Growing malt barley varieties that are fit for malting can be challenging, as it is the only grain grown that needs to remain alive (other than seed meant for next years crop). We are lucky to be located in the Canadian prairies surrounded by beautiful soils and ideal climate to grow all types of crops, including malt barley. Even with a perfect growing season, all it takes is an early frost or snow and whole crops can be taken out of the malt quality category and downgraded to feed barley. We appreciate the hard work that goes into growing the crops year after year, and the difficulties farmers face every day to give us these wonderful grains.
Once the Barley has been harvested, it is then cleaned and sorted. Since organic crops often see volunteer plants come up with them, we have to separate the barley (or grain of interest) from the seeds we do not want to malt. The next step is malting and can be broken down into three stages typically…. steep, germination and kiln/roast. It is the germination process that “unlocks” the starches in the seed and develops enzymes that will later be used in the brewing and food processes.
The seed is soaked in water over a couple of days, with mixed air rests spread out over this time. We want all of the grain to sprout very evenly, hence the importance of high quality malting Barley. When the seeds begin to sprout, it is moved to the Germination room.
Here, the seed is kept for a few more days on the floor and only piled a few inches deep. It is turned regularly so that the malt rootlets don’t grow together and keep the malt at a consistent temperature and moisture content. Once the shoot is nearly emerging from the seed (full modification), the grain is sent to kiln.
The grain is dried slowly at low temps to remove moisture at first. As the moisture content drops, the temp can be raised significantly where a lot of the flavor is developed (Toasty, Nutty flavors). The malt can also be put into our roasting drum and roasted much like coffee. This is where we develop rich, bold flavors which can give the malt Toffee, Dark fruit, chocolate or coffee notes. At this point the malt is very dry and can be stored and shipped to it’s destination breweries.
Uses for Malt Barley
We are mainly interested in craft beer production, but malt barley is an ingredient in many different products including flour, sweets and non-alcoholic beverages.
Brewers use the enzymes created from germination to convert all of the starches in the grain into sugar. This sugary liquid, called wort, is a perfect food for yeast. It is the magical process of fermentation by the yeast that transform this “Barley Juice” into a delicious elixir.
We can’t wait to share pints, made with Hogarth Malt, with friends and family. Over the last few years we have truly seen a shift towards locally produced products that brings us all closer as a community. For us this all begins with a seed.