Unfortunately, people just don’t pay a lot of attention to malt, with hops grabbing all the headlines. An exciting new development is happening in Alameda might change that, at least in the Bay Area. It’s Admiral Maltings, which is building their floor malting facility and pub, to be completed this summer. The effort is led by Thirsty Bear’s Ron Silberstein and Magnolia Brewing’s Dave McLean, with the day to day operations being run by Curtis Davenport, who learned malting techniques at the Canadian Malt Barley Technical Center and North Dakota State University.
There’s plenty of barley grown in California, mostly around the Sacramento area, but nowhere in the state to malt it. The last malting facility in California closed over 20 years ago, with the last Bay Area malting facility closing in 1982. Admiral Maltings will use traditional floor malting techniques rarely used today rather than the highly automated manufacturing methods used in high volume malt production. Most brewers swear that floor malting produces a better product.
It’s a dirty secret in the craft beer industry that despite all the talk of “buy local”, the ingredients used to brew beer come from several hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. Barley malt is mainly sourced from places like North Dakota, Montana, and Canada and even Europe. Admiral Maltings will be a key step in building a Bay Area ecosystem of local ingredients, allowing a California terrior to flourish. And as we strive to lower our carbon footprint in the face of climate change, reducing the distance heavy bags of barley and malt are shipped to Bay Area breweries plays a role in that.
It’s a story I’ll telling in the next issue of Edible East Bay and for research on the story, I met with Admiral Maltings’s Curtis Davenport last week at Admiral Maltings site. The facility is a very active construction zone and I appreciate him taken time out of his day directing forklifts and consulting with plumbers to explain what’s about to happen at Admiral Maltings.
I took a few pictures which I’ll leave you with. Those big gray tanks are the steep tanks used to germinate 20,000 lbs of grain. The smaller silver tank is the water recirculating tank delivers water used in the steeping process. Those smooth concrete floors? That’s where the floor malting magic is about to begin.