2015 is the 50th anniversary of the first recommendation of Maris Otter as a winter malting barley. Whilst this variety was not well suited for growing in Scotland, it became the dominant malting variety in England and Wales and is still bought in significant amounts by maltsters (according to MAGB figures, it accounted for almost 3% of the total UK malting barley purchases from harvest 2014). It is well liked by craft brewers because it presents few processing problems in the brewhouse whereas some newer varieties are associated with filtration problems. Results from a project funded by the BBSRC Crop Improvement are showing marked differences in the sensitivity of malting quality to increased grain nitrogen content with some still giving good levels of malt extract at higher nitrogen levels, suggesting that they might also be good processing varieties.
We are further testing this within the same project by sub-contracting Campden BRi to conduct a mash filtration test on the malt samples that have been generated to mimic the filtration of the wort in the brewhouse. Results so far suggest that this characteristic is independent of malt extract and is also sensitive to increasing nitrogen content with some varieties retaining good filtration characteristics at higher nitrogen contents. Further data is being gathered from the 2014 harvest with the aim of providing a reliable means to identify better processing varieties for use in malting, brewing and distilling.
For further information on this work please contact Bill Thomas (firstname.lastname@example.org) from the James Hutton Institute.