Japan looks to Canada for ideal malt barley types

High enzyme activity | Japan and Canada worked together to develop CDC PolarStar

Japanese brewers love Canadian malting barley.

They want to keep it that way, but the malt’s got to keep getting better.

“We need varieties with distinctive value, brand and positioning.… We can make it through good co-operation,” Kensuke Ogushi, beer ingredients director with Sapporo Breweries, told the Canadian Global Crops Symposium.

“Let us continue (to) work together in the future.”

Canada has been Japan’s biggest supplier of malting barley for the past 10 years, edging out Australia and European suppliers.

The Japanese are steady beer consumers and wealthy, premium-paying drinkers, make it a much-valued market in the eyes of barley marketers.

Sapporo is Japan’s oldest brewery and has been directly involved in developing its own varieties since its birth in the 1870s.

It continues to be involved in development, helping create new varieties in Canada, Australia and Europe that meet its needs for specific malt characteristics.

It’s why Ogushi thinks Canada can remain a key supplier.

Ogushi said the development of CDC PolarStar is an example of Canada’s edge as a supplier. Crop breeding experts from Japan and Canada collaborated to produce an ideal variety for Japanese beer that can grow well in Western Canada. It is a combination of germplasm from an old Japanese variety and CDC Kendall.

It can produce malt that has certain compounds that avoid beer developing a “cardboard-like” taste after a long time in storage, which allows it to have long shelf life.

“We, the Japanese brewers, need high enzyme activity packages, and Canadian barley exactly has it,” said Ogushi.

Japanese brewers desire malt with high efficiency because Japanese beer is taxed based on the amount of malt used to make it. The less malt they have to use, the less they are taxed.

Ogushi said the Japanese beer market is stable but gently declining in terms of consumption because of an older population and a decline in the “population of drinking age people.”