Crop Protection

Winter malting barley – choosing the variety that’s right for you

03 August 2023, UK: For many malting barley growers, the winter malting crop offers an attractive alternative to spring barley. The potential for higher yields from winter barley and the significantly earlier harvesting window are real tangible benefits and important points that growers should consider when making cropping decisions for next season. 

We also see exciting innovation in the winter malting barley market with the introduction of the ground-breaking variety, SY VESSEL, opening up a new market for this sector. 

SY VESSEL is the only non-GN winter malting barley commercially available on the UK market.

The special quality of SY VESSEL makes it unique in the winter malting sector being the only winter type offering malt distilling potential alongside that of brewing. 

Historically, winter malting varieties only offered suitability for brewing, leaving the important and expanding malt distilling market completely reliant on the spring barley crop as the only source of malt. By offering malt distilling quality from a winter type, SY VESSEL provides additional marketing options for growers and helps to reduce the risks associated with relying solely on spring barley, benefiting growers and end users alike. 

SY VESSEL at a glance: 

  • The only non-GN winter malting barley on the UK market with potential for malt distilling 
  • Contracts available in East Anglia, Northern England, and parts of Scotland – check locally for contract availability 
  • Comparable yields to CRAFT with high specific weight 
  • Ability to achieve grain nitrogen suitable for both brewing and malt distilling 
  • Full UK National Listing 
Within the mainstream winter malting brewing market, there are several valuable options to consider: 

CRAFT is the No.1 winter malting barley in the UK, with the highest area of seed production in 2023 and the highest level of grain purchased by maltsters across the UK in 2022.  With full MBC approval for brewing, CRAFT has strong end user demand, giving a secure market for sales. CRAFT has consistent yields across all UK regions with a strong disease profile and the stiffest straw of all current RL winter malts on the 2023/24 AHDB Recommended List. CRAFT also has the highest Hot Water Extract figure on the current AHDB Recommended List accompanied with by high specific weight and low screenings. 

ELECTRUM received full MBC approval for brewing in 2020 and continues to grow in popularity.  ELECTRUM is the highest yielding winter malting barley with full MBC approval. The super early maturity of ELECTRUM sets it apart in the market offering growers increased security of quality at harvest and earlier entry into the next crop. It has vigorous, rapid growth in the autumn, and will be quick to reach all subsequent growth stages. Like CRAFT, ELECTRUM has very good grain quality, with high specific weight and low screenings. Contracts are available throughout England, check locally for availability. 

FLAGON is a heritage variety, mainly used in the craft brewing and real ale markets.  FLAGON has full MBC approval for brewing. It is unpigmented, with a long, pale green ear that has excellent grain characteristics and high alcohol yield.  FLAGON has a long-standing popularity with certain maltsters in the East of England, which has ensured it remains a key variety in this region. It will have contracts with specific maltsters, so speak to your local merchants for availability.

Seed rate guidance  

The seed rate guidance for establishing these varieties this autumn is shown below. The final rates used should take in consideration seedbed quality and the weather conditions at the time of sowing. 

Sowing period

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