What Does this have to do with Beer?
Well you’re on the right track folks. That’s what I was thinking when the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) India invited me and a several other bloggers (food, lifestyle, tech and so on) to a session on Palm Oil at one of the leading hotels in Bangalore.
I googled Palm Oil only to see a string of negative posts ranging from environmental damage to endangered species in rain forests going extinct. I thought to myself, “This is certainly going to be an interesting session and in the back of mind wondered what connection Palm Oil had with Beer?”
Several NGO’s do a lot of good in this world and several are a waste of space targeting single industry’s perhaps funded by other governments looking to derail industries in developing countries – yes I am sure such evil nexus’s exist.
Let’s get on with it and find out a few basics about Palm Oil and what applications it can be used in, including Beer without feeling guilty about destroying rain forests, contributing to green house gases and killing innocent fury little beings.
What is Palm Oil?
The oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) originated from West Africa, where evidence of its use as a staple food crop dates as far back as 5,000 years. There is even evidence in Egyptian tombs of people being buried with casks of palm oil, reflecting the high societal value attributed to the product. Needless to say, with origins in West Africa and evidence of consumption in Egypt, palm oil can be considered one of the earliest traded commodities.
While palm oil was ubiquitous in West Africa, the use of palm oil in the international market expanded significantly as a result of the British Industrial Revolution and the expansion of overseas trade. From candle-making to industrial lubricants, palm oil was a driving force behind the expansion of industrial production, while nutrient rich red palm oil became a vital asset on long sea-faring voyages. And it was a result of this increased demand that Europeans began investing in palm oil production, first in West Africa and then expanding to Southeast Asia.
Malaysia is one of the highest producers of Palm Oil and no surprise India is imports a lot of Palm Oil. People across the world consume a lot of Palm Oil, in fact 30% of the World’s oil consumption is Palm Oil.
Uses Of Palm Oil
There are several uses for Palm Oil ranging from the food industry, FMCG and even as bio fuel.
The Palm tree is very versatile and the saps of the Palmyra Palm, Date Palm or Sugar Date Palm can be used to make Palm Sugar.
Sugars can be used in brewing to add depth and texture to Beer and Palm Sugar is no exception. Sugars of one sort or another have been used for centuries to stretch or replace malt, boost the gravity for storage or effect, or simply to modify the flavor and drinkability.
This is what Palm Sugar can do to your Beer, if used whilst brewing:
Unusual character, flavorful and “raw.” Toffee, candy flavor, hints of dark fruit, vanilla and rum. Styles that support the usage of sugars -Old ale, Dubbel or Quadruple, Brown Ale, Doppelbock, Baltic porter or maybe even a Scotch Ale.
The next time you talk to a brewmaster or a friend who brews, ask them to make some of the above styles. You don’t always have to have Beet sugar that is used by for example Trappist Monks to make their Trappist Dubbels. Palm Sugar is a good substitute and easily available here in India.
Aviation is something very close to my heart and I’ve been an avid fan since I was a child, then went on to study Aerospace Engineering and finally completed 175 hours towards my Commercial Pilot’s license.
It was interesting to hear that Palm Oil can in fact be used as an aviation fuel and its been tested and tried. In 2008, a Virgin 747-400 flew from London to Amsterdam powered by a mix of biodiesel and aviation fuel.
The obvious benefit of using Biofuels are that they reduce carbon footprints and hence are more environmentally friendly when compared to fossil fuels.
It’s interesting to note that Palm Oil is in fact as good for you or even better for you when compared to Olive Oil.
Palm Olein, the liquid fraction of Palm Oil, averages 47-53% of its composition as the same oleic acid that is found in olive oil and the other monounsaturated oils.
What that essentially means is that Palm Oil regulates cholesterol as efficiently as Olive Oil does.
There a few rogue nations responsible for damaging the environment and relegating endangered species which is deplorable but Malaysia is not one of them and is in fact trying to encourage such countries to take corrective action.
The MPOWCF (Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund)serves the following purposes:
- Helps to portray the good image of Malaysian palm oil by providing concrete assurances that its cultivation does not cause deforestation or loss of wildlife and their habitat through a focused conservation research program to be undertaken by experts from the academia, government agencies and NGOs.
- Provides funds for studies on wildlife, biodiversity and environmental conservation while factoring the overall impact of the palm oil industry on these parameters.
The Sabah and Sarawak State governments have identified a number of forest areas known to contain higher populations of orang-utans as wildlife sanctuaries, national parks or forest preserves. Ulu Segama – Malua Forest Reserve in Sabah, spanning over 0.236 million hectare, has been shown to be inhabited by about 6,000 – 7,000 orang-utans, the most populated orang-utan area in Sabah. The Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary in Sarawak has been shown to be inhabited by about 1,400 orang-utans. All these areas are permanently protected from development.
There is a lot more good that Palm Oil is doing versus the bad and that’s what we really need to focus on – an alternative cooking oil that is equally good as olive oil, more pocket friendly, a Beer that can be made from palm sugar and hopefully some day soon bio fuel made from plam oil powering aircraft around the world.
Here are a few photos from our meet up with MPOC recently. The session was lead by Bhavana Shah – the country head for MPOC (India/Sri Lanka) and Dr. Meena.
Thank you for the informative session.
You can follow the MPOC on Facebook HERE
All Images Courtesy: MPOC & Tales Of Froth. Some information in this article has been referenced from http://www.theoilpalm.org