Brent Derkatch

Craft brewing is enjoying a renaissance in North America. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada notes that in recent years, even as per capita beer consumption dropped, sales and consumption of craft beer has been on the rise.

Not only am I a beer fan, but in my role within the seed industry, this emerging market is of particular importance to me. Because malting barley is handled on a variety-specific basis, it’s part of my job to look for variety-specific opportunities. Malting barley also presents a unique opportunity to help increase the use of certified seed.

The craft beer industry is one I’m always watching. As a general rule, craft brewers use 100 per cent barley malt in their beer. Larger brewers often use adjuncts such as rice and corn.

The heavier reliance on malting barley is one that’s good for the barley industry as a whole — not only maltsters, but also farmers, seed growers and breeders.

This has given rise to the number of small-scale micro-maltsters in North America. Examples are Red Shed Malting in Alberta and Malterie Frontenac and MaltBroue in Québec. These businesses cater to the craft market, providing malt barley that varies in flavour, colour and body.

To best serve these maltsters, some farms are becoming more vertically integrated with the craft beer industry. This makes for a closer relationship between the two and helps farmers diversify their business, creating for long-term sustainability.

This emerging market benefits seed companies, as well. We’ve added frontline staff to help support the sale of cereals and pulse products, including malting barley. It’s a great market that’s crucial for us to explore.

Best of all, beer fans like me get to do our own market research, and discover the latest creations that craft brewers release. When I manage to find some time to catch up with friends and colleagues over an exciting new craft beer, that’s when I know our industry’s hard work has paid off.

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