NDSU Breeding Barley Varieties for Craft Brewing Industry

The craft brewing industry is growing, and NDSU scientists are playing a role.

About 12 years ago, craft brewers approached Rich Horsley, NDSU barley breeder and Plant Sciences Department head, and Paul Schwarz, a Plant Sciences professor who specializes in malting barley quality, to see if NDSU had any barley varieties that would work for them. The scientists offered the craft brewers the same high-quality varieties they bred for large commercial brewers. The craft brewers tried those varieties but found they were too high in protein and enzymes.

What the craft brewers needed sounded just like the varieties that NDSU discarded because they weren’t what the large brewers wanted, according to Horsley.

“The material was here all along,” he says. “We just needed someone to tell us what they wanted.”

NDSU’s barley breeding efforts also will benefit North Dakota producers.

“It’s become a lot of fun to work with these craft brewers and the craft maltsters because it really gives us an opportunity to develop some materials that wouldn’t have been available to the farmers otherwise if it wasn’t for the craft sector,” Horsley says.

The scientists haven’t developed varieties for the craft brewers yet, but they are making progress.

“We’re in the testing stages with this,” Horsley says. “Craft brewers are evaluating our advanced lines.”

Two Track Malting Co. of Lincoln, N.D., is evaluating one of those advanced lines.

Greg Kessel of Belfield, N.D., a partner in the company, is pleased NDSU is trying to develop barley varieties for the craft brewing industry.

“This is very much a need of ours,” he says. “What better place to do this?”

North Dakota ranks third in the nation for barley production.

NDSU breeders also have started work on developing varieties of wheat, potatoes and dry beans for the artisan market.


Richard Horsley, 701-231-8142, richard.horsley@ndsu.edu 

Additional Link:

Barley Breeding for Craft Brewing Video

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