“Lotta talking, lotta drinking….lotta talking about drinking.” – Brian Simpson’s Craft Brewers Conference Recap.
That quote from Brian pretty much summed up what I was expecting when I first filled out my application for CBC 2014. I knew a few of my maltster friends would be there for our presentation as well as a large contingent of brewers from North Carolina. Beyond that, I had no idea what the week had in store for me.
However, as the conference drew nearer, something completely different began to unfold. The emails starting popping up…Mark from Deer Creek, Joel from Blue Ox, Curtis from California Malting (now Great Western Malting Co.), and many others were all planning to attend! Next came the meeting requests from the Craft Maltsters GuildBoard of Directors. Before I knew it, the week was booked with committee meetings, dinners, and, of course, plans for brewery visits.
As the conference began and the meetings fell into place, an even larger cast of characters began to assemble. Our initial meeting on malt analysis and barley variety development was attended by an amazing array of researchers from North Dakota State University, the American Malting Barley Association, and the National Barley Growers Association, which was more than humbling. Better yet, they all arrived with a willingness to help the guild tackle our lengthy project list.
This initial meeting set the tone for the rest of week. The message was clear: the craft beer community supports the mission of the Maltster’s Guild and will foster its development in any way possible. Michael Pollan even plugged craft malt in his CBC keynote address!!
Craft Malt Sensory Workshop
On Thursday morning, the Craft Maltsters Guild held the Craft Malt Sensory Workshop. We were very pleased with the turnout – some 500 brewers came out to sample single malt beers made from five different craft maltsters! Pretty impressive given that the seminar was at 9am!
We were honored to have John Mallet introduce the workshop. Mallet is the head of brewing operations at Bell’s Brewery and author of the upcoming book Malt: A Practical Guide from Field to Brewhouse. To have his vote of confidence at the world’s largest beer conference really helped give some weight to what we were doing.
Christian Holbrook, Brewing Materials Manager at New Belgium, kicked things off by explaining some of the reasons why malt is so important: not only is it a big part of beer flavor, but it’s also an imperative requirement for yeast health. Brewers and maltsters should pay attention to malt size and assortment, DON, flavor, and a variety of measurable characteristics when selecting grain and malt.
Holbrook also encouraged brewers to connect with their local farmers and maltsters, to learn where their raw materials come from, and to “tell a story with your beer.” We hope to be part of that story!
In the presentation, we each (Brent plus our colleagues from Colorado Malting Company, Malterie Frontenac, Grouse Malting, and Valley Malt) introduced ourselves and our beer. Each beer was noticeably different, very lightly hopped so that the grain could shine through. As Bruno (Maltarie Frontenac) put it, “beer is made with grain; you should be able to taste the grain in your beer.”
Several different two-row varieties joined our six-row Thoroughbred and a Colorado-grown millet at the workshop. Several people we talked to were impressed with Grouse Malting’s millet beer. Valley Malt pointed out that depending on their source of barley, their malt may exhibit a faint strawberry or orange flavor. The strawberry notes were certainly noticeable in their sample.
Though we’re biased, we felt our pale 6-row malt did very well in the trial. It had a slightly spicy, grassy character that allowed the hops to come through nicely. Most importantly, it performed well in the brewhouse with a 79.7% extract, 9.5% protein level, and sufficient yeast nutrients (Free amino nitrogen) to assist with proper fermentation. All samples had good clarity.
Did you attend the Craft Malt Workshop? What were your impressions? Share in the comments!
The Craft Maltsters Guild First Annual Meeting
In a dark, smoky room in an old warehouse, a small gathering of rebels met for the first time to discuss their plans for world domination…
No, it wasn’t a meeting of anarchists, it was the first ever Craft Malt Guild meeting! Representatives from the malt houses mentioned above, plus several researchers and industry veterans met at Our Mutual Friend Brewery in Denver. John Mallet made another appearance, as did Tom Nielson, raw materials handler for Sierra Nevada. Again, we can’t tell how exciting it is to have these big-time brewers in our camp!
The Malt Guild discussed plans for the website, outreach, and ideas for using a $2,000 grant from the Brewers Association. We’ll keep you posted on that front! In the meantime, you can check out the Craft Maltsters Guild website and follow the organization on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. For breweries and malt houses interesting in supporting the maltsters guild and gaining access to members-only resources, please also consider joining the Craft Malt Guild as a regular or associate member.
All of the energy and support from the Craft Brewers Conference served to validate everything that Riverbend and our fellow maltsters have been striving for over the past few years. We all seek to revive the grain growing economies of our respective regions and to give craft breweries new and distinctive malts to work with in the brewhouse. The result will be a more robust local economy and an expanded audience for craft beer.
It was quite an exciting week in Denver! Between our presentation at the Craft Brewers Conference and the very first meetings of the Craft Maltsters Guild, we’re really looking forward to where the craft malt movement is heading! Cheers!