For all you real ale fans —and I'm not referring to over-the-top hopped beers, but fresh, full-flavored lower alcohol beers, in which the character of malt, the soul of beer, is not masked— there's good news in the December issue of What's Brewing, the house organ of the Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA) in the UK. Maris Otter barley —which many consider to be the premier barley varietal for malting, in terms of flavor and low-nitrogen— had a bumper crop in England, due to winter rains followed by a dry spring and summer.
There is bad news, however.
Even though malting barley often garners a premium price over feed barley and other grains, its lower yields-per-acre can negate that advantage. Furthermore, the price for wheat surged past that for barley during 2010. Many British barley growers reacted by switching their fields to wheat.
Drink your cask-conditioned ale now!