The year 2014 was not the best of times for North American barley growing. Media reports trumpeting a catastrophe in which the crop was destroyed and brewers will not be able to make beer were greatly exaggerated. However, quality issues with a large proportion of this year’s malting barley harvest will present challenges for both maltsters and brewers.
In many barley growing areas in the western United States and Canada, average to excellent growing conditions turned for the worse just before and during harvest. Record heavy rains resulted in significant pre-harvest sprout damage. The impact on quality varied. In some areas damage was so severe that growers choose not to harvest. Other areas experienced significant damage with decreased percentages of the crop selected for malting. Still other areas experienced excellent harvest conditions and produced a high quality crop.
The problems created by this year’s poor quality barley harvest, while inconvenient and potentially costly, are not insurmountable. Brewers Association technical staff and pipeline subcommittee members have developed a document to provide background information about the current state of our malt supply along with tips and techniques to help you in your brewery. It is important to understand the challenges faced by farmers, maltsters and brewers and to take proactive steps to address problems you might encounter.