Lontra Barley: the New World Otter
  • 04/25/2023

Lontra Barley: the New World Otter

One of the primary goals of the American Malting Barley Association (AMBA) is to support the development of improved malting barley varieties that meet the needs of our industry members, while staying competitive in the field for our farmers. This quest for Better Barley is why AMBA has a long history of supporting established barley breeding programs throughout the country, including one led by Dr. Pat Hayes of Oregon State University (OSU). A recent line from this program, Thunder, landed on the AMBA Recommended Variety List back in 2019, with several others in the pipeline.  


Dr. Hayes’ Barleyworld, as it is affectionately known, is bolstered by “a team of barley enthusiasts dedicated to generating fundamental knowledge about barley, applying the knowledge to stimulate economic development through the release of novel barley varieties, sharing barley genetic resources, and encouraging barley use and consumption.” Perhaps not always releasing the most conventional of lines, this team has found its own niche that seeks to support an innovative malting, brewing, and distilling community in the Pacific Northwest chasing unique flavor profiles from sustainably produced barley. Two of AMBA’s newest members, Admiral Maltings and pFriem Family Brewers, appreciate Dr. Hayes’ novel approach and have taken favor to his varieties. 


Barleyworld’s newest release, Lontra, is now available for non-exclusive license through Oregon State. So what’s behind the name Lontra, you ask? Great question, and answered best by Dr. Hayes here. TL:DR, Lontra’s parentage includes Maris Otter, a famous “heirloom” 2-row malting barley variety from England, and is believed by brewers to impart unique flavors. Otters from the “Old World” are from the genus Lutra. “New World” otters are from the genus Lontra, giving rise to the newest domestic otter line seeking familial rockstar status.  


Despite not going through AMBA’s traditional Quality Evaluation Program, Lontra went through extensive malting, brewing, and flavor assessments, supporting unique applications in the craft malting and brewing industries. Anytime a winter barley is elevated is a win for sustainability within the barley industry as well. Not only can winter barley support soil health and water quality by providing a winter cover that reduces the potential for soil erosion, sound and successful winter lines can expand our footprint of production where spring sown barley may no longer be competitive. Furthermore, Lontra can lessen the pressure on irrigation supply because it can use available precipitation through the rainy season.


Lontra is an excellent example of how AMBA is seeking to meet the diverse needs of their membership through their support of diverse breeding programs, like you’ll find at Oregon State University. Each year, AMBA redirects half of their member dues towards their research grant program that supports the work of Dr. Hayes, and many others. If you would like to learn more about Lontra or to pursue the potential of this New World Otter, reach out to the Barleyworld team.