The art of creating good malt out of bad barley has not yet been discovered.
- Robert Free, 1888 (UK Barley Breeder)
Craft Malt Conference – Summary
Wow! What an exciting few days for the craft malt community! Three solid days of technical presentations and happy hours all done from the comfort of home. I’ll admit that I had some concerns about the digital fatigue factor of a multi-day event housed exclusively online. I’m happy to report that our community came out in force, keeping the discussions lively and informative. And yes, more malt puns in the chat box than you could imagine!
Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada, served as our keynote speaker. Ken presented a fascinating history of their brewery that was truly inspirational. I think everyone watching saw something they could connect with in his slides….the repurposing of equipment, backyard DIY, and long hours to get the job done. Seeing where they started and following that thread to their beautiful brewery in Mills River really got attendees excited about the possibilities of growing their business!
Given the virtual nature of the event, the organizers where able to compile an international list of speakers. We were treated to presentations from Crisp Maltings, Simpsons Malt, and Hugh Alexander from the United Kingdom. All provided an interesting mix of technical and business advice.
The plant breeding talks were another highlight for me. I find the intersection (or lack thereof) of the nearly decade long process of bringing a new variety to fields while anticipating customer demand and market trends to be fascinating. How do researchers improve their odds of success? In a word, flavor. Many breeding programs are incorporating test malting and brewing data into their selection process. This offers an exciting opportunity for the craft malt community to participate in bringing a new generation of varieties that deliver great specs and novel flavor characteristics.
The evening schedule was packed with themed happy hours. I got a chance to host the a craft malt themed “show and tell” on Wednesday that was really special. We had an international group that included attendees from Norway, Argentina, Japan, England, all of whom were sipping on craft beers or spirits made with their products. How cool is that?!
While definitely not the same as in person, this event succeeded at reconnecting and invigorating our community. Big thanks to everyone involved in putting this together.
If all goes according to plan we’ll be back in person in Portland, Maine in 2022. Look forward to “seeing” everyone in person and virtually!