Nothing gets a brewer more excited than a new ingredient to work with.

“We did a Belgian Golden Strong ale … it’s in that 10 per cent (alcohol) plus range,” said Garrett Pederson, head brewer with 9 Mile Legacy Brewing Co. “It’s a good winter-warmer so if anyone like’s those bigger beer they’re going to love it.”

Working away at the brewery on 20th Street West in Saskatoon, Pederson is describing his latest concoction born from a collaboration between crop scientists at the University of Saskatchewan and a local malting facility – Maker’s Malt in Rosthern, Sask.

It’s called the Bow Project and it features a Saskatchewan-engineered barley strain called bow barley.

Head barley breeder Aaron Beattie at the Crop Development Centre at the U of S said his lab tested more than 50,000 barley strains, looking to breed a specific strain that would make both farmers and craft brewers happy.

“It’s been in our program for eight years to produce a new variety of barley and this is getting some big uptake from growers as well as the end users,” Beattie said. Farmers wanted bigger yields, improvement in lodging and the ability to stand up in high yield, he said.

“From a malting point of view it’s got some nice flexibility that allows it to be used in a wide variety of beers.”

Pederson’s emptied his latest Strong Ale recipe into the fermenter just before the New Year and soon it’ll slide into a bright tank where the ale will clear up and sit before it is kegged and hits the taproom.

With an idea already of what’s going to be flowing from the taps, Pederson said if the reception is good enough, bow barley might become a staple in his beers down the road.

“If we get everyone growing it could easily take over the malting industry and we can use it as a direct replacement for our base two-row barley,” he said. “It’s been a really good malt to work with so far and I look forward to the future.”

Bow barley has been given to 14 craft brewers in Saskatoon and Regina and those participating breweries are slowly releasing their bow barley beers, leading up to a Bow Project Showcase at Winston’s English Pub in Saskatoon on Jan. 26.