barley fields

Growing barley to make Perth’s local malt

Posted by Cryermalt

Tim Nixon has been farming for about 16 years in New Norcia, about 130km north of Perth. He runs the farm with parents Graham and Sandy and wife Natalie, with whom he has two young daughters. Their farmland has been in the family since 1969. At that time the family farm moved from the low rainfall wheat belt, where they grew mostly wheat, to a higher rainfall area ideally suited to barley.

They are one of the smaller scale growers that supplies Barrett Burston Malting’s Perth plant, but their farm, Border Reivers, is home to the biggest satellite dish in Australia – owned by the European Space Agency. New Norcia itself is well known as an old Benedictine community and home to a Benedictine Monastery built in the 1840s which is also a retreat center open to visitors.

The Nixons are now getting ready to harvest the barley they planted in May this year. Their harvest takes place between late October and early November each year, and the grain is then sent straight to the Barrett Burston maltings.

Tim grows Flinders, which is a very new barley variety. He has been growing this for BBM for the past three years. It’s quite a niche variety, favoured by BBM and brewers in recent years. But it’s also an easy variety to grow compared to others that Tim has grown in the past, well suited to the soil and weather conditions in the area, and the grain quality is consistently good.

Young Barley

Working with BBM, rather than dealing with a lot of different maltsters, makes his job easier, says Tim, and it’s largely due to this consistent relationship that he has been able to continue growing malting barley in the last couple of years.

Most of the Nixons’ land area is dedicated to crops (about two thirds) and one third is in livestock – Merino sheep and Angus beef. Malting barley makes up about a third of their cropped area. They also grow canola and wheat, and lease some land from another grower.

About 75% of their land is arable, and the rest has retained its natural vegetation. Tim explains that they try to grow as sustainably as possible, as it’s in their own interests as well as that of future generations to keep the soil healthy and conserve energy while increasing output.

BBM Perth Malting manager Michael Ryan is giving a presentation on malting at the Fremantle Beer Festival in the Cryermalt Masterclass tent – 6pm – Saturday 12th November.

Presentation is called ‘Malt Me’ where he will discuss the importance of Malting Barley in WA, different malt types for ales, lagers and specialty beers and some brief manufacturing information and history about BBMs Malting facility in Welshpool WA

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