Barley breeding is hard, expensive, and takes a long time. For one pair of parents, hundreds of crosses are made. The same way human siblings are different from each other, hybrid barley crosses from the same breeding stock exhibit many different characteristics. And the same way human offspring might be taller (or shorter) than both parents, barley crosses might not express an average of the attributes of their breeding stock. Hundreds of crosses are made so that the breeders can select the desirable attributes from the highly-variable results.

The crosses showing positive attributes need to then be propagated, eventually being grown in trial plots in various agricultural areas so their agronomic performance in different soil and weather conditions can be assessed. And this has to happen over several years, since all of the agronomic indicators need to be assessed in different weather years. Over the years, a handful of barley kernels of the most promising crosses are propagated up to dozens of pounds worth of grain.

After between 10,000 and 30,000 trial plots, a single new barley breed is presented for registration; only registered varieties can be certified and grown by farmers. A seed company then buys the rights to grow and market the seed, which needs to be further propagated before enough is available to sell to farmers who then supply it to maltsters and then to brewers.

By the time a new barley variety is in your glass, at least 10 years has elapsed from the initial hybridization in the lab.

Read more: Barley Breeders Return to Flavor

Yakima Valley Hops
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