The net result of combined low carry-in stocks, the severe drought of 2021 and record high prices for feed barley has been a supply crunch that has made it difficult for North American maltsters to source sufficient supplies. The available barley generally has quality challenges that include very high protein content and reduced germination caused by 2021 weather conditions. We now have greater perspective on how the malting and brewing industries are dealing with the challenges associated with the less-than-optimal crop.
Farmer Keith Woynorowski built the Hammer Malt facility and the entire malting system from scratch. He processes the farm’s own malting barley within silver, cylindrical dairy tanks repurposed as combination kilns and germination vessels. The malt is transported from one stage of processing to the next through pneumatic tubes and the entire system is computer automated. Far from being cobbled-together in appearance, the rig looks something like a homey space station.
The 2020/21 crop year was good for Canada’s barley industry. According to Statistics Canada, production hit 10.74 million tonnes, the highest level since 2008 when tonnage topped 11.78 million tonnes. The 2020/21 crop is also up 50 per cent from 7.11 million tonnes in 2014, a year that saw the lowest barley production in Canada since 1967.
As the newest malting barley varieties increase their individual shares of prairie acreage, Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre (CMBTC) managing director Peter Watts says strong agronomic and end-use qualities will continue to drive their adoption.
Co-operation and collaboration are not new in the barley world, whether we’re talking about research and development, working to create and support markets for Canadian barley or dealing with collective market challenges. There are so many issues at play and many moving parts in today’s world of technological complexity, trade issues and regulatory challenges, never mind throwing in a global pandemic.