Evaluation of Cereal Rye Varieties for the Michigan Craft Distilling Industry

Research Date
Brook Wilke, Dean Baas
New Varieties
Crop Categories
Grain, Rye

Rye is commonly used as a cover crop by Michigan’s farmers, and variety selection is based on

performance as a cover crop more so than grain quality. Thus, we know little about the grain

quality of common or improved rye varieties as it relates to distilling, brewing, or food purposes.

Realizing information on yield, grain quality, spirit yield, and flavor of named rye varieties would

be of great value to distillers and farmers, Michigan State University (MSU) scientists evaluated

over 20 cereal rye varieties at three locations across Michigan with the support of the Michigan

Craft Beverage Council. Variety and growing location both significantly impacted rye

characteristics of interest, including winter survival, yield, lodging, heading date, grain protein,

predicted spirit yield, and phenolic compounds associated with flavor. Furthermore, several

correlations among characteristics were identified and are outlined in the report. In summary,

farmers and distillers should carefully consider rye variety and growing location to obtain the

best portfolio of characteristics desired for the end goals of all involved in the process of making

rye whiskey.

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