Modern, dual-purpose spring barley varieties suited to both brewing and distilling markets regardless of where they are grown are badly needed, says a leading maltster.


Bob King, commercial director of Crisp Malting Group, told a recent Nickerson press conference that growing a huge number of varieties to suit different growing conditions and market requirements was inefficient – for maltsters and growers.

Optic was the only mainstream variety that met wider industry needs, but a replacement was needed, he added. “We’ve seen yield improvements in newer varieties, but there’s been little improvement in quality.”

Nickerson’s dual-purpose spring malting barley, Concerto, looked promising. “There’s genuine interest from the malting industry and it’s a good distilling variety, too,” Mr King said. “It’s also agronomically suitable for growing in both England and Scotland.”

Concerto joined the Recommended List last year and had provisional approval for brewing and distilling, said Mark Glew, Nickerson’s senior barley breeder. The company expects it to rival Quench and Tipple in England, and Optic in Scotland.

Its yield of 105 was a step forward, he added. “Optic has dominated in the UK for many years, but Concerto has clear advantages.”

As well as the two UK markets, it also suited malt exports. “It’s a variety for growers close to the south coast, too.”

The variety had good mildew and brown rust resistance, decent lodging and brackling resistance and medium-early maturity, he said.

Up to 5000t will be used in UK brewing and distilling trials this year, with the final Institute of Brewing and Distilling decision not due until summer 2010. Nickerson claims enough seed for 10% of the UK spring barley market.