Plant Science Says - March 2019

By Hannah Turner


The barley program recently hosted two events (the Advanced Craft Malting Course & the 2019 Craft Malt Conference) which brought roughly 170 maltsters, growers, brewers, and others interested in the Craft Malt industry to our campus. The class was a 4 day intensive course taught by myself, Aaron Macleod of Hartwick College in New York, and Patrick Boivin an industry expert in malting technology joining us from IFBM in France. 20 individuals were steeped in the details of barley quality and biochemistry, malting equipment and best practices, specialty malt production and malt quality. The students participated in daily lectures and afternoon labs which focused on various tests maltsters should be employing to inform their process and ensure high end product quality.

The 2019 Craft Malt Conference covered three days and boasted 38 speakers touching on topics from the grower’s perspective, climate change and disease impact on barley, optimization of malting facilities, marketing, food safety, and malt from the brewer’s standpoint. Jamie Sherman was involved in two talks over the weekend, the first outlining the current work of the MSU’s Barley Program, and the second presented by our collaborators at Colorado State University on the chemistry and impact on flavor from several hundred heirloom varieties which Jamie collected from around the world and which represent the parentage of historical malt barleys.

Two exciting side projects were highlighted at the 2019 CMC. The first ever Malt Cup – a malt competition modeled after the Brewer’s Association GABF beer competition - included Pale Malt submissions of 21 malthouses from around the country. The samples were first evaluated for quality by the barley progam’s Malt Quality Lab. Those falling within prescribed quality parameters were then evaluated on flavor aspects by a panel of sensory judges. This competition is the only of it’s kind in North America and offers this year’s winners significant marketing and bragging opportunities.

The second project was the Beer Collaboration Project – an endeavor which paired 9 malthouses nationwide with 9 brewers around the state of Montana. Each pairing worked to develop a beer which fit their style and the result was 9 awesome beers that were served Saturday night of the conference. These beers are still available for a limited time, on tap at many of the breweries and/or in cans at your local grocer.

All in all the class and conference brought a hugely positive spotlight to the Montana State Barley Program and our Malt Quality Lab which services Craft Malsters via 3rd party malt quality analysis. Over the course of the weekend the lab toured more than 30 individuals who were interested in learning more about the lab and malt quality analysis.

To learn more about the conference check out the Craft Malster’s Guild webpage: Next year the conference will be in Fort Collins Colorado. For more info on the barley program and malt quality lab check out the website at

Attendees of the 2019 Advanced Craft Malt Course