New local supply chain is a breakthrough for craft beer

June 2015 – Limagrain Cereal Seeds (LCS) let the Genie out of the bottle at its Acres to Ales Tap Takeover event at local watering hole, the Mayor of Old Town—a Genie with the potential to revolutionize the craft beer industry.

An energized crowd of plant breeders, farmers, maltsters, brewers and beer connoisseurs alike rubbed elbows and raised pints of beer made with LCS Genie, the company’s first malting barley.

“As far as we know, we’re currently the only private breeding program in the U.S. releasing malting barley varieties tailored specifically for the craft industry,” says Zach Gaines, marketing manager for Limagrain Cereal Seeds.

Fourteen craft brewers participated in creating one-time small batch beers made with LCS Genie malt for attendees to enjoy while learning about Acres to Ales, a supply chain concept born in the craft beer mecca of Fort Collins and designed to be repeated in several U.S. regions.

“Nationwide, there is an enthusiasm shared by the craft industry to develop state and local supply chains for malt and hops,” added Gaines. “Colorado is there, and the Acres to Ales logo will allow consumers to identify beers that can be tied back to Colorado farmers.” LCS is working to make Acres to Ales a reality in nearly a dozen other states as well.

The new supply chain starts with LCS breeding barley for Colorado farmers. The farmers grow it for local maltsters, who malt it for local brewers, and the brewers then work their magic to create great craft beer for consumers.

But the magic begins before the farmer even gets the seeds. It starts with LCS plant breeders understanding that craft brewers create complex beers and thus, have more complex raw material needs. LCS took some of the best varieties from Limagrain barley breeding programs in Europe (where many U.S. craft breweries source their barley) and brought them to the U.S. to see what would work with the environment and climatic conditions here.

“Our barley not only has to satisfy the needs of each part of the supply chain, it should also provide something better than what craft brewers have worked with in the past,” says Limagrain UK barley breeder and geneticist Mark Glew, who bred LCS Genie. Glew worked to optimize LCS Genie’s starch and enzyme levels and carefully selected other characteristics to meet the needs of farmers, craft maltsters and brewers. “Our barley needs to be high-yield for the farmer and high-quality for the brewer, or it won’t work,” Glew says. He thinks LCS Genie truly achieves the goal of providing something of value for everyone. “But at the end of this complex scientific process, you have to put it in the field and see if it works.”

LCS Genie has shown high-yield potential in field trials so far and boasts a flexible malting profile. Joshua Cody of the family-run Colorado Malting Company in Alamosa represents four generations of growing and malting barley and recently planted a test plot of LCS Genie. “The (malt analysis) numbers on LCS Genie look very promising—we’re excited to try it out and to see its potential,” he says.

Steve and Todd Olander of Olander Farms in Loveland, Colorado are also eager to see what yields from their 20-acre test plot of LCS Genie and look forward to malting the barley onsite. “We’re excited to form a relationship with Limagrain Cereal Seeds—they’re doing a lot of good things,” Todd says.

The many craft brewers who attended the event were optimistic too. “We’re always looking for something different that’s potentially better than what we’re using,” says Doug Odell, owner of Odell Brewing Company in Fort Collins. Brent Cordle, Odell Brewing Company’s pilot brew manager, created an experimental India pale ale for the event and thought the LCS Genie malt passed the test. “LCS Genie was really consistent with what we usually work with—Great Western Malting Company did a great job malting it and it was really easy to brew with,” Cordle says. “And it’s so cool to bring everyone together like this.”

Justin Renninger, head brewer at Funkwerks Brewery in Fort Collins, used the LCS Genie malt to create an apricot Saison for the event. “It’s a really nice malt—and it is now literally being grown just down the road. I like knowing that if I have an issue or a question, I can go directly to the source instead of dealing with multiple supply chains.”

LCS is confident that when their barley is put in the hands of talented farmers, craft maltsters and brewers, the end result will be a game changer for the craft beer industry. Gaines took the microphone and asked the audience, “If you had the option to drink a beer made from barley that’s traveled less than six miles, would you choose that beer?” The response was a resounding cheer. “Craft brewers want to make high-quality beers,” said LCS Chief Operating Officer Frank Curtis. “We now have a barley variety that can do that—and its being grown right here.”