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.


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

Toasting Grain at Home

Toasted MaltI recently bought 10 pounds of 2-row from Valley Malt, with the idea of using it as part of an American Pale Ale SMaSH (Single Malt and Single Hop) brew with some extra Summit hops I have sitting around.  The name of this fine beverage: Pale Ale #2, of course.

After some thought, I decided the recipe needs some color and a touch of residual sweetness, so I thought I’d take a shot at toasting some of the 2-row myself, aiming to make a 40-60L crystal malt.  Whether or not this should still be considered a SMaSH is open to debate. Continue reading