RMI ANALYTICS UK CROP TOUR 2018
On my eternal mission, to improve, my understanding, of the raw materials, we use in our beer. I like to take the effort to meet, the people, who breed, grow and supply them.
I was, offered, the opportunity, to visit a number orf barley farms, and, a research institute, in Cambridge, and Norfolk. on a crop tour organised by RMI Analytics.
On the 18th July, 2018. I made my way to Stanstead airport, for a 9 am start, wide eyed and in wonder of what may lie before me over the next two days.
The Meeting place, for the tour, was in the Hilton Hotel, next to the airport. Gathered were a mixture, of barley breeders. Germ-plasm scientists, seed suppliers, a machine manufacturer, and, several raw material buyers. Representing global brewers. For a short while I asked, myself. "What are you doing here with this collection of experts in their fields"? It felt very different swimming in this new pond.
At 10am we set off by coach, to our first stop, a 20 ha field of Planet Barley nr Cambridge. Planet is a modern breed of barley, giving around 5.19T/ha yield. We leant that the soil type was sandy loam, over chalk. This year had been particularly dry, with only 78mm of precipitation since seeding. This year the spring, had been particularly wet. Meaning the farm was unable to sow the crop on time, thus, the seed was sown 3 weeks later than planned. To make problems worse, the long hot summer with next to no rain has shortened the growing season. The ground was particularly dry, as a result, the barley seeds, we examined. Were showing signs of wrinkling due to the hot dry weather. But the farmer was quite happy as the field was looking to yield around 5 tons/ha which is close to an average yield.
The Farms winter barley, "Flagon", was already, in the grain stores. Screenings had shown good results considering the growing conditions.
We then moved onto a research farm. Owned and operated by Saaten Union UK in conjunction with Elsoms seeds.
The coach, drove down windy country lanes, in what seemed the middle of nowhere. On turning a corner we pulled up to a pickup truck who flashed us, confirming we were in the correct place. The coach then followed the pickup for a good 1/2 mile down a dirt farm track to the research fields of barley and wheat. Our Eyes, were, greeted with what looked like a drought ridden African landscape.
Gaping scars were Visible in the land. From lack of water. Yet barley was still growing and thriving in very difficult growing conditions.
The Farm, researches, and develops new varieties of barley for brewers and distillers. (global companies). Where requirements are: High yield. Greater extract potential. Good disease resistance. High FAN (Free Amino Nitrogen), easy to grow and good malting potential. I was, shown the following varieties
Exciting brewing Potential, High Yielding & Early Maturing
High Yielding, Brewing Type, Candidate in the UK AHDB Recommended list.
Promising New Variety, Exciting Malting Potential, Good Resistance to Lodging
High Yield, HIGH FAN, Good Agronomic performance, Currently under test in UK Trials
New Varieties of Barley, are, developed, all the time, it takes, around 5 years, to develop a new variety of Barley. But that new varieties Commercial life will be between 0 & 5 years before a new variety will replace it.
New Variety Barley's, are being pushed and funded by global brewers. With economy the driving force in development of Barley.
Global Brewers want a cheap product to make Maltose from. They want a product that's easy to grow. Will work well with wheat, Rice & Maize, as these grains are far cheaper than barley.
Use of these adjunct grains, means the lagers, they brew. Are matured ready for shipping in around 10 days. Traditional all Barley Malt lagers brewed on the Continent take at least 8 weeks to produce.
Global Brewers, rely on efficiencies and speed of production. This is what drives developments in the ingredient market.
As a Craft Brewer. I am far more interested in unique flavour, Aroma, malt body & colour. which is why I was super excited, to get chance to, Visit The John Innes Institute & Morley Farm. The Next Day of the Crop Tour. The Scientists at John Innes, are at the forefront, of reintroducing, Heritage, Landrace Varieties, of barley malt. Such as Chevallier & Plumage Archer.
I will be writing about Day two on my next Blog Post.