Malting Barley Specialist Announces Retirement
Dr. Paul Schwarz, North Dakota State University (NDSU) Department of Plant Sciences professor and malting barley quality project leader, has a new venture brewing: retirement. He retired October 1, 2021, after 33 years of service with NDSU.
Schwarz joined NDSU in 1988 as a postdoctoral research fellow and took over management of the malting barley quality lab in what was then the Department of Cereal Science and Food Technology. A year later, he was hired as an assistant professor. In 1995, he achieved the rank of associate professor and was promoted to full professor in 2004. Schwarz was the fifth leader of the malting barley quality project, following Orville Banasik (1947-1972), Richard Pyler (1972-1973, 1977-1985), Charles Baker (1973-1977), and Michael Madson (1986-1988).
Background and Education
Schwarz grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a “big brewing city.” As a high school student and an undergraduate, he worked in a malt plant, which is where his interest in malting and brewing began to develop.
While completing his bachelor’s degree in agronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he worked part-time in the barley and oat breeding project and discovered his interests were more oriented to post-harvest processes than field work. He was interested in the science and chemistry of malting and brewing and enjoyed lab work, so he sought out graduate programs with related curricula.
The Department of Cereal Science and Food Technology at NDSU was one of two programs in the country that offered education in malting and brewing at that time, and he selected NDSU because of its malting focus. He completed his master’s degree in cereal chemistry advised by Richard Pyler and his doctorate in cereal science advised by Vernon Youngs.
In addition to his academic work, Schwarz undertook practical training in malting and brewing. In 1984, in between finishing his M.S. and starting his Ph.D., he completed a practicum in brewing at the A. Egger Brewery in Worb, Switzerland. He also took a sabbatical in 1998-99, during which he worked in brewing research and development at the Coors Brewing Company in Golden, Colorado.
Schwarz, barley breeder Richard Horsley, barley plant pathologist Tom Baldwin, and seven technical staff work full-time on barley improvement at NDSU. An important function of the malting barley quality program is the evaluation of malt barley lines from the barley breeding program and the survey of regional barley crop quality. Several other NDSU faculty and USDA-ARS staff also conduct barley and malt research, making NDSU the center of barley expertise in the U.S. “What has been enjoyable at NDSU is that it’s really been a team effort with the barley projects,” says Schwarz.
The NDSU barley programs have a close relationship with the North Dakota, Minnesota and Montana barley growers and the malting and brewing industry. Consequently, much of their research has been a response to the needs of regional growers and industry.
In the early 1990s, when Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) and deoxynivalenol (DON) became a major issue in barley, Schwarz’s research focused on FHB and mycotoxins. NDSU received support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish a testing lab as part of the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative (USWBSI). This lab tests DON for most of the research programs in the U.S. that are working on FHB in barley.
Schwarz’s research has resulted in more than 120 journal publications and 10 book chapters. His publication, "Fate and Development of Naturally Occurring Fusarium Mycotoxins During Malting and Brewing," was the first to show that DON could increase during the malting of FHB infected barley and was largely transferred to beer, which is a consumer safety and perception issue. It is one of the most frequently cited papers on the subject.
Another notable publication, "Expansion of Internal Hyphal Growth in Fusarium Head Blight-infected Grains Contributes to the Elevated Mycotoxin Production During the Malting Process," resulted from research using advanced microscopy and molecular techniques in collaboration with a postdoctoral researcher and the NDSU plant pathology lab. The publication explained why some barley samples develop mycotoxins during malting while others don’t. “We hope this work can eventually lead to better screening for barley and selection for malting and brewing,” says Schwarz.
Schwarz has been an active member of professional associations. He has been a member of the American Chemical Society for 40 years. He gave presentations nearly every year at the Master Brewers Association of the Americas meetings or the American Society of Brewing Chemists (ASBC). Early in his career, he was very active in the ASBC and served on the technical committee.
Schwarz collaborated to help create the Institute of Barley and Malt Sciences (IBMS) in 2006 and was its director. The IBMS has been a means to promote the informational and educational activities and resources on barley and malting that are available at NDSU. He also worked with the U.S. Grains Council on education and promotion of barley from this region.
Schwarz and Horsley have partnered with the Northern Crops Institute (NCI) to deliver courses on barley and malting to nationwide and international audiences. The short course, Barley and Malting Quality: A Field to Brewhouse Perspective, has been offered since 1984. It provided basic and technical information on barley production and malting and brewing. Barley and malt industry executives, maltsters, brewers, brew masters, farmers, and students worldwide have attended the course over the years.
Since the 2010s interest in craft brewing has grown, and growers and craft maltsters from outside the region began to look to NDSU for information. “NDSU is the recognized center for barley production and malting barley,” says Schwarz.
Craft malting requires the use of locally grown grain, and many craft maltsters are located in areas where barley is impacted by FHB. Because of this, Schwarz offered food safety education on mycotoxins for the craft brewing industry.
The Barley Field School was developed in 2013, in response to inquiries about growing barley in non-traditional regions for craft malting. Maltsters, brewers and farmers from multiple states learned how to grow high quality barley for malting, prevent diseases and pests in barley fields, harvest and store malting barley, and the best practices for managing risk when growing and marketing malting barley.
“We have seen course participants start malting operations and schools start malting barley programs,” says Schwarz.
Schwarz says he enjoyed the travel that was part of his position. Through his travels, he cultivated strong international connections with researchers in Germany, Finland, and China. He also hosted at NDSU a number of visiting scientists and postdoctoral researchers from China and Finland.
He was invited to give presentations at numerous regional, national, and international meetings. Countries in which he presented include Germany, Finland, Belgium, Chile, Dominican Republic, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, and others.
He has given many presentations in China on FHB, food safety, and craft brewing. He says that in recent years, he has really enjoyed being asked to speak in China on craft brewing, beer styles, and specialty malts. “China’s craft brewing industry is just starting to take off,” says Schwarz. “They are now where the U.S. was about 20 years ago, and they are excited to learn more.”
Awards and Honors
In recognition of his research contributions to the malting and brewing industry, Schwarz has received several awards. In 2021, the Craft Maltsters Guild awarded Schwarz the prestigious Soles of Malt Award for his leadership in the craft malt community and his teaching and mentorship of students who have gone on to work in the malting, brewing, and food science industries.
In 2003, Schwarz and Horsley received the ASBC Eric Kneen Memorial Award, presented to the authors of the most outstanding research paper in the Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists the previous year.
In 1998, he received the NDSU College of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Natural Resources Early Career Excellence in Research Award, which recognized outstanding faculty and principal investigators who made a significant research contribution to address an applied problem or to the knowledge of the area investigated.
Teaching and Mentoring
In addition to research, Schwarz taught graduate-level courses and mentored graduate students. He taught the malting and brewing section of the Cereal Technology and Food Chemistry course, to which he eventually added rice and ancient grains.
The main course he taught was Malting and Brewing. When he started teaching the course, it only covered malting. Schwarz expanded the course to include brewing and enhanced the lab work. Students also had the opportunity for a hands-on brewing experience at local breweries. During COVID-19, when students couldn’t get the hands-on brewing experience, Schwarz recorded a video of home brewing in his driveway.
Over the course of his career, Schwarz mentored around 25 graduate students, including one from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, where he was an adjunct professor for a time. He also served on graduate committees for students at NDSU, at University of Minnesota, and in Finland, Australia, and South Africa. “I am really proud that a number of my students have become fairly successful in careers in the malting and brewing industries,” says Schwarz.
The Next Chapter
In retirement, Schwarz and his wife, Alice, are moving to New Mexico, where they own an adobe house that they restored. Schwarz would like to do more woodworking, and Alice plans to continue working with ceramics, ikebana (the Japanese art of flower arranging), and hopes to join the New Mexico Master Gardener program. Schwarz would like to remain connected to NDSU and help with the malting barley quality project where he can, complete a few publications, and finish writing a history of barley in the U.S.
We wish them a long and happy retirement.