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Grain for Craft Brew, Malt, Spirits

Project overview

Western Washington can be a tremendously productive region for growing grain. Grain works well in crop rotation with vegetables, vegetable seed and other crops. Simultaneously, rapidly growing regional craft malting, brewing and distilling industries are hungry for grain that can be traced back to the farmer. It is a great time for developing connections between growers and the craft beverage industry, to help farmers stay in business with higher value markets, and to bring unique flavors to customers while providing opportunities for the end consumer to proudly support our region’s farmers. This project is focused on evaluating grain (mostly barley) for meeting craft beverage markets, and conducting market and production assessments to provide funding entities such as regional Port’s with solid data for them to use in financing needed infrastructure such as grain storage and handling facilities.

Research project: evaluation of unique barley varieties for craft brewing, malting and distilling

Farmers in western Washington are interested in integrating cereal crops into farm operations to interrupt pest and disease cycles in vegetable-intensive systems, and additional opportunities for value-added feed, brewing and distilling grain. This study will utilize a breeder-extension-farmer-craft brewer/distiller collaboration to evaluate barley varieties for organic production and value-added processing. We will test for unique flavors among the diverse germplasm in the WSU barley breeding program that could be of interest to craft maltsters, brewers and distillers. Nine barley breeding lines and/or varieties will be evaluated for valuable agronomic and end-use characteristics important to maltsters, brewers, distillers and farmers. This project supports biologically intensive crop rotations such as grain-vegetable integration, evaluates barley production and end-use characteristics in organic production, and will hopefully result in novel marketing opportunities, provide ecological crop rotation tools for managing pest populations, and spur social engagement between farmers, processors, and consumers. Project impacts include the potential for immediate release of new WSU barley varieties for the first time specifically suited to the needs of craft brewers, micro-maltsters, and local distillers. We hope to provide farmers with agronomic information about locally-adapted varieties when integrating barley into crop rotations. Additionally, if the 2017 growing season is successful, whiskey will be evaluated at sensory evaluation events, demonstrating to decision-makers, processors, farmers, and consumers the potential of regional organic barley production for value-added markets.

This project was funded the WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources’ BIOAg program (Biologically Intensive and Organic Agriculture. For a full project decription click here: WSU BIOAg proposal – 17.05.11_for website

Grain and malting quality of unique barley varieties: initial study results
  • initial study data summarized in a hand-out for the 2018 Barley Variety Trials Field Day held in Adna, WA on July 19th, 2018: Barley Field Day Handout_2018
Specialty grain market assessment