It’s been a while! The past half a year has been busy and interesting in a lot of ways. We wanted to share some progress on a project that we have been very excited about and is moving forward.
For those of you who have followed along on our journey, you know that part of what makes us a farmhouse brewery is that we want to grow some brewing ingredients on our farm. Our first step towards that has been working with our friend and neighbour farmer Don. Not only did he grow a malting variety of barley on our farm this year, but he is also helping us transition our farm to be certified organic. A process that takes several years. Though we are located on a small farm, we do take our impact on the environment seriously. Working together with ALUS we are creating and maintaining some natural habitat on our farm to encourage local biodiversity. Growing organic, when you have the opportunity to do so, seems like a no-brainer when doing projects like this. It has been indescribably cool to watch the barley grow in our back yard this past summer.
So, what comes next? For those of you who do not know a whole lot about the raw ingredients of beer let us go over some of the basics. The four main ingredients in brewing are water, malts, hops, and yeast. So, what is malt? If your answer is barley you are not wrong… but you are also not completely correct either.
Though barley malt is the most abundantly used grain in brewing, other grains, such as wheat and rye, can be malted as well. What makes the grain malt is a specific process the grains go through.
After being harvested the grains are cleaned of impurities (other seeds and weeds, small rocks, etc.) and brought to a malthouse. Here the grains are introduced to water over the period of two to three days to allow them to germinate. Germination is when the grain is allowed to sprout, which in nature would allow it to grow into a new plant. During germination, the seed develops the enzymes that are needed in the saccharification process. Saccharification happens during the mashing portion of brewing. It is where the enzymes break down complex starches into simple sugars that can be consumed by yeast during fermentation, producing carbon dioxide, alcohol, and a range of other compounds.
Once the grains have sufficiently germinated they are dried. This stops the grain from growing into a plant. Using a flow of hot air, the grains are moved around to allow everything to be dried evenly. At this point, it is called “green malt”.
This green malt is then toasted to the desired colour and specification. Similar to how coffee is roasted to a light, medium, or dark roast, malts range in colour from very pale, to amber, to black. It is typically the colour of the malt that gives colour to the beer.
Traditionally this process would take place in a large enclosed area where the grains are spread out on the floor, sprinkled with water, allowed to germinate, raked to prevent mould growth and matting, then dried with a flow of hot air from wood fires. Nowadays there is also the option of drum malting, which is where Mike from Harvest Hop & Malt comes in. Located in Guelph, we can keep each part of the process as local as possible.
Next up is for Mischa to come up with a recipe that uses our home-grown Ontario malted barley. We do not have a particular beer in mind just yet, but we do know that we want at least one all Ontario beer in our lineup. This means that everything used in the beer comes from Ontario. Step one, water from our on-farm well. Step two, create a base for the beer with our barley malt, together with other locally sourced grains like wheat. Step three, Ontario grown hops. And lastly, Ontario cultured yeast.
The wheels are in motion, so stay tuned to see what this beer will be!
Estelle van Kleef & Mischa Geven
The Meuse Brewing Team