Craft Malting – An Interview with Andrea from Valley Malt

Valley_Malt_colored1My investigation into the global malt supply chain started with an overall profile of the industry.  I looked at the global malting companies that supply the bulk of the world’s malt, and I examined the smaller companies that supply malt for the craft brewing industry.

Now I want to look at malthouses that are the opposite of the the huge global corporations, companies that are very small and very local.  To that end, I recently spoke with Andrea Stanley from Valley Malt, a craft malthouse in Massachusetts.  She was kind enough to share some of her thoughts about the malting industry and Valley Malt’s place in it. Continue reading

Malt Supply for Craft and Home Brewers

In my last article, I looked at the giant corporations of the malting world.  Now I’ll examine the mid-sized malting companies that supply today’s craft and home brewers, focusing on their local sourcing and global reach.

Background

Between the repeal of prohibition and the 1980’s, the American brewing industry experienced a period of tremendous consolidation and homogenization.  By the mid 80’s, an industry that a century earlier had been regional and diverse had shrunk to only a few companies, with global reach but limited variety and questionable quality.  In 1983 – the low point of American brewing – the largest five American brewing companies controlled 92% of all beer production in the country.   Those top five were Anheuser-Busch (Now AB-Inbev), Miller and Coors (now MIiller-Coors), Pabst and Stroh (both now owned by Pabst, which was just last week sold to the Russian company Oasis), and Heileman (now City Brewing Company, makers of Sam Adams).   So the five largest beer companies from 1983 are now four much larger companies.

Active Breweries Prohibition to 1983

These brewing companies (I’ll refer to them as “BMC” from now on, short for “Bud-Miller-Coors”) all primarily make very pale lagers with high percentages of adjuncts in their Continue reading

The Global Malt Supply

To start my examination of globalization and the homebrewer, I’d like to get a rough picture of today’s malt supply chain, with a focus on the movement of malt from place to place.

As homebrewers, we have a fairly dim view of the wider world of malted barley.  The average homebrewer, brewing five gallon batches once or twice a month, might use 200 pounds of malt a year (18 batches x 12 pounds per batch, base and several dozen specialty malts).  A very small commercial brewer with a 5-barrel system, will use 1.5 times that much grain in a single batch.  A large craft brewery like Lagunitas (still not huge on the world scale) might use 20,000 pounds of malt for an average batch (270 bbl x 31 gal/bbl x roughly 12 # per 5-gallon batch) – that’s 9 metric tons of malt per batch (back-of-the-napkin disclaimer).  The difference in scale between homebrewing and commercial brewing is tough to get your head around.

The world produced roughly 22 million metric tons of malted barley for brewing in 2013.  Of that, 29% was produced by the three largest malting companies, 40% was produced by the five largest companies, and 55% was produced by the ten largest malting companies.

 

Malt Companies

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Globalization and the Homebrewer

Like many craft beer aficionados, my love of craft beer is part of a broader attitude toward food.  Many of the adjectives I use to describe the creation of beers that I drink- craft, unique, small batch, fresh ingredients, real ingredients, minimal processing- can more broadly be applied to my attitude about eating and cooking.  I’m hardly alone: “Foodie” and “Beer Nerd” subcultures have populations that overlap quite a lot.

One feature of my Foodie-ness (and the Foodie-ness of many other Foodies that I know) is a concern with Local-ism (along with hyper-hyphen-ization).  Localism (the act of being a localvoire) shows up on my plate in two distinct ways.

First, I prefer, when possible, to eat food that was grown locally, made recently by someone who lives nearby, and sold by a company that is based in my part of the world.  Localism Rule #1 is to shop / eat / drink local.

Secondly, many Foodies’ Localism includes an interest in terroir, the idea that products, Continue reading

Caramel Malt Tasting

Aimg_caramels part of a Homebrew Tasting/Judging Circle I’ve been organizing, we recently did a tasting of an array of different Caramel malts.  The goal was to identify the differences between these malts, other than color.

For each malt, I did a small mash of 6% crystal, 84% Briess Pale Ale malt.  All of the Caramels were also made by Briess.  The mash temp was 154 degrees.   Continue reading

Bridge View Tavern

sleepy hollow street signIn our house, Halloween isn’t so much a holiday as it is a month-long celebration of the harvest and the Fall, and also of murder, mayhem, and death.  We’re equal parts pagan and horror-movie-obsessed, and October is for us a month both high and holy.

Beyond trips to pumpkin patches and abandoned-prisons-cum-haunted-houses, we make a yearly pilgrimage to the town of Sleepy Hollow, New York, of Headless Horseman fame.  These people do Halloween properly, right down to their street signs, which are orange and black and feature a silhouette of their most infamous resident. It’s a great little town, with a few wonderful bars and restaurants to round out an evening visiting their Halloween attractions.

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Troubles in Kegland (or how I met the basement floor)

icycle

So.  You keg an IPA and a cider you have recently brewed, and place them neatly in your fancy kegerator.  You hook up the kegs to the system and the close the door, trusting your fancy CO2 canister and regulator to faithfully carbonate your beverages according to the precise pressure you have dialed up.  These things probably work best in the dark anyway, unwatched and untroubled by brewer’s eyes and hands.

After a few days of patient waiting, you grab a glass, pull the tap handle, and…. nothing. Continue reading

A beer back through time in lower Manhattan

The Dead RabbitWe recently visited The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog, a historical-revivalist taproom and parlour on Water Street in Lower Manhattan.  While TDR is just a short walk from Battery Park and other tourist attractions, it is a destination worth traveling to in its own right.

The whole joint is thoroughly infused with the Gangs of New York – era, 1850’s Irish gangland NYC theme.  The ground-level taproom is an honest recreation of a period Irish pub, complete with sawdust on the floor.  The bar servers a good selection of craft beer, with a focus on local selections (Sixpoint, Bronx, Ommegang) and Belgian styles (Ayinger, DuPont, Ommegang).  Most notable is their house ale,

brewed by Sixpoint, a cask-conditioned Mild with tons of brown malt (which fits the period theme nicely). Tasty. Continue reading

Kegerator Construction

FridgeWe bough a new refrigerator as part of a recent kitchen renovation, so I’m turning the old one (still functional and now in the basement) into a two-tap kegerator.  I had kegged my brew for NHC Club Night and immediately decided that I no longer want to bottle my beer (except of course for the occasional Belgian offering).

My order from KegConnection.com has arrived.  It’s showtime.  I gathered my tools, including the most important one, in the name of RDWHAH.  Important safety tip: always have a beer before using power tools. Continue reading

NHC 2013

Here’s a post that’s a few weeks overdue: the 2013 National Homebrew Convention in Philadelphia was awesome.

NHC 2013

As a native Pittsburgher and a long-time resident of the NYC area it pains me to say this, but Philly didn’t suck.  Actually, it was kind of awesome.  The Reading Terminal Market is Continue reading