Barley is the backbone of great craft beer. Hops might get the limelight, but the proper malt base can raise craft beer to new malty heights. Fifty years ago, the only specialty malts being made in the United States were produced by ingredients barons like Briess. Today, American craft brewers have a dizzying array of domestic and imported specialty malts available to them. So craft beer’s demand for variety, special packaging/grain handling systems and technical support from their malt supplier have greatly impacted the malt industry. The American Malting Barley Association (AMBA) is a great resource to keep craft brewers updated on such innovations.
AMBA’s objectives are to “enhance the national public sector barley research infrastructure, develop malting barley varieties with improved agronomic and quality characters and help implement programs to benefit producers and increase production, while representing the malting and brewing industry regarding public and regulatory issues that impact barley.”
At its June 23 meeting, AMBA’s board of directors added the following two varieties to the recommended list of malting barley varieties.
AAC Synergy, a spring two-row, was developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Brandon, Manitoba, and has been licensed to Syngenta. Regular member Great Western Malting requested its addition and shared data indicating that, when grown in the United States, it has suitable agronomics and malt quality for their use.
Thoroughbred, a winter six-row, was developed by Dr. Griffey, Virginia Tech, with the French winter malting barley Plaisant as one of its parents and is being used for malting and brewing in the Mid-Atlantic and southeastern United States. The request came from AMBA Associate member Riverbend Malt House (N.C.), which has been malting Thoroughbred with good results. Regular member Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., at their North Carolina brewery has done some collaborative work with Riverbend on this variety and supported its addition to the list. With these additions the list of recommended malting barley varieties is as follows: