Interest brewing in Oregon barley variety

Dean Rea/For the Capital Press Scott Sayer selected Full Pint barley seed from Oregon State University and has found interest in it from craft brewers.

BROWNSVILLE, Ore. — A brew with a hint of salty carmel popcorn may pay dividends for a family in the southern Willamette Valley.

The outcome rests on how a barley variety aptly named Full Pint fares with the craft brewing industry’s interest in unique flavors.

“We started with a hundred pounds of seed,” says Scott Sayer, who manages the 1,500-acre family farm. “My interest in Full Pint was diverse. I need rotational crops, and I wanted one that would sell in any economy.”

The family raises several other crops, including ryegrass, vetch, spring oats and spring radishes, on what was primarily a grass seed farm.

Sayer planted Full Pint on an acre in the spring of 2011 and has increased acreage since then. He plans to plant it on 160 acres this year.

Sayer was interested in a malting variety when he planted Full Pint and began checking with malting companies. In December, Oskar Blues Brewery in Longmont, Colo., brewed a 30-barrel batch of Full Pint strong ale, which is expected to be available soon in pubs throughout the country, says Tim Matthews, head brewer for Oskar Blues.

Full Pint has changed the barley world because it was the first variety cultivated “for reasons of flavor,” Matthews says. “I know it can become a mainstay in the craft brew industry.”

Matthews says Oskar Blues has also used Full Pint to brew barrel-aged barleywine and plans to collaborate with the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in developing a bock lager.

The 100 pounds of seed that Sayer acquired from an OSU test plot in 2009 originally was called BCD47, which was being developed for use in making beer and feed and was resistant to stripe rust, says Pat Hayes, who directs OSU’s barley program.

“We were going to call it Half Pint because it was so short,” Hayes says in describing a variety that grows knee-high and doesn’t fall over. He says Full Pint is being used as a parent in OSU’s breeding of winter and spring varieties while retaining Full Pint’s unique flavor, which Matthews describes as salty carmel popcorn and agape nectar.

Sayer says he sold 8 tons of Full Pint grain for malting in 2012 and 20 tons for feed. In 2013 he raised about 300 tons, of which 6 tons were sold to Oskar Blues. Early this year he expects to sell more than 100 tons to another malting company.

Meanwhile, OSU fermentation science personnel plan to brew a batch of the Full Pint malt, which will be subjected to a “sensory assessment.” Hayes anticipates that will occur when members of the Sayer family and other guests gather in Corvallis to taste “OSU’s first all-Oregon beer.”

Sayer & Son Farm

Frmers: John “Jack” and Sandra Sayer, Scott Sayer and Rebecca Huston

Time farming: Five generations

Crops: Row and seed crops

Acres: 1,500

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