Vegemite may be a delicious yeast spread, but it makes for a rather poor beer ingredient.
In mid-2015, it was reported that Australia’s Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion was concerned about the use of Vegemite in homebrews within remote, mostly Indigenous Australian communities.
While using Vegemite to make alcohol has been a recurring rumour locally, some community groups cast doubt on the prevalence of the practice when the issue erupted in the press last year.
Nevertheless, two University of Queensland researchers decided to get to the bottom of whether the feat was even possible.
Benjamin Schulz, a lecturer in the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, along with an Honours student, Edward Kerr, found that Vegemite cannot start the necessary fermentation process on its own.
It may be a “yeast” spread, but any active properties are rendered largely lifeless by the time it reaches your toast, thanks to the factory production process. “Vegemite is basically the leftover yeast from beer brewing, but the yeast is killed and dehydrated,” Schulz told Mashable Australia. “We tested it and and found it was sterile.”
Undeterred, they decided to see how Vegemite, or its lesser British cousin, Marmite, could still be useful to the brewing process. Vegemite and yeast together did nothing. Sugar and yeast together did nothing. But the three combined? Alcohol, sort of.
“We knew for yeast to grow it needed sugar, protein and some other nutrients,” he explained. “If we put all three together, then the yeast grew really well.” It turns out, Vegemite supplies a protein source for the yeast to grow, along with other nutrients.
That’s not a particularly special quality. Many fruits and some vegetables can create alcohol if yeast is added. Grain for whisky, or potatoes for vodka, for example.
After all that science, the pair ended up with a safe but rather underwhelming beer.Schulz called the result “a strange soft drink, with a Vegemite aftertaste.” You’d have to be a true Vegemite fan to think that’s a good thing.
“Conceivably, you could add hops, maybe play around with other sorts of additives,” he added. “It would never be a proper beer unless you added back in grains.”
Vegemite could provide a cheap additive for the brewing process, but then again, there’s that aforementioned Vegemite-y aftertaste.
So there you have it: Vegemite beer. It’s a thing, but largely meh.
The findings were published in the academic journal, PeerJ.