A new barley malting accreditation process has come into effect, with the aim of ensuring brewers get top quality varieties which are specifically suited to malting.
The process intends to maintain the consistency of quality of Australian barley and ensure that crops hitting the market are fit for purpose – to the benefit of both the brewing and farming industries.
Dr Megan Sheehy, the executive chair of Barley Australia, said the improvements to the two-step process came about as a result of an in-depth review intended to help breeders, farmers and customers.
“We can’t just sit still and not try to improve processes and look at how we do things,” she said.
The updated accreditation process involves bringing in Pilot Malting Australia, which is housed at the Edith Cowan University in WA.
Bringing PMA in means that the first stage of the process no longer requires commercial quantities of grain, as PMA simulates large-scale commercial malting but using smaller batches – 100 kilograms rather than 200 tonnes. Previously the larger quantity was required for both testing stages.
“This means that breeders will not need to go straight to commercial quantities of grain but can scale up [in a controlled way],” Sheehy explained.
“It’s definitely an improvement, in that there’s more flexibility for breeders and breeding programmes.”
In both stages, pilot brewing is carried out as part of the assessment using small batch brewing facilities at Carlton and United Breweries.
“We do this robust assessment to ensure it can malt to a suitable standard. We don’t make any assessment on its commercial viability or agronomics, all we’re saying is that it can make malt and make beer,” she explained.
The new post-accreditation phase will also see data from the pilot malting testing stages available to the industry, which feeds into post-accreditation marketing support.
“We’re not planning to endorse any particular varieties, but build upon varietal profiles which will be made available to industry for marketing and research purposes,” Sheehy said.
“We take quality seriously, [and the malt quality data] is another point we can use as a marketing tool.”
Barley in Australia
Sheehy said that around 70 per cent of Australian-produced barley was used for feed, whilst 30 per cent goes to maltsters to be then used in the brewing industry.
Approximately 70 per cent of the barley grown in Australia sent for export, she said.
“We’re renowned around the world for the quality of our barley. We’re viewed as having very good quality barley for malting specifically.
“Some of the challenges we face are that many brewers might get frustrated that barely varieties change too quickly. But we’re past the days of having one or two barley varieties – it’s no longer ‘one-size-fits-all’.”
From a farming perspective, this varietal diversification is beneficial to an industry which constantly needs to adapt to changing climate and demands.
“Things have moved on with breeding programmes as growers become more savvy with their farming practices. Varieties need to have good disease resistance and agronomics, and of course need to yield well, as there are many other crops that growers could grow instead.
“It’s about finding that balance – you’ve got to stay relevant and keep up with international competitors who are all investing in new varieties, but at the same time you don’t want to be constantly flooding the market with new choices,” Sheehy explained.
Find out more about the accreditation process with Barley Australia.