In response to the rapidly growing craft beer industry in Michigan, farmers throughout the state are bringing malting barley back into their crop rotation to supply the growing demand for locally sourced ingredients. High quality grain with the potential to produce high quality malt is of utmost importance in order for this industry to flourish in the state. Due to the lack of quality analysis infrastructure, the MSU Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center has established a malting barley quality lab to support the growth of this emerging Michigan industry. The lab will test both submitted samples from farmers and maltsters, and will process the 400-500 samples generated by its own research program annually.
The Brewers Association grant funded the purchase of three key elements of the quality lab, which ensured ASBC methods were followed. First, the Sortimat, a highly specialized piece of equipment that automates the kernel sizing process that provides an accurate assessment of % plumps and % thins. Secondly, a tabletop germination chamber that provides the appropriate environment to run germination energy and germination capacity tests. And finally, a lab mill that prepares samples to be ran for both RVA (testing pre-harvest sprout), and DON (an indicator of Fusarium head blight infection). Through public and private partnerships, we were able to secure additional funding ($90,000) from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michigan State University, and the Michigan Brewers Guild to complete the quality lab, which now offers the following tests:
- Test weight
- % Plump
- % Thin
- Germination Energy
- Germination Capacity
- RVA (sprout damage)
Additional details on the quality lab can be found at https://www.canr.msu.edu/malting_barley/lab including a fee schedule, sample submission instructions, and an overview of the methods employed. In addition to the lab providing a service to the burgeoning craft malt industry, it has enhanced Michigan State University’s ability to fully analyze samples coming from the various research efforts throughout the state with the main goal of finding appropriate varieties and management strategies to support successful malting barley cultivation in Michigan.