Malt is the unsung hero of brewing according to Aaron Goss of the Carolina Malt House who is trying to change the landscape of malt production and use in Mid-Atlantic breweries’ beer. This week on Beer Notes, we are exploring malt and local malting facilities.
According to Goss, “malt is really the heart of the beer.” Malt is the sprouted grain whose sugar is transformed into alcohol during the brewing process. Far more malt is used than hops in the production of beer. It contributes to the alcohol content and the color as well as the flavor. Goss started his malting facility when he realized that the majority of the local craft beer made in North Carolina and South Carolina was made with malts grown in Canada and elsewhere. Goss believes that locally grown malt can contribute to a local flavor just as wine depends on terroir, or the contribution of climate, soils, terrain, and tradition.
Craft beer drinkers seek local brews but when most local breweries depend on hops and malts grown in far away places, local beer is a little less local and flavors cannot be said to reflect the flavors derived from the soil and climate of a region. Maryland is researching malting grain production to see what can be done to make local even more local in the Mid-Atlantic region. The weather, particularly the rain is challenging because only the best malt can be used in beer. Too much rain actually causes a fungus to grow that produces a toxin called “vomitoxin.” You can guess what that causes.
Quality and consistency is the goal.
The larger the malt house, the more consistent the product because batches of malt can be mixed with other batches to offset any inconsistencies. Small malt houses don’t have this luxury but they can produce a high-quality niche product.. Many creative local brewers are looking for a range of malts. Proximity Malt is located here on the Eastern Shore in Laurel, Delaware. It contracts with 42 local growers. It’s goal is to “establish, maintain, and sustain access to local grains for quality malt processing.” Their website says they are shortening the North American Supply Chain and by doing so, they are putting a little more local in local craft beer. Terroir isn’t just for wine anymore. For Beer Notes, this is Anne Neely.