Demand for malting barley took a hit in the past year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"On-premise consumption of the draft beers that would be served at restaurants, bars and stadium events, that's way down," said Scott Heisel, vice president and technical director of the American Malting Barley Association. "They made up for quite a bit of that in the sale of cans of beer, but not all of it."

Heisel also pointed to a slight drop in the all-malt market, the first drop in at least a decade, he said.

"It's been growing every year, except for this past year, which is understandable," he said. "It's definitely due to COVID."

With that in mind, the association released its annual list of recommended varieties in January. 

Most malting barley acres are grown under contract. Farmers aren't required to plant varieties on the list, but the varieties are the ones the market is looking for.

"There's a lot of them on our list that are grown in very small acreages," Heisel said. "We keep them on the list just because they are being grown, even to a small extent."

The variety Scarlett was removed from the list this year.

"That was an old variety that had been on the list for a long time," Heisel said. "That's one of those (varieties with) very low acreages, that people didn't use at all, so we took it off the list."

The association added three new varieties this year:

• Flavia: A winter variety developed by Ackermann Saatzucht in Germany, slated for the mid-Atlantic and other areas of the eastern U.S.

• Mayflower: From the Malteurop breeding program, for the northern plains and intermountain West. Mayflower has lower protein and moderate enzyme levels desired for use in making all-malt beers.

• Moravian 179: Developed by Molson Coors, it has demonstrated higher yields, kernel plumpness, and test weight compared to Moravian 69 and lower lodging.

All three are grown with specific customers in mind, Heisel said.

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