Barley bred in Alberta

Bentley barley, a variety bred for its malting properties, was introduced into the marketplace this year after Canada Malting contracted 30,000 tons of it to Alberta and Saskatchewan farmers.


This is the first malt barley bred by Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (AARD) to be commercially contracted for malt. 


Dr. Patricia Juskiw, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development barley breeder with the Field Crop Development Centre at Lacombe, Alta., is originally from Manitoba. While in Manitoba, she worked with Dr Metcalfe at the Winnipeg Research Station, spurring her love of working with barley. Juskiw then took a job in Alberta, working in agronomy, before returning to her passion of working with barley and becoming a barely breeder.


Bentley barley


Bentley barley is a two-row, hulled, malting barely, first registered in 2008. It consists of a combination of high grain yield and high biomass. 


“When looking at it in our trials, we saw it was a variety that always maintained its preset plump,” said Juskiw. “Back then, in 2003-04, we had drought years. And, for the brewing industry, the seed plump is really important.”


This was one of the main reasons the researchers decided to continue advancing the variety in their trials. 


“Going back the to the predecessor variety, Harrington, plumpness was one of its greatest traits,” said Juskiw. “Even in drought years, Harrington was able to maintain its preset plump, although it didn’t have great yields. The other competing predecessor was AC Metcalfe which had better yields but sometimes lacked plumpness.”


Bentley was found to have five to 10 per cent higher yield than AC Metcalfe (which has five to 10 per cent higher yield than Harrington). Juskiw and team maintained Bentley’s preset plumps and knew this was a great replacement for Harrington. 


Other Bentley benefits are how it modifies in the malt house and its quality parameters in the brew house, possessing some really nice flavour characteristics. 


Juskiw and team saw Bentley as a great variety for the craft brewing process, and have also found great interest in Bentley from Canada Malting. 


“When it comes to regions that are quite warm, where you don’t want to be putting a really hot variety with the conversion time being quit rapid anyway, Bentley’s traits look very good to the malting and brewing industries,” said Juskiw. 


“Bentley is a great fit for Prairie farmers, as it doesn’t matter where you grow it. It can be in high-yielding soil, high-moisture conditions, or otherwise. This is a variety that maintains its yield, percent plump, and is great quality. It also maintains low protein regardless of growing conditions.” 


Bentley for beer


Low protein is a critical trait for malting purposes, and with Bentley, even if it is a moist year and you have a lot of nitrogen in the soil, it is more likely to maintain its protein content. 


In wheat, you want high protein, as that is what holds it together. But, in the malt industry, you want just enough and the right protein for the enzymes, so it will break down the grain’s starches and protein. 


“You want the right amount of enzymes, so they’ll break down the starches and protein into Free Amino Nitrogen (FAN),” said Juskiw. “Nitrogen is the most important nutrient needed to carry out a successful fermentation that doesn’t end prior to the intended point. 


“This way, the yeast can go a lot faster in converting sugars and amino acids into alcohol, which is what it’s all about. So, potentially, if you have a grain with the perfect balance, you’d need less of it to create the same amount of alcohol. There is also potential to use more of it and have it as an all-Bentley malt.”


Canada Malting has been interested in Bentley for some time now, but within the last two years, they especially view the variety is really fitting into this marketplace. S.A.B. Miller is the second- or third-largest brewing company in the world and they, too, are very interested in Bentley. 


Canterra Seeds, the seed company that has acquired the rights to market Bentley, is working hard to get those acres up to provide the kind of quality that Canada Malting needs. As well, the Chinese market is interested in the variety.


“Something else quite unique about Bentley is we actually put it into forage barley co-ops as well as malting co-ops, for its huge biomass shields,” said Juskiw. “So, even if you lose a lot of yield due to hail, it can still be used for silage.”


According to Canterra Seeds’ Brent Derkatch, the total acres seeded this past year should have been between 30,000 and 35,000, depending on seeding rates. This would bring the total production to approximately 50,000 tons (1.5 tons per acre), with Canada Malting being the main buyer and the rest sold via other contracts or in the open market. †


Rebeca Kuropatwa is a professional writer in Winnipeg, Man.


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