Peacock barley is a special variety of the distichous spring barley. Distichous barley may be recognized by its flat stalk, with two parallel rows of seeds.The tight head narrows at the top and forces the awns apart like the feathers of a peacock, hence the name.
The historical cultivation of peacock barley is documented in Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol, Moravia and Scandinavia. Scientists were able to find types of peacock barley in alpine areas until the 1950s. They collected these varieties and handed them over to gene databanks. Today, seeds of the Tyrolean peacock barley, the “Black peacock barley”, the “Finnish peacock barley” and the “Alpine peacock barley” are still stored in seed banks.
Stiegl, a brewery in Salzburg (Austria), grows Alpine peacock barley at Gut Wildshut. At first the variety was stored at a gene databank in Braunschweig, later it was moved to the “Institute for Plant Genetics and the Science of Economic Plants” in Gatersleben, and a few seeds were brought to Gut Wildshut from there.
“Peacock barley” is also mentioned in the Seed Marketing Act. The transmission and sale of seeds is only legal if it is a matter of a registered barley variety; as the “Alpine peacock barley” is not registered, it is also not marketable.
At Gut Wildshut the Stiegl brewery roasts and malts the “Alpine peacock barley” and finally brews beer out of it.