Home pageTopic of the monthClimate changes will affect the taste of beer

Climate changes will affect the taste of beer

Date: 28.3.2007 

#img_479#.< **Growing quality malting barley is becoming increasingly difficult due to the current sudden weather changes, maltsters are on the lookout for new crop-plants** In a few years, Czech beer could have a somewhat different flavor than the one local beer consumers are used to. Due to the worsening climatic conditions it is possible that beer will not be made exclusively from barley, but also for example from chickpea, the Czech biotechnology portal www.gate2biotech.cz has found. The weather fluctuations in the past couple of years, especially the drier and warmer climate in association with extreme downpours have had a catastrophic impact on barley producers. In the past years, problems regarding the quality and quantity of barley have become increasingly frequent, therefore the idea of growing and malting crop-plants from middle Asia that are more resistant to hot and dry conditions has arisen. The brewing and malting research institute in Brno has been exploring the possibilities of utilizing for example chickpea, cowpea or sweatpea for the past year. It is therefore possible that in a few years Czech beer will not be made exclusively from barley malt. !!Two centuries exclusively with barley In the European brewing superpowers that produce the best beers in the world, barley malt is used exclusively and practically nothing else. Though the situation wasn’t always like this. Until the 18th century, in Bohemia beer was brewed mainly from wheat, a little from barley and in the bad years even from oats. Then however a period of reform came, especially thanks to the legendary maltster František Ondřej Poupě (1753 - 1805). It was he who pronounced the legendary sentence „barley for beer, wheat for cakes and oats for horses“, thus giving European brewing and malting a new direction. This may however be changed as a result of the climatic changes at the beginning of the 21st century. Starting with the year 2000, barley producers are encountering problems with an increasing frequency. Already the first season’s harvest was characterized as the worst one in the past thirty years. The major problems were moulds and high protein content. Huge problems with both the quality and quantity of barley continued in the following years, weather in 2006 was then the „crown“of all this mishap. A long and frosty winter with a continuous snow cover held off sowing, the spring was very wet, cold and short, followed by an extremely hot and dry July. Barley fields went dry, thus lowering the quality and yields of the first harvests. The long-term downpours in August led to the germination of the grain, new green leaf growth and such grown barley is difficult to process in the malt house. „Barley is not built to withstand such changes. It requires early spring, lots of rain during its growth period and in July stable warm weather, enabling it to become ripe, “claims Josef Prokeš, the head of the experimental analytical laboratory of the Brewing and Malting Research Institute - The Malting Institute Brno. He adds that a bad harvest does not mean just low yields. In the case of excessive wettening of barley, higher risks of moulds exist and beer made from such biologically invaded barley has a tendency to over-foam. Upon opening it behaves like champagne, which is an absolutely unacceptable trait in beer. #img_471#.<> !!New breeds and imports Czech breeds of malting barley were always well known for their quality. With no exaggeration they may be considered the co-creators of the known quality of Czech beer, because the spirit of every beer lies in its malt. Barley is grown especially in the areas Polabí, Haná, Vyškov, Litovel, the majority of the 38 regional malt houses operate in these regions. If the local farmers are unable to fulfill the capacity of the national malt houses, part of the barley must be imported. Last year bad weather affected the entire continent of Europe, so barley cannot be imported from Germany or other neighboring countries. Farmers in England and France had better luck, but importing products from greater distances of course increases the costs. Ukraine and other countries in Eastern Europe on the other hand do not dispose of quality malting breeds and there are problems with the quality of their processing. This situation does not only have an economic impact on the malt houses. „They process what is at hand and lower quality barley forces them to improvise in the technology. Since processing malts from last season’s harvest in the fall of 2006, breweries have been having problems with the depth of fermentation and the sensoric stability of the beer fluctuates. The common consumer may not tell the difference, but sensoric tests confirm problems here, but also for example in Germany, “ Prokeš stated. One of the possible solutions at hand is the orientation toward breeds of perennial barley that are widespread for example in France. Due to this their farmers were able to harvest the majority of last year’s crop before the intense August rain. The Czech Republic lacks quality frost-resistant perennial breeds of barley. Winter crops are risky for the producers, because after a harsh winter with a long-term snow cover, there will not be much left on their fields. Though here there always exists a second chance and the farmers may sow their fields with spring barley. The second option lies in crossing breeds in order to increase the resistance of the barley to the anomalies of the current weather, specifically providing increased resistance to dryness and overgrowths. This path is however always accompanied by a more or less severe degradation of quality. One of the new breeds that might make its way into the brewing technology is the so called naked or bezpluchý (glumes’ free) barley. It was cultivated in the Agricultural Research Center in Kroměříž and is still awaiting official approval, therefore does not have a name yet. Naked barley is absolutely comparable to regular barley regarding its chemical and malting properties, but exhibits a 3% higher extract content, therefore yielding more malt and beer. !!New crop-plants from middle Asia #img_473#.< Not even the new species will change anything about the fact that with the continual climate changes, growing barley will become an increasingly risky business. Therefore at present, possible new malt sources are being explored, ones that are relatively cheap in order not to endanger the breweries´ economics, but at the same time resistant to the future drier climate. In the Maltster Institute in Brno the possible utilization of cowpea, chickpea and middle-Asian sweetpeas is the subject of research. Crop-plants originating from Iran will be planted this year on experimental fields of research institutions in Prague and Kroměříž, in order to assess their adaptability to our conditions. These floricultural experiments will be carried out for a minimum of two to three following years, because the climate undergoes annual changes. It is not known yet what the harvest of these new crops will be like or what their possible utilization will be. „This concerns legume and their malting is not easy, but as follows from the chemical composition of the grains, they may enrich our nutrition. They may be used in the brewing industry, but also in the food industry for example as a flour additive. But this is a question for brewing and food technology scientists to answer,“ Prokeš stated. Compiled by Gate2Biotech using information provided by the Maltster Institution in Brno. #img_474#.<>

Barley may be partially replaced by legume - In Europe the industrial beer production is based on processing malt from malt houses that buy and process barley (28.3.2007)




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