Thursday, 23 April 2015

Crisp Malts comes to Ireland

Dave Griggs explaining roasting

"Malt is a beer's soul, and hops are the lipstick"

This has been a busy week! After an excellent conference on starting a food business hosted by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland on Tuesday in Athlone, for Wednesday I was fortunate enough to be invited to a seminar hosted by Kells Wholemeal to introduce Crisp Malts to the Irish market. Crisp would be well known already by brewers in Ireland (I've used their malts myself a few times) but Kells Wholemeal have become their official agent. This means there will be constant stocks of various Crisp malts warehoused in Kilkenny, ready for immediate dispatch. Kells are one of the biggest flour millers in the country and already have a logistics network in place, so Crisp should literally be able to hit the ground running.

The three hour seminar, given by Group Technical Director, Dave Griggs, and Brewing Sales Director Steve Le Poidevin, was informative, entertaining and very technical. There was no shortage of detail, and the couple of dozen professional brewers in attendance from all over Ireland seemed impressed. The course covered all aspects of historical (floor) malting as well as more modern methods, including roasting, something I have great interest in as my own experiments with roasting have proved very satisfactory. It was interesting to learn that malt is roasted in one tonne batches at 230°C and that well modified malt is used for lighter roasts (amber, brown) and undermodified is used for dark roasts. I forgot to ask why, but it might just be simple economics. It was also interesting to know that the malt has to be sprayed with water prior to opening the drum after roasting, as the sudden inflow of air can cause the contents to ignite. Something I must remember!

A hop "pocket". These were bags that held approx 75kg
of dried hops. They're still in use in other countries.
The venue for the seminar was Nicholas Mosse Pottery in Bennettsbridge, Co. Kilkenny. The building itself is a fabulous old mill on the banks of the Nore, equipped with its own hydro electric plant. Originally built as a flour mill it has seen several uses, including being part of the commercial Irish hops industry. Anyone familiar with the history would associate the names Mosse and Bennettsbridge with hops, where the family had 80 acres of hops gardens, and were one of only four growers. I was amused to hear the Kilkenny Golding myth brought up by someone not so well versed in the history of the trade. The Kilkenny Golding was more than likely Kilkenny Seedless Fuggle, KSF, but someone just mis-remembered the name. KSF along with three or four other varieties were grown, all of which had their origins in the English hop industry, details of which were all recorded by the Department of Agriculture which oversaw the hop programme from Dungarvan (Co. Kilkenny) from its inception in 1961. Kells Wholemeal is owned by the Mosse family.

One of the more surprising (to me) nuggets of information that we garnered from Dave Griggs is that Crisp will be shortly releasing a flaked acidulated malt. This will join Castle's Ch√Ęteau Acid and Weyermann's Acidulated malt in the market. It will be soured with lactic acid and the first batch is almost ready to be packaged. It's the first acid malt that I know of that will be produced by a British maltster and we can only assume is a sign of the times and the popularity of sour beers. Indeed I was chatting to Tim Barber from Metalman about the Craft Brewers Conference and sour beers seem to have become completely de rigeur in the US, almost as if they're the new IPAs. Crisp exports a significant amount of its 230,000 tonne production, much to the US, so I expect there's a very ready market for them there.

Another very interesting development, and one I hadn't heard if before is proanthocyanidin-free "Clear Choice" ale and lager malts. Proanthocyanidins are precursors to haze, and Clear Choice malt benefits from not having them.

A final big thanks goes to our hosts for their generosity and hospitality. The food provided was deliciously fresh and was prepared by the restaurant on the second floor. I would strongly recommend anyone visit the visitor centre and restaurant if in the area, as it topped off what was a most memorable day.

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