Strong Global Demand for Malt From ‘Cool’ SA Barley

06 Dec 2019

Malt from premium barley grown in coastal areas of South Australia influenced by cooling sea breezes is attracting strong demand from international and local craft breweries. 

Coopers Brewery’s Malting Manager, Dr Doug Stewart said that Coopers was receiving increasing orders from international customers for malt sourced from barley grown in South Australia’s Gulf Region, an area including Kangaroo Island, the Yorke Peninsula, Barossa Valley and parts of the mid-north.  

Dr Stewart said many customers were attracted to barley grown in the Gulf Region because of the influence of sea breezes which is understood to impart beneficial qualities in the malt.
“South Australian barley already has a reputation for quality, but malt from barley grown in the Gulf Region is now being particularly sought out by customers looking for clean and green products,” he said. 

“We have sent a number of shipments of South Australian Gulf and Kangaroo Island Malt to brewers and food producers overseas and have received an enthusiastic response. 

“Australian craft brewers are also looking at developing beers that highlight the particular qualities of this malt.” 

Dr Stewart said the South Australian Gulf Region and Kangaroo Island were free of industrial contamination and ideal for growing barley. 

The former Professor of Plant Breeding at the University of Adelaide’s Waite Campus, Professor Andy Barr, has confirmed that the climate in the Gulf Region of South Australia is particularly beneficial for barley. 

“From mid-September, sea breezes help moderate temperatures in coastal areas compared to inland when the hot northerly winds are blowing,” he said. 

“It’s all about the duration of grain filling. Once the temperature gets over 30 degrees, enzymes in the grain start to struggle and once it gets over 35 degrees it is in real trouble and the grain can cook. 

“The sea breezes in the Gulf Region from September are just enough to keep temperatures down and enable the barley to exploit the maximum amount of moisture, increasing plumpness and yields.” 

The Chairman of Kangaroo Island Pure Grain, Neil Pontifex, said the Island enjoyed pristine conditions and long cool springs that were ideal ripening conditions for barley. 

“Kangaroo Island is typically up to 15 degrees cooler than parts of the mainland and enjoys extra rainfall,” he said. 

“The Island historically used to grow a lot of barley, but stopped about 10 years ago.

“However, after discussions with Coopers and a switch to the Westminster variety, we resumed barley production a couple of years ago. 

“The ideal growing conditions and good returns mean barley is again becoming an important part of the Island’s economy.” 

Yorke Peninsula grower Alan Harris, the Process and Export Manager for AG Schilling & Co, said the area had a long history of quality malt barley production. 

“We don’t get the real hot weather that causes plants to shut down prematurely,” he said. 

“The average width of the Yorke Peninsula is only 30 to 40 kilometres coast to coast, so it is surrounded by sea which keeps temperatures down. 

“We also have reliable rainfall. Even in the really bad years we get enough moisture to ensure the grain is not too stressed, while the soil itself tends to be alkaline and free draining, which suits barley.” 

Coopers’ malting plant was officially opened in late 2017 and earlier this year was jointly named Maltsters of the Year 2019 at the World Barley, Malt and Beer Conference held at the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw. It co-shared the award with The Swaen in The Netherlands. 

The plant has a capacity of 53,000 tonnes a year, of which Coopers uses about 15,000 tonnes. 

The remainder is sold to international and local customers.