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Barley and Beer - Some Facts

What are the ingredients in Beer?
Beer is traditionally produced from water, malted barley and hops. Today some brewers use rice or corn to replace a portion of the malted barley. Yeast is used in the fermentation of beer, but it is usually removed before packaging

What is malt?
Malting is a controlled process of seed germination. During malting the seed is soaked in water to raise the moisture content and promote germination. The seed is then allowed to germinate for 4 to 5 days, after which it is dried (kilned). Virtually any seed can be malted, but brewers discovered long ago that barley is easy to malt and produces the best beer. Wheat and rye malts are sometimes used in the production of specialty beers. Today malted barley is also used in the production of ‘coolers’, alcoholic lemonades’ and other ‘flavored alcoholic beverages.

Why is malt used in beer?

Malt is the source of ‘extract’ in brewing. Barley contains about 65% starch. Enzymes that develop during the malting process convert this starch into fermentable sugars during brewing. The yeast, in turn, converts the sugars to alcohol and carbon dioxide during fermentation. Compounds in the malt also contribute to beer color, body, flavor and foam.

What’s in my bottle of beer?

In a 12oz (355ml) bottle:
11.4 oz water
0.6 oz alcohol
0.04oz protein (from the malt)
0.35 oz carbohydrate (from the malt and rice or corn)
0.00019oz bitter resin from hops
0.00000028 oz diacetyl (flavor compound from yeast)
and 100’s of other compounds

How much barley goes into beer?
This number varies considerably with the type of beer. A heavy German-style bock beer requires more malt than a low calorie (light) beer.
On average in the USA about 24-25lbs of malt are used in a barrel of beer
This number reflects the growing popularity of low-calorie beers
This level of malt use works out to about 21 spikes of barley in a 12 oz bottle of beer

Importance of North Dakota Agriculture in the US Brewing Industry
200 million barrels (6.2 billion gallons) of beer are produced in the USA on an annual basis.
This amount of beer requires 4.7 billion pounds of barley malt
This amount of malt requires approximately 5.9 million pounds of barley
North Dakota farmers produce >30% of the barley in the USA
North Dakota farmers have traditionally supplied the US brewing industry with 30-5-% of their malting barley needs

Importance of North Dakota Agriculture to the Beer Consumer

An acre of barley production in North Dakota yields about 84 barrels of beer: that works out to 27,232 bottles per acre!
The average American consumes about 20 gallons (210 bottles) of beer per year. We rang 10th in the world. The average Czech consumes about 40 gallons/year.

How many acres does this equate to?

The average American, drinking their 20 gallons of beer per year, consumes about 21 pounds of barley which requires about 0.008 acres (336 square feet) to produce.

Without barley there would be no beer, and without barley growers there would be no barley!

Please thank a North Dakota barley grower for you 1/125th acre!


(Paul Schwarz, Dept of Plant Science, NDSU)

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Quiz Questions

Which US State produces the most barley annually?

a) Montana

b) North Dakota
c) Idaho

How many bushels of barley is produced in North Dakota annually?

a) 97,350

b) 99,750
c) 102,372

How much barley does it take to make a 12oz bottle of beer?

a) 1 oz
b) 1/10 oz
c) 1/100 oz