Barley from a small Victorian farming town, 25 kilometres south of the NSW border, has defied the odds to be named the Joe White Signature Malt for 2020.

Tungamah, population circa 400, is typically a feed barley and wheat growing region. But this year one grower produced a special crop of barley in particularly trying conditions that is now destined for the Australian craft beer brewing industry.

Tungamah Baudin is the Joe White Signature Malt for 2020, joining 2018’s prized crop – La Trobe barley from NSW – and last year’s Westminster from Tasmania. The Signature Malt Series is designed specifically for Australian craft breweries and it represents the best barley in the country from the best performing region.

The 2020 Signature Malt is available through Bintani and their head of sales Justin Fox said: “Providing value is a key focus for us across all product categories. It is the collective force of our customers that gives Bintani the voice to ensure that their needs are met. By coming together, we are large enough to demand, and in turn receive, the very best. In this instance, Signature Malt is the best barley Australia has to offer, and being the link to access to it for Australian brewers is quite humbling.”

In a growing season that proved challenging, the hardy and resilient Baudin variety from Tungamah lived up to its pedigree and stood out in the field.

“The premise of Signature is the same every year: one variety, one source, one malthouse to offer the craft brewer the consistency they need,” said Peter Youil, Joe White’s regional strategic projects manager.

“What makes this barley so special is the fact that in such a troublesome growing season this farmer produced a high quality crop.”

Signature Malt is recognised for delivering consistent performance, with full traceability from the field through to a pint. It is derived directly from the farmer to create the pure, single source malt, whilst it’s known who grew the product, where it was grown and how it was grown. It is now one of the highest performing parcels of barley seen in recent years.

In order to produce malt quality barley, the crop usually requires a significant amount of rain in the Winter months, little to no frost and a warm to moderate finish in November to December. If Spring and early Summer are too warm it will result in high protein levels and a dry Winter or planting period will negatively impact the yield and kernel size of the barley.

“Tungamah experienced a tough year in 2019. The rainfall in the key Winter periods was well below average, and to top it off the sun came out in November to December when it was coming to the end of the growing season and produced temperatures that were the highest on record for the area,” Youil said.

The process to determine the Signature Malt starts by Joe White gathering representative samples of harvested barley from across the country which are then tested for physical qualities and germination energy. Once dormancy breaks, a series of micro-malting trials are undertaken under controlled conditions. The quality of resultant malt is then evaluated using European Brewing Convention methods. A panel will then evaluate and rank the samples by quality and variety. The final selection is based upon parameters such as plump uniform grain size, high extract levels, a good balance of enzyme at moderate modification levels and good wort filtration. Being able to trace back to farm gate is also an essential factor in the selection.

“Searching for Signature-worthy barley is about finding a barley that is high-performing in not just one or two parameters, but hits all of the numbers across a broader range of attributes that matter most to craft brewers, such as grain-size, extract and diastatic power,” Fox said.

“Brewers can expect another year of confidence that they are using the best domestic malt available in Australia. Utilising Signature gives you consistency, traceability, performance and the quality you need in a base malt.”

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