Malt, one of beer’s four main ingredients, is made from dried, germinated cereal grains. Barley, the most common grain used for malt, must be of high quality and able to germinate evenly and rapidly. Malt barley is grown across the world, however the bulk of production lies in Europe Barley production has fluctuated around 59,900,000 metric tons, with occasional outliers. It can be hard to forecast each year’s production, as it depends on the weather conditions. Production has been increasing the past three years.
In the U.S., many craft breweries struggle with barley supply shortages. Europe remains the largest exporter of barley, however it can be difficult to access. Most of the barley is already under contract for a set price, and there isn’t much extra supply. Most U.S. malts are developed for American lagers, so craft breweries are looking to increase barley production in America. A new high-yielding barley variety has been developed and brought in from Europe to the U.S. that should benefit the craft brewing industry. The new variety, “Genie,” has already performed well in Pacific Northwest trials and 120 acres have been planted. Limagrain, the company who bred the variety, hopes to move up to several thousand acres of malt production in the next year. It will be interesting to see if this new variety of barley allows craft breweries to further increase their scale.