With the exception of crops grown for seed, malting barley is the only crop that has to be delivered to the customer in a living state.
Malting barley is mainly used to flavour beer and spirits. Malt extract is also used around the world in many foods - from cookies and cakes to beverages and baby foods. It is used to enhance flavour, colour, fermentation and aroma, while improving texture and shelf life.
Even for well seasoned growers, malt barley can be a demanding crop requiring greater care and management than other commercial crops. It requires a combination of precise production, favourable harvest conditions and effective storage solutions to meet maltsters' strict quality specifications. Due to its specifications, malting barley can command premium prices to be processed to malt for beer and spirits.
Despite the demands of growing malt barley, Alberta has a long-standing reputation for growing superior quality and is sought after by brewers, small and large from around the world. This is in part due the province's growing season of long, warm days and cool evenings which results in barley with protein levels that produce excellent levels of stratch-degrading enzymes, leading to good performance in the distilling and brewing process. Another factor is medium texture soils which have excellent moisture holding capacities as well as our farmers sustainable farming practices.
According to the Brewing and Malting Barely Research Institute (BMBRI) high quality malting barley should have the following characteristics:
- Pure lot of an acceptable variety
- Germination of 95 per cent of higher
- Protein content of 11 to 12.5 per cent
- Moisture content of 13.5 per cent maximum
- Plump kernels of uniform size
- Fully mature
- No signs of pre-harvest germination
- Free of DON, disease and frost damage
- Not weathered or deeply stained
- Less than five per cent peeled or broken kernels
- Free from heat damage, insects, ergot, smut, order and chemical residues
Malting barley that does not meet maltsters' specifications is by no means wasted - it's used as livestock feed, you can learn more about feed here. Malting barley is an important crop, both to Alberta's barley sector and the province's agriculture industry.