By Emily Hutto, RadCraft
The Malt Academy, also known as the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre (CMBTC), got our industry on its feet.
That’s what Jesse Bussard, the Executive Director of the Craft Maltsters Guild, says about CMBTC’s time-honored contributions to the malting barley and malt industries at large. Their training institute located in Winnipeg, Canada has turned out graduates who have gone on to shape the North American craft malt movement, and their research has amplified the craft beer and artisanal spirits industries that craft malt supports.
The Malt Academy was named the 2022 Soles of Malt Award recipient at this year’s Craft Malt Conference to honor their development of North America’s first malting workshop and efforts in providing important research and testing services for The Guild’s Canadian counterparts.
“The Malt Academy is 12 years old now,” says Yueshu Li, Director of Malting & Brewing Operations at CMBTC. “We’ve seen a big change in the craft brewing sector creating demand. There used to be limited malting companies, and breweries, in operation. Malt requirements were pretty standard from brewery to brewery. Now they have options, and consumers have become more sensitive to quality, flavor, and environmental impact— there’s a shift in malt expectations.”
CMBTC manages those expectations through the evaluation of new barley varieties, experimentation with new crops, and applied research, says Managing Director Peter Watts. He gives an example of each.
“Our research is dedicated to understanding quality and performance characteristics of a new variety, for example,” Watts says. “So when talking to end-use customers we can say, with confidence, that this variety has certain quality specs. We can then suggest processing guidelines to get the end-user’s target parameters that they’re looking for, perhaps suitable for a specific style of brewing.”
When working with new varieties, Li adds, this team is always looking to understand the impact on beer quality. “We are working on measuring barley quality, and examining the effects of variety, growing location, and interaction with the brewing performance and beer flavor profile. And, to what extent we can manipulate the process.”
Watts tells us that CMBTC is working on a hulless barley project right now, for which there are currently no mainstream examples of a commercially accepted hulless malting barley variety. “The only hulless variety we have in Canada is the two-row CDC Clear,” Watts adds. “The opportunity is the significantly higher extract per unit of barley, the challenge is to get it to perform in the malt house and brewery.”
“The evaluation of grain crops of any given year is important, so for example the protein levels were very high in many areas of North America last year, not just in Canada,” Watts explains about how their research goes to work in the brewhouse. The implications of really high protein barley can be over-modified malt, leading to flavor and color issues in beer, haziness over time, or shelf-life stability issues, he continues. In the fall of 2021, he and his team explored process adjustments for making good quality malt and beer that doesn’t have these weather ramifications.
“While other research institutes do more bench-type research ours is very applied,” Watts says, circling back to the value of in-person, hands-on learning in The Malt Academy’s malting and brewing lab. “We want to make sure that it’s a good training program, and also that it’s a life experience— we take pride in making sure people are having fun while they are here, in Winnipeg of all places, in addition to learning. You wouldn’t think of the Malt Academy and karaoke as going together, but some of the groups have had that pleasure.”
Li continues, explaining that The Malt Academy is an environment in which people can be engaged with research, and with each other. “We also try to accommodate participants from different backgrounds— sometimes from farming, malting, brewing, science— even medicine and law. We learn so much from each other, and each group that is here.”
Congratulations to The Malt Academy on their Soles of Malt designation, and thank you to Li, Watts, and their entire team for their continued support of the Craft Maltsters Guild. Learn more at cmbtc.com.