Bentley tests well in new malt trial
Bentley barley is making a name for itself after 20 years of research and testing. Already a proven yielder in both grain and biomass, Bentley’s positive performance in the 2012 Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre’s (CMBTC’s) trials have boosted its reputation as a whole-package barley.
Bentley performed as well as AC Metcalfe and CDC Copeland—the two most common malting varieties in Western Canada—in most test categories. In addition, it had the highest extract yield and the highest per cent plump kernels of the three varieties. Extract yield is an important measure because that is what the brewers turn into beer.
“More extract equals more beer,” said Rob McCaig, managing director and director of brewing of the CMBTC.
Two-row Bentley was the first malt variety developed by the Alberta Field Crop Development Centre in Lacombe.
“For a first kick at the can, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about in Bentley. It has so much multiuse potential,” said Barley Breeder Dr. Pat Juskiw, citing its high level of digestible energy, good fermentability, silage potential and disease resistance. The Alberta Seed Guide lists Bentley’s yield as 105 per cent of long-term check AC Metcalfe, and it is competitive with CDC Copeland for yield across the Prairie Provinces.
Bentley was registered in 2008, at which time its market development became the purview of Canterra Seeds, the licence holder to distribute the variety.
CMBTC trials are crucial for a variety, as seed companies try to gain a share of the malt market and earn the coveted “recommended” status.
Bentley is already part of the domestic Molson Coors blend. The next step is to gain acceptance into the international market. With the results from 2012 and the forthcoming 2013 trials, McCaig said CMBTC will have solid commercial research to take to international markets.
“We work with customers to try a new variety, knowing their requirements and their needs,” he said. “Then we work with some of the small grain-handling companies to move 1,000 metric tonnes to South America or China.”
Where the Canadian Wheat Board once aided the movement of new varieties through the system with price discounts, the CMBTC is now filling this gap by bringing new varieties to market and providing barley breeders with feedback from customers worldwide.
“One variety can’t meet the needs of every customer, so that’s why we keep an overall spectrum from the higher enzyme barleys like Kendall, to moderate enzyme varieties like Metcalfe, to lower enzyme varieties with lower soluble proteins that meet the international customers’ needs fairly well,” said McCaig.
Juskiw views the wide-ranging demand of domestic and international customers—from the low quality demanded by Chinese beer-makers to the high-quality demanded by craft brewers—as an opportunity for the industry.
“There’s all kinds of room out there for different kinds of varieties,” she said.
“We tend to make very good malting varieties in Canada.”
She believes Bentley possesses some of the characteristics of historical favourite Harrington.
“In the ’90s, Harrington was the variety. They really liked it in the brewhouse because it was so consistent,” said Juskiw. “That’s probably what we have in Bentley because it maintains that high per cent plump even in a poor year.”
Canada Malting, the country’s largest maltster, has taken an interest in Bentley, as well. They conducted successful malting trials last year and will start trials with commercial brewers in 2013.
“We are expecting approval from a number of brewers from the trials that we do this year,” said Bruce French, director of malting for Canada Malting.
It remains to be seen what variety will be the next AC Metcalfe or Harrington, but if Bentley can maintain consistent malt performance combined with high grain and green feed yield, it is poised to gain in popularity