A few nights ago at a club meeting we had an English Bitter extract beer in which the brewer had tried to use Quinoa. If you are not familiar with the grain it makes a yummy side dish. You basically cook it like rice and then can make a cold or hot dish using any number of ingredients, herbs, onions, garlic, raisins, dried cranberries, sweet potatoes, etc. Here’s a photo I found of a tasty looking dish.
If you are going to use it in a beer it will not convert itself and must be mashed/mini-mashed with a base grain AFTER you boil it to gelatinize any starches. It will be too small to run through the grain mill and would gum it up after rinsing so you could try to rinse and then spin in a food processor or blender with some water before cooking. Then it would be more like a porridge. I suppose you could use some alpha amylase and try to convert it without mashing, but YOYO to figure that one out. For those who may be new to the homebrewing game base grain is 2-row or 6-row. Munich malt barely has enough enzymes to convert itself, so some sort of base grain with enzymes will be required to take advantage of what the Quinoa might have to offer.
Personally I would not think Quinoa would add more than a mildly nutty character at best which will be trounced by the hops. It could contribute some sugars to the mash, but the contribution would probably not be large. If toasted it may contribute the character from the toasting. I would suggest anyone making a Quinoa beer also make the same beer without the Quinoa to see exactly what difference it may give to the beer.
On a side note I detected a very low soapy character in the beer and as it turns out Quinoa which has not been rinsed has a bitter soapy character. The brewer said he rinsed it several times, which I fully believe, but I do tend to detect things down to a micro level so if you make a Quinoa beer, be sure to rinse many times to avoid that characteristic.