is especially good news for people with coeliac disease who could soon enjoy a greater variety of foods and beverages thanks to work by Australian scientists.

German beer brewing company, Radeberger has used Kebari barley to develop the barley based gluten-free beer, Pionier, the first such beer under the German Beer Purity law Reinheitsgebot.

Scientists from CSIRO, with co-funding from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), have bred the Kebari grain, a new barley variety with ultra-low levels of hordeins, the type of gluten found in barley.

“Using conventional breeding we’ve reduced the gluten levels to 10,000 times less than regular barley which more than meets the World Health Organization’s recommendation for calling a grain gluten-free,” CSIRO Principal Research Scientist Dr Crispin Howitt said.

In the future, this will provide more variety for the global population, including 1 to 2 per cent of Australians, with coeliac disease and people who avoid gluten in their diet. Diets that restrict grains can be nutritionally poor, high in fat and sugar and low in fibre.

“It’s really exciting seeing the first product made with the malted version of our Kebari grain, we hope it’s the first of many products,” Dr Howitt said.

“We’re also working on a hulless version of Kebari which is preferable for use in a range of foods like breakfast cereals, soup, even pasta and flatbreads, which will be the first part of the next generation of gluten free products helping people with coeliac disease to increase fibre, promote bowel health and enhance nutrition in their diet.”

While Pionier beer is only available in Germany, CSIRO is continuing to explore opportunities with Australian brewers to develop a local beer using Kebari barley.

Once development of a hulless version is complete, there is a plan to work with manufacturers to bring a range of foods containing Kebari barley to Australian consumers.

While it is 'ultra-low' in gluten, Kebari grain cannot be called 'gluten-free' in Australia or New Zealand under the current Food Standards Code.

However, the gluten level is well below 20 parts per million, the level recommended by the World Health Organization for classification as gluten free, so in some other countries, like Germany, products made with Kebari barley can be classified as gluten free.

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and The Royal Melbourne Hospital were involved in the early stages of the ultra-low gluten barley project.

Kebari™ is a trade mark of CSIRO.

Additional resources


  • Three men and a woman standing in a field of barley Download image

    CSIRO researchers standing in a field of Kebari barley

  • Dr Crispin Howitt and Dr Phil Larkin stand in a field, holding a glass of beer Download image

    Dr Crispin Howitt and Dr Phil Larkin celebrating the launch of Pionier gluten-free beer, the first product to use CSIRO’s Kebari barley.

  • Two men standing in a glasshouse looking at green barley plants. Download image

    CSIRO’s Malcolm Blundell and Crispin Howitt in the Kebari barley glasshouse.

  • Barley grains in a grain sorter Download image

    CSIRO’s Kebari barley, a new grain that meets the World Health Organization's recommendation for classification as gluten-free.

  • Beer bottle, label displays the words ‘Pionier’ and ‘Glutenfrei’ Download image

    CSIRO’s Kebari barley has been used for the first time in Radeberger’s Pionier gluten-free beer.

B-roll videos



  • Ms Mikayla Keen

    Communication Advisor · Communications

    • Phone:
      • +61 2 9490 8448
      • +61 401 488 562 (Mobile)

    Email: Mikayla.Keen@csiro.au

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