Malting Barley and ZBH


Grain! Grain is good! It gives us everything that we want in beer. It is the building block for beer.

Barley is the major component of beer and distilled spirits. Along with other grains such as wheat, rye and ancient specialty grains like amaranth and spelt it provides the base sugars and flavor for our favorite beverages. Grain seeds are a complete factory for reproducing the original plant that includes all the components for growth. These same components make it an idea source of enzymes and carbohydrates for fermentable brew production. Before it can be used it needs to be modified by a process called malting to release the ingredients that are necessary for the process.

In addition to the malting of barley other small grains can be malted. Long Island and New York State produce cereal rye, winter and summer wheat, and oats. These grains add to the flavor profile of particular beers. Wheat beers and weisse beers, and roggenbeirs and many combinations can be made using these malted grains. This will add to the diversity of the malt house and open the brewing community to try new styles of beer.

There are many varieties of barley that can be grown on Long Island and in the region. Cornell Cooperative Extension is doing studies on the various varieties for the production aspects of the crop. They are studying both spring and winter barley for the yield, height, kernel size, malt extract level, protein level and other features. The research has shown that this crop has good rates of production and survivability and that this is a worthwhile crop for our region. A major factor to look at is the yield per acre and survivability.

When looking at common varieties and at the chart developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension there are some issues. The varieties that were tested by CCE are not commonly available. They may be available in the future when they are fully tested.  From contact with other maltsters some varieties have been used that should be easier to obtain. They are both 2 row and 6 row varieties that have proven resilient to the east coast. Two row varieties are: Charles, Endeavor and Wintmalt (another variety that was discussed was Conlon, a spring variety that showed great promise in New York State.) The 6 row varieties are Thoroughbred, Quest and Lacey There are other varieties that are applicable and they will need to be looked at in future plantings. Wintmalt is the variety that was chosen this year.

Two crops can be planted in a year. There are the winter varieties like Wintmalt and the spring planted varieties such as Conlon and Quest. This will allow the malt house to have a continuous supply of grain throughout the year. The spring planted crop will be ready in fall to be malted throughout the fall and winter. It is interesting that all of the data suggests that 6 row varieties grow much better here in New York State. The numbers are very close in brewing quality between the two types and we need to look closely at our sustainability and reasons we are here. There are many brewers like Fonta Flora  (  and Haw River Farmhouse Ales ( who use 6 row in many of there beer as a base malt. You may say, “hey, they are small local breweries”, But there are others that use local malts and produce good beer. How about Sierra Nevada ( they use it in their Tater Ridge Beer (–asheville-brewers-alliance-beer-camp-tater-ridge/263169/) FullSteam in North Carolina uses 6 row barley grown in North Carolina and Malted by Riverbend Malt House. ( There are lots of examples and it is a good grain that will help grow our regional barley amounts.

Special care must be taken with growing and harvesting barley on Long Island and in humid climates. It should be harvested early at 20 percent moisture to avoid Fusarium Head Blight. This is a disease that can ruin a crop. The grain will be dried in a grain dryer until it gets past the point where the disease is an issue.