With the 2023 malting grain harvest close on the horizon for much of the continent, and already behind us in some regions, the Craft Maltsters Guild asked some of the leading North American grain research organizations for their regional perspectives on this year’s crop quality and yields. Their harvests, overall, were successful and their outlook for the small grains community is upbeat. 

Here are reflections from Oregon State University’s Barley Project, the Eastern Virginia Agricultural Research and Extension Center, WK Farms, the HudsonAlpha Center for Plant Science and Sustainable Agriculture, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

If your university or organization would like to provide an outlook for your region for 2023, please send a paragraph of information to [email protected]. You’re invited to reach out to get you on the 2024 harvest outreach list, too.


A Mixed Bag of Barley Reports For The Pacific Northwest

Photo courtesy Oregon State University

Oregon State University’s Barley Project is known for its Thunder and Lightning, and most recently GN 0 varieties. After a productive 2023 harvest, they have exciting projects on the horizon. 

“I have a mixed bag of barley reports from Oregon and from visits to farms in California, Idaho, and Washington. It has been an unusually dry spring and summer after a wet and cold (in some areas) winter. Some crop loss of fall-planted barley in some areas, but also some great success stories. Average to excellent Thunder crops in California and Idaho. 

The turmoil in the regional craft malting industry (bankruptcy, for sale) has led to issues for commercial production of some varieties in some places.

We had respectable yields in our breeding program (based at Corvallis) with wonderful moderate proteins and exceptionally plump seed.

Stay tuned for our new varieties Lontra (the New World Otter) and our winter GN0, with a name on the horizon.” – Dr. Patrick Hayes of the Barley Project at Oregon State University 

Future Malt In The Mid-Atlantic 

Photo courtesy RadCraft

Favorable conditions and momentum around the new Avalon barley variety made for a promising harvest at Virginia Tech. 

The Mid-Atlantic region saw one of the most productive years from small grains in recent memory. Cool temperatures extended the grain fill duration and time to maturation, while having a positive effect on yield. The Virginia state official variety test for barley had an average of 135 bu/ac across five locations in the state, compared to 104 bu/ac and 92 bu/ac observed in 2022 and 2021, respectively. Fortunately for barley growers, this was coupled with generally favorable weather conditions for harvest. Wheat producers were less fortunate, with a week or more of persistent rains just as the crop reached maturity, leading to losses in test weight, falling number and preharvest sprouting. Malt quality was generally favorable, with proportion of plump kernels high from the cool grain fill period. — Nicholas Santantonio, Assistant Professor of Small Grains Breeding and Genetics at Virginia Tech

Adding Alabama To The Barley Scene

Photo courtesy Cahaba Brewing Co.

The first malting barley grown in Alabama was a 2-row Calypso winter barley variety that was planted in fall of 2021 and harvested in 2022 at WK Farms. The crop was custom malted at Riverbend Malt House for use in a collaboration beer called BirmingHelles crafted at Cahaba Brewing with Trim Tab Brewing, Birmingham District Brewing Co., Back Forty Beer Co., and Uproot Brewing.

“Of course I only represent a very small part of the malting barley community as the only producer in Alabama, but here is my input: Harvest is complete, but the crop suffered greatly from cold damage. I estimate a yield loss of 50 percent or more due to extremely cold temperatures in mid-December. Single-digit low temperatures for several days in a row killed a lot of plants. We have tested germination and it looks good. Quality analysis is in progress.” — David Weaver, Professor Emeritus at Auburn University and Owner at WK Farms

According to HudsonAlpha Center for Plant Science and Sustainable Agriculture, farms in the Heart of Dixie grew 65,000 pounds of malting barley that is performing well in quality testing by Hartwick College. Among the varietals planted were Avalon, Marouetta, Secretariat, and Thoroughbred that will be malted at ​​Old South Malt House and Riverbend Malt House. 

Keep reading about the barley research efforts underway in Alabama in this quarter’s Field To Bench profile.

A Forecast For Canadian Barley

Photo courtesy Red Shed Malting

In Canada, producers seeded 2.96 million hectares of barley, according to a survey by Statistic Canada. This acreage is 4 percent higher than the previous year but lower than the average over the past five years. The predicted yield is lower than average due to continued dry conditions across Southern Alberta and South-Western Saskatchewan. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada cited this data in an Outlook For Principal Field Crops in August.


Feature photo courtesy Red Shed Malting