Beer lovers all around the world have this man to thank
BEER drinkers all across the world owe the quality of their drink to a Warwick man whose work in barley genetics has landed him one of Australia's prestigious agricultural awards.
Plant breeders around the country have raised their glasses to Warwick's Dr Reg Lance, who was recently awarded the 2018 Farrer Memorial Medal.
He is the third barley scientist ever to receive the prestigious award.
Now a senior scientist at the Hermitage Research Facility on Warwick's outskirts, Dr Lance has enjoyed a prolific career as one of the country's leading plant scientists.
His passion began as a young boy, visiting his parents' cousin's farm in the eastern wheat belt of Western Australia.
Since starting out as an undergraduate at the University of Western Australia, Dr Lance has travelled the world from Washington state to Copenhagen.
His major success has come in releasing multiple varieties of malting barley, which has opened Australian crops to the world market.
Dr Lance said overseas breweries required higher quality malt to facilitate their unique brewing process.
Unlike most Australian beers, foreign breweries tend to add rice, corn or wheat to the beer.
"Export markets look for a higher quality malt with enzymes that can degrade the starch additives they use in the production of beer," he said.
Australia is now one of the biggest exporters of malting barley to Asian countries like China and Japan.
Dr Lance said China alone imported millions of tonnes of malting barley from Australia each year.
But that wasn't always the case.
Looking back on his career, Dr Lance remembers insights he gained from working in a malt house in north Perth as a young man.
"I got to understand how the company was struggling to get the quality the export people were wanting," he said.
"For the oversees companies, the quality wasn't good enough. I guess you could say they were struggling to make the grade.
"That was quite a watershed moment in terms of understanding what the job was going to entail."
Dr Lance later went on to Copenhagen where he developed a taste for European beer and saw the inner workings of the overseas malt market.
A breakthrough in Dr Lance's career was creating a strain of semi-dwarf malting barleys that are early-maturing, stiff-stemmed and have a plumper grain.
"Getting a combination of all those strains into one, I would regard that as a breakthrough," he said.
Understanding the ins and outs of beer making is essential to Dr Lance's line of work, and a taste for good beer doesn't hurt either.
While cutting back for health reasons, Dr Lance doesn't mind the odd tipple on special occasions.
"I love a good beer, there are some great beers in Australia," he said.
"Especially the boutique beers, they are just exceptional."
Deputy Director General, Agriculture at NSW Department of Primary Industries, Kate Lorimer-Ward, presented Dr Lance with the prestigious medal on November 13.
"I congratulate Dr Lance, a worthy recipient in recognition of his dedication and contribution to research in malting and feed barley breeding and genetics" she said.
"Dr Lance's career has covered all aspects of improvements in yield, agronomic performance, malting and feed quality, plant and pathology."