Stan Hieronymous has written a couple of really interesting blog postings that I find particularly interesting. He draws lines between what the wine industry call terroir and the fact that the malts used by breweries have individual characteristics.
There is something to be said about the characteristics of a beer and what kinds of ingredients were used and where they were grown. The malt characteristics both depend on where it was grown and what malt variety it is. For beer's sake, at least for now, I think it is most to be said about the distinctions between malt varieties than than in which field it was grown. It is just too much of an unexplored field for anybody to say anything about terroir. The distinctions between malt varieties are much greater than between the same variety being grown in different locations.
The individualities in flavour of malt varieties is something that has not been considered by breweries and their marketing departments as something of interest. Great flavour has not been the primary reason for growing a malt variety -- economy has. A combination of how much barley could be produced per acre, the brewing efficiency, and the consistency of the malts have been the primary drivers.
Few people have thought that there have been any relationship between what malt varieties have been used to brew a beer and what the actual end result was. There are actually a lot of families of barley out there, most of them almost distinct and others grown on a very small scale. Large breweries have been mostly concerned about consistency and efficiency -- all for economic reasons. This has led to a reduced diversity of mass-produced malt varieties grown on a larger scale.
Fortunately, with the craft brewing revival, there is a new interest in traditional barley varieties. Traditional barley varieties like Maris Otter and Golden Promise are now being considered to be malt varieties that add an extra dimension to a beer.
I think that there is a lot of more things that is to be said about this subject.
Read what Stan said here:
Not all barleys are born equal
Malt (and barley) matters: Part II