A little while ago I was trying to contact malting companies for any information on malting recipes. A few companies wrote back and explained that these were carefully guarded secrets, fair enough. Another company wrote back also saying that they couldn’t answer all of my questions but that I was welcome to take a tour of the malt house! How cool is that!
Gambrinus is located in Armstrong B.C. which is the north Okanagan area just north of Vernon. Originally formed to supply the malt for the Okanagan Springs brewery they have since expanded to supply many craft breweries in Canada and the United States. They are also the company responsible for Honey malt, a malty sweet and slightly sour brumalt known to most homebrewers.
Two years ago Gambrinus expanded and have increased their production by 30% but they are still quite small in relation to other malting plants. For example the Rahr malting plant in Alix Alberta has an annual production capacity of 140,000 metric tonnes and they have even larger facilities in the states. Gambrinus on the other hand produces 11,000 tonnes. This small scale gives them the ability to provide greater quality control and a more personal service for their customers.
The germination beds they utilize are called Saladin boxes. Invented by Charles Saladin in the late 19th century they are basically long troughs with perforated steel floors to allow cool moist air to flow through and water to drain out. The malt is turned mechanically by augers that move slowly up and down the length of the troughs. Although it’s an old fashioned design it is now controlled using modern technology. The auger system is programmable, sensors gauge temperature, and humidity and all systems including the kiln can be controlled, and monitored from a central location.
You can read a great blog post about Gambrinus here at Brulosophy who were also given a tour earlier this year. If you’re wondering, I was not paid to make this video or to publish this post, I did this purely out of my own interest in the malting process and how often do you get invited to see the inside a malthouse? (I did get a pretty sweet hat though) The idea to make a video was very last minute. I asked Ken Smith the day of the tour and he surprisingly agreed so if the camera’s a little shaky and things seem a little “thrown together” that’s why. I did go back a second time to get some more footage but most of it was shot during the first day.