Alberta Heritage Barley Gets New Life in Limited Edition Beer

Last Best, Big Rock, Common Crown and Hell’s Basement all created beer that uses Alberta Heritage Select barley.



Craft brewing and distilling in the province has been growing leaps and bounds lately thanks in part to changes in regulations as well as to consumer tastes.

More and more people want to feel connected to their food and drink producers. Consumers want not only a good product, they want to know the story of where it came from, how it was developed or grown and to feel like their food and drink choices make a difference to their communities.

According to Greg Friberg, president and CEO of GrainCorp Malt, the parent company of Canada Malting, malt is to beer as grapes are to wine, so in craft brewing the issues of terroir and the origin of the barley have great significance.

If you’re looking for local terroir and a local story along with your beer (and one vodka) you really can’t do much better than the four local brews made with the Alberta Heritage Select barley produced by Canada Malting.

The story of the Alberta Heritage Select malt starts in the 1930s, when the Olli variety of barley was developed by food scientists in Ottawa to withstand the Canadian prairies growing season and produce a high yield. The Kozack family, now a third-generation farm family near Clear Hills, were among the barley growers to have great success with Olli. So much so in fact that when the seed was discontinued for commercial sale in 1973 in favour of other newer varieties, the Kozacks purchased all of the available seed. For the following four decades they continued to grow Olli, keeping some seed each year to replant the following season.

Over that time, Olli became a product that maltsters didn’t necessarily want or even know about and the Kozacks came to grow it just for feed barley. But then a year ago they contacted Canadian Malting to see if the company might be interested in the heritage barley.

Initially the answer was “no.” Canadian Malting wasn’t familiar with Olli and with another heritage barley project in the works wasn’t sure if they wanted to pursue another.

Fortunately, they changed their minds.

What followed was a collaboration with Last Best, Big Rock, Common Crown and Hell’s Basement to produce four commemorative beers and a vodka each using the Alberta Heritage Select malt, which is 100 per cent grown and malted in Alberta.

This is truly farm to tap to glass drinking.

Due to the nature of the project, some of the brews are available only for a limited time until they run out. Each can be purchased at Last Best Brewing and Distilling and at the brewers own tasting rooms. Some, including Common Crown’s Alberta Heritage Select 150 are also available at select boutique liquor stores.

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