EAST LANSING, Mich (WLNS) – In 1916 Michigan State University (it was Michigan Agricultural College then) plant breeder F.A. Spragg developed a strain of barley he dubbed Spartan barley.
It was a superior quality, had more resistance to disease and gave higher yields than its predecessors.
Spartan barley quickly became a favorite nationwide.
That was especially important as Prohibition led brewers to produce more low-alcohol beer to stay legal.
By 1933 30,000 Michigan farmers were growing Spartan barley.
But that wouldn’t last.
Soon newer varieties were developed and by the 1950s Spartan barley had disappeared.
Until MSU AgBioResearch agronomist and plant breeder Russell Freed found some heirloom seeds.
Now the century-old barley is making a comeback and a Michigan craft brewery is celebrating with a special limited-edition lager called Russ’s Revival.
The lager is being brewed at the New Holland Brewing Company in Holland.
“This is an incredibly exciting project,” New Holland Brewing Co. marketing vice president Joel Petersen said. “Here’s a barley that was a substantial part of brewing culture a long time ago, and now we’ve had an opportunity to be part of bringing that back.”
The lager will be created in the manner of pre-Prohibition beers, blending three varieties of hops unique to Michigan and a strain of yeast captured from Houghton County.