Barley is one of only a few raw materials needed for beer brewing. The barley grain provides starch and the enzymes for conversion of starch into fermentable sugars, that can be turned into alcohol by the yeast. Barley is central to beer production and barley quality is therefore central to the quality of the final product.
Barley was domesticated over 10,000 years ago in the fertile crescent of the Near East and it was one of the first cultivated plants. Today, it is the fourth largest grain crop in the world. It has a shorter growth period than other crops and can be grown in a larger range of extreme environments from northern Scandinavia to Himalayan Mountains. It has tolerance to drought, alkali, salinity and cold.
Carlsberg Laboratory identifies advantageous traits in barley mutants and old cultivars and attempt to transfer these traits to the new high yielding varieties. There are also several programs dedicated to the understanding of the biology of barley at the molecular level, particularly those involved in the timely processing of proteins and the production of starch in the barley grain.