There are several varieties.
Black barley can also refer to barley that is used in brewing some stouts and porters. This is unmalted barley that is roasted at high temperatures until it turns a very dark brown, almost black, and acquires some of the bitter flavour needed for the brewing. Depending on the stout being brewed, black barley might constitute 5 to 15% of the total grains being used.
Some people, particularly Swedes, seem to feel that black barley is a remedy for over-indulgence.
Black barley is often flogged as “Ethiopian black barley.” It’s in fact far more likely in North America to be a variety that originated in Russia and was introduced to America in December 1911. It was planted, and from it a selection with a stronger stalk was made that was called “Lion” and this was the black barley that came to be distributed in the United States.
A black barley with a two-row seeded head is also grown in Syria, near Bosra.