In 2022, the Craft Maltsters Guild gave three scholarship recipients the opportunity to attend the Craft Malt Conference and join the Guild as members for the year. These scholarships were enacted by the Guild’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion task force.
Among the recipients was Rwanda’s first brewery that uses locally sourced, African ingredients, sorghum malt in particular. Jessi Flynn, the Managing Director of Kweza Craft Brewery, explains that “traditionally in Rwanda, sorghum grains are malted by women on family farms in order to make an opaque sorghum beer – ikigage.”
These grains are soaked in buckets of water, mixed with banana leaf ash, and set to germinate between banana leaves until sprouted. “We have been using this type of malt for our beers, making versions of Belgian Honey Blonde Ale and other styles on an 80 percent sorghum base, to great success,” she shared in her scholarship application.
Flynn’s interest in craft malting stems from no commercial or large-scale malting facilities in Rwanda, or even East Africa. “So we must (and want to) source from small-scale farmers. This creates a few issues we need to more deeply understand and work with. As we scale up, we need to ensure that our supply chains are reducing aflatoxin risk through the harvest and malting process,” she explains.
Sorghum grown during the rainy season can become affected by grain molds which produce aflatoxin and other mycotoxins making the grain unsafe for human consumption. Also among Kweza’s scaling challenges are consistency and a deeper knowledge of the malting process to support troubleshooting on different and larger systems.
Beyond scaling, Flynn and her team at Kweza want to experiment across the Lovibond. “Sorghum malt is traditionally used right after germination to make homebrew ikigage sorghum beer, which is rather uniform in style,” she adds. “We would like to experiment with roasting the malt to create different beer styles.”
Flynn says this scholarship gives her team access to the knowledge and network of the Craft Maltsters Guild to further elevate the sorghum industry of Rwanda. This intentionality toward strengthening the small and alternative grain supply chain is one the Guild is proud to support.
The application period for the 2023 Craft Malt Conference scholarship will open in the coming weeks. The Guild plans to provide two scholarships for underrepresented individuals in the craft malt industry to attend the 2023 in-person event in Portland, ME. Applicants representing all sectors — from growers to maltsters to craft beverage producers and beyond— are encouraged to apply.