New malt varieties brewing

Kate MatthewsCountryman

Finding a replacement for Baudin barley and understanding the malt barley value chain were two key themes for the Stirlings-to-Coast Farmers (SCF) group on a recent study across three States.

The five-day tour included visiting Viterra's malt house in Forrestfield, speaking to brewers, including Coopers, learning about potential malt barley varieties at the University of Adelaide and visiting growers in south-west Victoria to understand how their industry works.

Department of Agriculture and Food senior development officer Jeremy Lemon said since the south coast emergence as a major grain growing region, growers had struggled to find suitable malt barley varieties.

"Baudin is the barley variety most widely grown but growers are finding it increasingly difficult to manage because it is very susceptible to diseases," Mr Lemon said.

"Colour in malting barley is also a major concern for south coast growers because moisture is nearly always an issue during harvest."

During the tour, growers learnt several malt varieties are being evaluated, Bass (WABAR2315) being one of the most promising replacements for Baudin, which is in high demand by export markets.

Bass is being evaluated and accreditation as a malt variety is pending. It has similar malt characteristics to Baudin and stronger resistance to powdery mildew and barley leaf rust.

If malt status is given, availability will be limited next year but full production is anticipated to begin in 2013.

Mr Lemon said SCF was closely watching the local national variety trial site at South Stirlings where small plots of Bass and other potential malt varieties were being grown.

"It's been bulked up in previous years at Woogenellup for commercial malting evaluation but this takes time," he said.

SCF chairman Mal Thompson said the grower group was hoping to access 10 to 12 tonnes of Bass next year for bulk-up.

"If it isn't released as commercial malt that CBH will deliver, we will create our own commercial stack, which we did last year for Baudin with less weight and colour," Mr Thompson said.

"It worked out quite well. The stack went malt in the end because some people had low weight and high colour and some had high weight and low colour.

"When it was averaged out, the characteristics made malt one anyway."

The tour also allowed the group to understand the complexities behind brewing and the need for consistency.

"There are a lot of different characteristics in every variety and maltsters and brewers look for certain characteristics which was a big eye-opener for us," Mr Thompson said.

Learning about the path to getting new varieties into the malting system was also a revelation.

Kojaneerup grower Mark Slattery said there were no short cuts to getting new varieties into the malting system.

"You are looking at three to five years before a new variety will be commercially grown," Mr Slattery said.

"But Bass, which has the same malting characteristics as Baudin, might just fit straight into the system but the first step must be to build up seed."

SCF was granted a GRDC Industry Development Award to study malt barley from breeding to beer.

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