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Farming for Craft: New Barley & Malt Varieties Respond to Brewer Demand

We all know how profoundly the types of malt we use can change what we brew. Less obvious is how independent brewing is changing how barley itself is being grown—leading, eventually, to exciting new options for brewers.

Don Tse Jun 7, 2021 - 14 min read

Farming for Craft: New Barley & Malt Varieties Respond to Brewer Demand Primary Image

Photos: Courtesy Makers Malt

Dan Carey, brewmaster and cofounder of Wisconsin’s New Glarus Brewing, doesn’t like recipes that simply call for “pale malt” without specificity. Nor does he like it when people describe base malt as “a blank canvas.”

American craft beer came of age when the barley varieties available were bred for the big brewers. They emphasized mash efficiency and enzymatic power for adjunct brewing; flavor was not a consideration. Because that was the only readily available malt, it was the malt that most brewers—even craft brewers—used. Carey, however, has always gravitated toward beers of deeper malt character, such as those of Northern Bavaria.

“Barley malt is an important ingredient in beer,” Carey says, “and we are always wanting to get maximum flavor from all of our ingredients.” As a result, he and New Glarus have always experimented with new and interesting barley varieties to ensure that their base malt is not a blank canvas—it must contribute flavor.

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