12th September 2022

Putting malting barley to the test

Why would that be? Surely if it’s a malting variety, there must be a market for it!

Perhaps we can help by explaining the malting approval process that all barley varieties in the UK must go through.

To do this, we have to go back to the three harvest years before LG Diablo appeared on the AHDB Recommended List. In each of these three years, not only did AHDB gather yield and agronomic data but samples were taken and tested for their suitability for the three malting barley categories in the UK:

• Brewing
• Malt distilling
• Grain distilling

These were Micro Malting Tests, carried out on small trials samples by an industry group working to exacting protocols, called the Micro Malting Group (MMG).

The results were passed to Malting Barley Committee (MBC), made up of representatives of maltsters and end users who control the approval system and advise the AHDB on whether or not the variety is suitable for use as a malting barley. This process is the guarantee to seeds sellers, agronomists, growers and grain merchants, that a malting barley is just that – ‘a malting barley’.

Three years of testing brings us to December 2017. The MBC advised the AHDB that LG Diablo was suitable as a potential malting barley for use by distillers and brewers, so it was duly added to the 2018/19 Recommended List as the highest yielding spring barley, with provisional malting approval.

The good news for the supply chain is that the testing process continues into a fourth year.

It’s all well and good saying that a small trial sample has sound malting quality but what happens when you put hundreds of tonnes into a malting and then into a brewery or distillery? Does it process as well as the old varieties, does it give a high spirit yield? Does it produce cloudy beer?

There is only one way to find out. The maltsters and end users need to carry out macro, industrial scale trials.

Such was the huge interest in LG Diablo, that over 5000 tonnes of grain was produced from harvest 2018, for up to 10 full scale brewing and distilling trials. These trials are now underway.

The results of the trials will be reported to the MBC, and when the MBC meets in May 2019, they will decide whether LG Diablo should be given full approval. When we sow the 2020 crop, we will all know whether LG Diablo is fully approved or not, but that doesn’t help growers decide what to do this year!

The enthusiasm for LG Diablo seems to grow. The trial crops all yielded well, growers are happy, and the results so far have been encouraging.

Maltsters must now make decisions about what contracts to offer for harvest 2019. Although some will wait to see what the MBC decides in May, many will have already made the decision to produce larger volumes of LG Diablo so that they can carry out even bigger trials.

So, what does this all mean?
It means that LG Diablo has widespread support from the industry, but it will not be fully approved until after you harvest this year’s crop. If your grain buyer can offer you a contract, then you should take the opportunity to try this exciting new barley and if you can’t get a contract, then perhaps there is not too much risk, as LG Diablo looks to us, to be a real winner!

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