Demand for malting barley is strong and growing in North Carolina because of the burgeoning craft beer industry in the state. Microbrewers in Charlotte, Raleigh, Asheville and other cities are seeking locally grown barley to meet their needs.
Winter barley has been grown in North Carolina for animal feed since the 1950s. Researchers at North Carolina State University are working to develop barley varieties with malting qualities brewers prefer rather than feed barley traits.
“All that malt in barley is germinated barley seed. The quality of that malt varies quite a bit. If you have a barley that has malt qualities, the brewers and distillers will like it much more than trying to malt a feed-type barley,” explained Dave Marshall, a USDA Agricultural Research Service plant pathologist at N.C. State, speaking at the 2016 Central Piedmont Small Grains Field Day April 21.
“We want to have completely born and bred malting barley in North Carolina. We have a few that look extremely good this year with good winter hardiness and a good disease package as well. We hope to have these barley varieties to seedsmen by the fall of 2017,” Marshall said.
N.C. State is looking at two types of winter barley for malting purposes: one with two rows of seeds and the other six-row barley. “A lot of maltsters like two-row barley because when the seed is produced it is a very uniform size. Germination is very uniform in two-row barley” Marshall noted.
Six-row barleys have six rows of seed in the seed head and are a bit irregular in shape, so they are less preferred by maltsters, Marshall explained. Six-row barley is typically grown in North Carolina and has better disease resistance than two-row barley. Only a few of these varieties offer good malting characteristics.
One such six-row barley is Thoroughbred that N.C. State released with Virginia Tech a few years ago. “Thoroughbred was released as feed barley, but it does have some malt characteristics. One of its parents is malt barley but it didn’t quite come up to the standards of true malting barley. But you can still make a good malt out of it,” Marshall said.
Endeavor is a two-row barley variety developed by USDA in Idaho that N.C. State is looking at for North Carolina. “Endeavor comes the closest to being true malting barley, but it has a few production issues. It’s a little bit on the early side which makes it more prone to freeze damage and east of here it has some foliar disease problems with leaf rust and powdery mildew,” Marshall said.