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Activities of the EBC Barley and Malt Committee

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The EBC (European Brewery Convention) Barley and Malt Committee was founded in 1948 to conduct barley trials to evaluate the merits of different varieties for brewing purposes and to develop new analytical methods to assist breeders in deciding at an early stage the brewing quality of new lines. At the moment 18 countries are members of the Committee and there is one coopted member (EST). The Committee held its 100th meeting in Finland this year. The major objective of the Committee at present is "To support an adequate supply of malting barley in Europe, considering the changing conditions for production, technology, consumers’ behaviour and quality assurance".

Barley production

Malting barley in Europe is grown from the latitude of below 40 in Portugal and Spain to above 60 in Finland (Figure 1). This means that the cultivation conditions vary very much in different regions in terms of temperature, precipitation, light hours, soil quality etc. In Table 1 are shown examples of light hours, growing time and vegetative periods as percentages of the growing times. In the South the growing time is rather long but high temperatures and shortage of rain limit the grain development and yield. In the North development is very rapid and variations in weather conditions between the crops may cause marked differences in grain size and yield. Last year the yields of Alexis barley of EBC Barley Trials in Portugal, Germany and Finland were 2.0, 5.8 and 3.7 tons per hectare, respectively. Total barley production in Europe is 63 million tons representing 42 % of world production. Western and Central parts are the main barley producers and nearly 50 % is winter barley (Schildbach 1999). The main barley varieties in 1997 were Scarlett and Alexis grown in 7 and 9 countries, respectively. The amount of Scarlett was > 2.6 million tons and that of Alexis 1.9 million tons. The next most widely grown varieties were Optic (1.2 million tons, 4 countries), Beka (1.1 million tons, 1 country), Maresi (1.0 million tons, 6 countries) and Prisma (0.7 million tons, 4 countries) (Schildbach, Burbidge and Walsamos 1998, Schildbach 1999).

Organisation of EBC Barley Trials

The major objective of the EBC Barley Trials is to supply reliable reference data for the performance of novel barley varieties grown in different conditions (van den Berg 1999). Due to the geat variation in the weather conditions Barley Trials are executed in four separate regions: North (FIN, S, DK, EST), West (UK, IRL, F, NL, B), Central (H, D, SK, A, SLO, CZ) and South (P, E, I, BG).

Before a variety is taken into the trial it must have completed the D.U.S test and must have been accepted as a malting barley variety in one of the participating EBC countries and must have had a minimum of two years in National List Trials. Data of agronomic performance, grain quality and malt quality of the proposed variety compared to a well-known standard variety must be provided. These data include grain yield, straw length and strength, earliness, disease resistance, protein content, grading (>2.5 mm), thousand kernel weight, dormancy, malt extract yield, Kolbach index, viscosity, diastatic power and final attenuation. The variety must show an improvement in some respect when compared with the standard variety. The variety list of spring barleys varies between the regions whereas there is only one winter barley list for all regions. The total number of varieties in the trials is 16 and two of those are standards running several years and are identical in all four regions. The current standards are Alexis and Scarlett. In addition there is a regional standard and each country may include its own standard variety. Varieties will be tested for two years. If a variety shows a very poor performance in the first year it may be dropped out.

Figure 1: Countries participating EBC Barley Trials.

Table 1: Differences in light hours and barley development rhythm in Europe.


Latitude, oN

Light hours, h

Growing time, d

Vegetative period, %
















Barley samples must be dried to safe storage conditions soon after harvesting, stored from harvesting to malting at low temperatures and under dry conditions to keep the moisture content at 12 - 12.5 %. Sieving fraction > 2.5 mm is used for malting. The other acceptance criteria are: germination energy > 95 % after 3 days and no water sensitivity, average protein content of the trial must be < 12 %. Every laboratory is asked to follow the guidelines for the malting process (Table 2). Parameters evaluated and analysed from the trials are listed in Table 3. In addition special field characteristics such as disease resistance are observed. All the results are collected and distributed to the national members of the committee.

To facilitate the comparison of laboratory performances both a barley sample and EBC Standard Malt are analysed. Micromalting equipment in different laboratories vary. For comparison of the individual laboratory maltings a barley sample is distributed and malted in every laboratory together with the trial samples.

Table 2: Guidelines for micromalting of the EBC Barley samples.

Process Parameter

Within the range


Time, hours
- total malting time *

162 -174


Water content, %
- germination start
- germination end

44 - 46
42 - 44


Temperature, oC
- steeping
- germination
- kilning start
- kilning end

14 -16
14 -16
48 - 52
78 - 82


* The vigour of the barley varies between the harvest and location. This must be taken into account in optimising the steeping and the total malting time.

Table 3: Data collected from the EBC Barley Trials.

Agronomical performance

Grain quality

Malt quality

Yield, d.m. kg/m2

Grading > 2.8 mm, %

Extract yield d.m., %

Relative yield, %

Grading > 2.5 mm, %

Total N d.m., %


Waste < 2.2 mm, %

Soluble N d.m., % and mg/l


Thousand corn weight d.m., g

Kolbach index, %


Protein content d.m., %

Viscosity (20 oC, 8.6 %) mPas


Germination energy after 3 d, %

β-Glucans in wort, mg/l


- 3 weeks after harvest

Friability, %


- before the malting

Apparent final attenuation, %


Diastatic power, WK

Besides the organisation of the Europe-wide information on the performance of upcoming barley varieties, the communication of these results is a key factor. The results per country are of great value for the relevant parties (maltsters, brewers, breeders, seed merchants) in the chain from barley to beer. A short press report is sent for publication in the main brewing journals (EBC Barley & Malt Committee 1998 and 1999). The other objective of the Committee is to establish in collaboration with the EBC Analysis Committee and Brewing Science Group, improved testing methods and to formulate requirements for barley and malt.

Breeding targets of malting barley varieties in different European countries

Each country has its own breeding programme, targets and schemes for the screening, testing and evaluation of a new barley variety for malting. There are also national Malting Barley Committees that accept varieties as malting barleys and give recommendations for cultivation regions in their country after pilot and industrial scale trials. The task of the EBC Barley & Malt Committee is to provide information on the performance of new varieties in the various growing areas all over Europe. This information offers bases for selection by the national Malting Barley Committees.

Environmental requirements in the EU have unified some targets of barley production. Less pesticide is allowed, which requires a better disease resistance. Less nitrogen fertiliser must be applied, which in some areas may lead to too low protein content. From the point of view of malt quality the main target is a high extract content, particularly the fermentable extract content. The properties of barley which affect the homogeneity of malt, such as dormancy and uniform germination, structural properties of grains, thin cell walls meaning low β-glucan content, rapid and homogenous water up-take, are considered of great importance in some countries.

The brewing industry will require more documentation for the entire production chain of barley and ISO certification of the farmer will become more common (Haeck and van den Berg 1999). These demands mean that in the future in addition to quantity and processing quality of malting barley, product safety and traceability are expected by the industry.


1. van den Berg, R. (1999), Proc. Eur. Brew. Conv. 27th Congress, Cannes, in press.

2. EBC Barley & Malt Committee (1998), J. Inst. Brew., 104:355.

3. EBC Barley & Malt Committee (1999), J. Inst. Brew., 105:69-70.

4. Haeck, J. and van den Berg, R. (1999) Proc. Eur. Brew. Conv. 27th Congress, Cannes, in press.

5. Schildbach, R. (1999) Proc. Eur. Brew. Conv. 27th Congress, Cannes, in press.

6. Schildbach, R., Burbidge, M. and Walsamos, G. (1998), Brauwelt Int., 16(II):142-149.

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