For the first time in decades, beer brewed at Carlton & United Breweries’ (CUB) Abbotsford facility is being produced with 100% Victorian barley purchased from local farmers.

Asahi Beverages, which owns CUB, says that Victorian drinkers can now enjoy leading CUB beers like Carlton Draught and Victoria Bitter with the knowledge that all barley is being sourced from the Wimmera and Mallee farms in the state’s northwest.

The change comes after Asahi Beverages, which owns CUB, earlier this year removed intermediaries such as bulk grain handlers from the barley supply chain.

The new program means that farmers will directly receive payments from Asahi that would previously have gone through bulk handlers. Asahi will also benefit from having increased oversight over the growing process — “to ensure only the best, sustainably grown barley is used”.

“Barley malt is the heart and soul of our beer and defines its taste, aroma, colour and foam,” said Abbotsford Head Brewer Sarah Laing. “It’s fantastic Victorians can now enjoy a fresh Carlton Draught, Victoria Bitter or any beer brewed at Abbotsford knowing they’re directly supporting sustainable growing practices and Victorian farmers.

“We buy 30,000 tonnes of barley each year for Abbotsford and, barring natural disasters such as a drought, our barley will only be purchased direct from Victorian farms from now on. Fresh, local and delicious, it doesn’t get much better than that!”

Under the previous model, farmers sold barley to bulk grain handlers who stored all the grain they received — from potentially hundreds of farms — in the same location. This meant that Abbotsford Brewery had no way of knowing exactly where the barley used in each brew was coming from.

Instead, the new model means that provenance of each grain can be traced right back to the paddock where it was grown.

More than 30 Victorian farmers have signed up to the new program. To mark the new beer coming off the line, Sarah travelled to Wimmera to give some personalised slabs of commemorative Carlton Draught to farmer John Bennett, who grew the barley used in it.

“Working directly with the brewers to produce the highest quality grain and beers is fantastic,” said Wimmera barley farmer John Bennett. “It feels very rewarding to drink a Carlton Draught knowing the grain for that exact beer was grown in our paddock and has come full circle.

“This direct purchase model not only benefits farmers but the communities we live in too.”

Header image: Abbotsford Head Brewer Sarah Laing and Wimmera barley farmer John Bennett – Photograph by Paul Jeffers

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