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Category Archives: Malt houses

Short trip to Skagit Valley Malting

I’ve been wanting to visit the Skagit Valley Malting facility for a while, mostly because it’s only an hour and a half away from where I live. In a relatively short time span, they’ve expanded to the point where this year they will be able to store 12 million pounds of grain in their silos. They’ve got quite a few videos on their website FAQ section describing their operation if you haven’t seen them already they’re worth a look. They’re also on Facebook where you can see lots of video footage and photos.

What I think is very cool about this place is they’re malting locally grown grain, all grown within 12 miles (except for some organic grain which is grown in Delta B.C. which is literally a stone’s throw away from my garden!). The Skagit Valley is mostly known for it’s seed and tulip bulb production. Most of the barley grown here used to go to the commodity feed market. Now Skagit Valley Malting gives local farmers a new and better market opportunity. As it turns out because of the temperate summers this area is very well suited to grow barley and since they buy the grain directly from the growers they can work together to select and grow the best malting varieties for the area.

The Silos

How they malt their grain is truly innovative. This is the really cool part, their patented single vessel units do everything from steeping to finishing, what comes out of the vessels goes right into the bags. These things are huge and were designed and built on site. Each one holds 9 tons of barley.  Firstly, water enters the vessels through a pipe in the side. The grain is steeped using an absorption method, that is, only the specific amount of water is used that will achieve their desired moisture content. Because the vessels are being rotated the barley absorbs the water uniformly. The vessels continue to rotate throughout the germination. Temperature and airflow are controlled through more pipes that run the length of the vessel inside. This is how the grain is kilned and finally the wedge-wire screens inside provide enough abrasion to de-culm the malt once it’s dried. Air is then sucked out of the vessel taking the root material through the waste port and leaving the grain clean and ready to bag. How awesome is that! I had asked if they sold bags of raw barley which they do but I would have to buy 2,000 lbs of it hmmmm, I considered that for a minute. Instead they gave me a 50 lb. bag to play with in exchange for blog posts, fun.Special thanks to everyone at Skagit Valley Malting and to Adam Foy and Scott Pelton for answering all my annoying questions

The malting vessels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They’re planning to fill this space with more vessels. On the right side is the original pilot vessel which is now used for test batches.

Daffodils!

My big bag o’barley

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Posted by on March 27, 2019 in Malt houses

 

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Inside Gambrinus Malting Co.

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. 

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2015 in Malt houses

 
 
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