As a maltster, there are several critical factors we need to consider to ensure we are able to achieve consistency and quality in our process: high-quality barley, process control in the malthouse, and appropriate malthouse recipes from steep to specialty malt. At the core of 2 of these important criteria is appropriate raw material selection.
Barley variety holds as much importance in producing quality and consistency as the recipes themselves and the work of the maltster. Characteristics of barley including plumpness, protein levels, pre-harvest sprout risk, mycotoxin development, enzyme levels, and beta-glucan levels are rooted in the genetic heritage of the barley variety. Selection of a variety that can help uphold all those characteristics within your growing region is very important.
The work of developing and evaluating new barley varieties is a long and intensive process that breeders go through to get a barley that has the best agronomic and malting quality characteristics. The American Malting Barley Association is the industry group that works to collaborate the funding, analysis, and approval process for barley varieties as they move through the selection process from breeders. The interest of all parties needs to be considered when moving a variety forward.
- Does it grow and yield well?
- Does it consistently meet quality criteria for malting barley?
- Does it malt and brew well?
Based on these criteria, the AMBA Technical Committee decides as a group which varieties to recommend to the barley growing community after they have gone through full evaluation. Each year, this list is reviewed to determine inclusion of newly bred varieties or varieties that have been grown in other countries but have undergone evaluation in the U.S. This list can serve as a reference point for maltsters and brewers as well to feel more confident in the potential performance of a variety prior to their own evaluation.
Briess is always looking to continuously improve and understand varieties for their future potential. We are actively involved in AMBA and work with various resources for research test plots to get small-scale pilot evaluation completed on varieties with certain potentials. Briess is fortunate enough to have a dedicated group of about 300 growers that are part of our commitment to high-quality barley and malt production. From their growing practices to harvesting practices, each step helps maintain raw material quality. We’re currently in full swing of our 2022 harvest in Wyoming, and things are looking great so far!