California had a long history of growing malting barley and hops before and after prohibition. The recent growth of the craft brewing industry in California has spurred a renewed interest in malting barley in the state. Malting barley is a robust grain that has relatively low water and fertilizer requirements, making it a sustainable option for various crop rotations. However, grain quality requirements are narrower for this crop than other small grain options in California.
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California’s craft brewing industry is continuing to expand its market presence in the state. However, only a small percentage of malting barley used in California is grown within its borders. The primary bottleneck in the supply is the lack of malting facilities. Currently California is malting roughly 900 tons annually, the majority of which is done by one malt house in Alameda, with some of the barley grown in northern California shipped out of state for malting. The industry has grown somewhat in the last few years with the addition of several small malting facilities. For comparative purposes, California produces 3.7 million barrels of craft beer annually, the equivalent of around 120,000 tons of barley.