“It sounds like a joke, right—a couple of barley breeders in a bar? But we were sitting there saying, ‘Wow, what are the barley varieties contributing to flavor? What’s the new frontier?’”
As Pat Hayes describes it, a certain amount of serendipity helped spark the academic pursuit of barley flavor—and it happened relatively recently, about a decade ago. Hayes, a professor in the department of crop and soil science at Oregon State University, was one of those barley breeders and plant scientists from a handful of universities enjoying a few beers after a professional meeting.
They’ve made considerable progress since then, moving the field closer to understanding the flavor genes that help determine our sensory perceptions of ales and lagers.