There was some interest in my previous post about scratch brewing the hard way, i.e. buy a farm to grow your own! In the process of doing homework on growing barley I learned a few things you might like to know.
Now, you're probably not ready to rush out and plant acres of barley. I sure wasn't. And the more I looked into it the more I didn't know. The short point is that I researched and found a proven variety. I found a way to buy a small quantity of seed, and I planted and harvested a crop. I chased some dead ends, made some mistakes and learned a lot. If you're interested in finding out more about direct sourcing your grain and/or growing your own, read on.
FINDING THE TYPE
I spent hours searching for types and info. That didn't help much. Eventually I was linked by a friend to a barley grower/researcher for Coors brewing company. She was kind enough to respond and helped me narrow my choices. She also gave me some good direction: Go to your local farm bureau and ask questions.
STUDY THE RESEARCH
There are a lot of papers published on line on crop research. I found several done in my home area and was able to line up more choices.
BREWING AND MALTING RESEARCH INSTITUTE
Yes, friends there is an entire site with information about malt barley and how it is evaluated for commercial brewing. This is the information that large farms (in this case - Canada) use to choose what to grow for beer.
Long story longer, I contacted one of their researchers for an opinion about a specific variety and then double checked research done in our area. Bingo! We had our type!
You can get malted grain in the brew store store. You can get feed barley at your seed n' feed. But if you want a quantity of barley for brewing that you can experiment with it get's tougher.
Farmers and grain dealers sell by the ton. Unless your condo has a silo this can be a problem. You need a small quantity - 50 pounds is about the minimum you'll find and it fits neatly into the new trash can you're going to keep it in.
DON'T BUY FEED BARLEY
A) it isn't clean. B) it doesn't have the right characteristics for malting.
I see this question asked once in a while so allow me to give the definitive answer: DON'T.
You also don't want to buy ANY treated seed. Unless you want to sterilize your innards with anti-fungals and pesticides.
What you want is organic seed. It's cleaned (no dirt and rocks) it's not treated and it's harvested from fields that aren't sprayed. Give it a rinse and it's clean for brewing.
When I contacted an organic seed dealer for an order I found they couldn't truck 50 pounds to my door. BUT they shipped my order with a large order to a bigger farmer and I picked up my order from him.
Long way around the barn huh? But that's where we are. So now I have my seed and we planted and harvested a crop. I replanted our harvested seed this year to see if I can keep it in the bank. The next steps are malting and brewing to prove we have the right type for our region/ farm.
I'll keep you posted.