They drank this with a reed, out of the vessel that held the beer, upon which they saw the barley swim.
January 26, 2012 5:27 PM   Subscribe

What kind of barley can be grown in a garden for use in a home brewed beer?

We're in Pennsylvania, zone 5. Soil has a lot of clay, but I have access to a lot of compost. What kind of barley should I grow for malting? Where do you get it? Malting tips? I'd prefer something appropriate for an IPA.
posted by Toekneesan to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
posted by pullayup at 5:53 PM on January 26, 2012

OMG. Monkeytoes is coming for a visit next week! She asked that previously question. If only I had waited.

Also, Damn you imprecise tags. That previous did not come up on my search.

Finally, her question didn't answer all of my queries so, Malting tips? Difference between 2 and 6 row for an IPA? Soil preferences?

I've got the book coming from the library.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:08 PM on January 26, 2012

I did this. I just went to the local farm feed shop and got a big bag of 2 row unmalted barley.

It grew and was beautiful and really exciting but the cost of the malted grain was only marginally more than malted grain.

And even though it ended up being really exciting to make beer with my own hops and (some of) my own grain, it was such a pain that I could have skipped the whole thing and made several batches of beer instead.

Also, malting is really hard and time consuming, keeping the malt from molding takes work, and malting any amount of grain beyond 5-10 pounds is a ton of work and takes hours of running the oven with the door open.

Home growing, malting, brewing from seed is sexy but WAY too high maintenance for my taste. Although it's kinda cool to have "brewed" beer from nothing but rhizomes, seeds, sunlight, dirt, yeast and water.
posted by JimmyJames at 6:23 PM on January 26, 2012

*marginally more than UNmalted grain.
posted by JimmyJames at 6:24 PM on January 26, 2012

A while ago a friend explained the differences in 2-row, 4-row and 6-row barley. 4-row is worthless for brewing as the protein, starch and enzyme ratios are terrible for beer production. It's best used as animal feed. We'll never speak of 4-row again.

2-row is traditionally the barley for beer. In Europe 6-row is for animal food; so if you want a traditional IPA, 2-row is it. Historically, 2-row gave a significant advantage over 6-row when it came to extracting starch, so everyone skipped over 6-row. It wasn't until roughly 50 years ago that 6-row was used by the major breweries who are dealing with economies of scale. Your Bud/Miller/Coors type breweries saw that using 6-row would save them significant money even if they needed to use a larger amount of 6-row. It helps them even more because they were (and still are) making watery American Lagers, and not tasty beer.

Since the days of yore, breeding techniques have made the 6-rows come close but not quite to the beer perfection of 2-row. 6-row extracts a couple of percent less sugars than does 2-row, making 2-row king. Of the few people I know who grow their own barley, they all grow 2-row.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 6:31 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

The last response cites a book which discusses the differences between 2 and 6 row, but it's not something I know about--I've always bought pre-malted grains.

As for "IPA appropriateness" I don't think the variety of the barley is as critical as the color to which it is roasted and the amount and variety of hops used. However, because I'm not qualified to offer advice on it, I'm glossing over diastase activity, which determined whether you have efficient conversion of the barley's starch to sugar, which will affect the sugar content of your wort and the final gravity of your beer...which is why I never attempted to malt my own grain.

The color of the malt/grain can be can be described in a number of ways: I'm used to the older Lovibond scale, but there are also American (ASBC) and European (EBC) scales. I would just check the grain bill for a few IPA recipes you like and compare the malts listed to the list in the Wikipedia article, which includes ASBC/EBC values.
posted by pullayup at 6:35 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Disclaimer: I grow malting barley on the farm, not in the garden, and on loamy clay and loamy sand soils, not heavy clay.
Sometimes it's difficult to control how much fertilizer you're putting on in the garden, but consider getting your soil tested, maybe your compost too. Not enough nitrogen will limit yields, but too much nitrogen raises the protein level of the barley and makes a poor malt. Other things you'll want to consider will be the ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus in your soil ... I think when there's too much P to N it buggers up how the plants can take in the N. We target something like 75-20-0-0 (75 lbs/acre of actual N, 20 lbs/ac of actual P) for a good malt, so about a 4:1 ratio of N to P.
You might need to supplement with potassium, depending on what your soil test says.
Also be careful with how hot your compost is. There can be copper deficiency issues from applying too much manure. Barley cares about copper availability, big time.
We target 300 seeds per square meter (sorry, metric units). No one grows 6-row for malt around here, it yields higher (4 bonus rows) but doesn't malt as nicely.

On preview: JimmyJames is right, it's probably a nutso amount of work for a few pounds of barley. But what the hell, you might as well go big if you are going to do all that work. Get a soil test done!
posted by bluebelle at 6:36 PM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've thought about doing this but it does seem like a ton of work, especially the kilning. I wonder if it would be worth building a big kiln rather than dealing with multiple batches in the kitchen oven.

I would grow two row barley. My understanding is that six row has higher diastatic power useful for mashing with adjuncts - there is a detailed article here.
posted by exogenous at 7:31 AM on January 27, 2012

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