Have you been wondering about the future of barley? Research suggest that climate-related weather extremes may threaten the yield and quality of the barley used to brew one of our most-loved beverages: beer. But brewers have not been idle, they have a plan!
For centuries, brewers have soaked barley in water until it sprouts so they could use the malt to create a great tasting beer. However, this age-old process is under threat, due to the overly fluctuating temperatures and variable weather patterns being experienced across the world. One of the more obvious impacts is on barley yield. It’s been known for centuries that yields of barley decline in periods of localized extreme drought and heat. What I find striking is that scientific researchers are now predicting a much more global reduction of barley yield due to climate change: by as much as 17 percent in the coming years, depending on the severity of the conditions1. This in turn could lead to supply shortages and price spikes2.
It’s not just the yield but the quality of barley that will be negatively affected by climate change. During specific growth stages of barley, if the temperature is too high or there is not enough rain, this in general leads to barley with three changed characteristics: a higher protein content, a lower extract yield, and a lower diastatic power3. Each of these has an impact on beer quality.
Higher protein content may result in beers that are more sensitive to haze formation, which leads to reduced beer stability. Lower extract yield means that the malt contains less starch to be converted to the correct amount of fermentable sugars needed to produce the correct amount of alcohol. As a result, more malt must be used to produce the same amount of beer. A lower diastatic power means that the malt contains reduced amounts of the enzymes such as alfa- and beta-amylase that are responsible for effective conversion of the available starch into fermentable sugars.
In the light of these challenges, how can brewers be prepared to secure the future availability of beer? One direction involves changing various process parameters in the brewing process. For example, it’s possible to extend the mashing duration so that as much extract is converted from the malt as possible. The downside of this is that it can have a negative impact on the production capacity of the brewery.
Another possibility is to solve the filtration problems that arise from poor malt quality and high viscosity. This could be done by a brewery accepting wort that is not as clear as normal, in order to keep capacity levels up. The drawback of this approach is that it will immediately have a negative impact on the quality, taste and flavor of the beer.
At DSM, our global brew masters have not been idle either. They have proactively developed a technological solution to help brewers reduce their dependence on barley. Brewers Compass® is an enzyme solution that enables brewing with up to 100% barley and is very suitable for blends of malt with barley and/or adjuncts such as rice, wheat, rye, or oats (which stimulates the cultivation of adjuncts and drives employment in emerging countries). Breweries can now produce a high-quality beer from unmalted barley far easier, more reliably and more cost-effectively than was previously possible.
Just drop me an email and I would be delighted to talk with you about your specific brewing questions or requirements to help your brewery respond proactively to the negative impacts of climate change on barley yield and quality.
Low-quality malt often contains high levels of beta glucan, which can heavily increase the viscosity of wort and/or beer, resulting in filtration problems. These eventually lead to capacity loss or an increase in operational costs.
By using Brewers Compass®, brewers can achieve a high-quality beer with great foam, taste and clarity, and with the cost benefits of using unmalted barley in beer as a replacement for a percentage of malt.
07 November 2021