Grains of truth
Already well regarded in the brewing and distilling industries, malt can also offer food and beverage companies the opportunity to create amazing flavours, textures and colours. Crisp Malting Group is unravelling the mysteries of malt so that more people can benefit from this one ingredient’s incredible potential
If you ask people the main ingredient of wine, the national drink of France, most people will know it is grapes – and also be able to name different varieties. Yet if you ask them to name the main ingredient of beer and whisky, the national drinks of Britain, few would know.
The answer is malt. Delve a little further to ask what malt is, and even fewer folk will offer a plausible definition. Malt is not, as commonly supposed, a variety of grain. Simply put, it’s cereal grain, usually barley, but sometimes wheat, oats or rye, that is turned to malt through an ancient, traditional and natural process. It involves three-steps: steeping, germinating and kilning.
The grain is steeped in water, encouraged to germinate and grow rootlets, then dried by warm air in a kiln. The temperature of the kiln and length of time spent there determines the colour and taste of the malt. It can vary from pale – almost indiscernible from barley grain – to black, and the whole spectrum in between.
Great British Maltsters in the food chain
“Despite the relatively small size of Britain,” says Adrian Dyter, managing director, Crisp Malting Group, “we are the third largest malt producing nation in the world. The two million tonnes of malting barley produced here by excellent cereal-farmers is great quality. It allows the country’s maltsters to turn the raw grain into 1.6 million tonnes of premium malt. This in turn holds the key to the nation’s fabulous brewing and distilling industries. Crisp’s own malt also contributes tasty, nutritious ingredients to the food industry – the bakery sector in particular.”
Malt as major contributor to economy
The country’s 1700 breweries buy around 550,000 tonnes of malt a year from British maltsters using it to make a fantastic range of beers, from milds to stouts and pale ales to lagers.
Malt is also the central ingredient in malt whisky distilling. Exports of Scotch whisky contribute £125 per second – yes that is per second! – to the UK economy – so the importance of malt production would be hard to overstate.
Wholegrain malted flour, flakes and kibbles add hugely to bread, cakes, biscuits and other foods in terms of flavour, colour, texture and nutrition. The proportion of malt that goes to the food industry is relatively small compared with that which is used for brewing, distilling and exporting. However, it still makes a great impact, helping to premiumise an important part of our staple diet – bread – as well as savoury and sweet treats.
Crisp Maltings was founded in 1870 in North Norfolk in the heart of what is probably the best malting barley-growing countryside in the world. Over the years it has grown through a combination of organic growth and acquisitions. It now has three maltings in East Anglia, one each in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, and two in Scotland: one each in Clackmannanshire and Banffshire. It is no coincidence that they are all in regions famed for the excellence of their barley.
Also under Crisp’s wing is Micronized
Food Products in North Yorkshire, which produces brewing adjuncts such as torrified wheat and flaked cereals and pulses.
Until recently Crisp was exporting around 25 per cent of its malt production to craft brewers and distillers across the world. The acquisition earlier this year of GlobalMalt gives the company a base in Germany and in Poland: “This enables us to offer our customers a wider portfolio of products and most importantly to broaden the origin of barley and malts that we can supply to our international clients,” says Adrian Dyter.
Relationships with barley growers
The company is known for the strong relationships it builds with farmers – who are, of course, a crucial part of the supply chain. Adrian Dyter continues: “We have a very high commitment to quality, which starts with how we source our raw materials.”
The grower-groups set up by Crisp provide the maltsters with a secured supply of best quality, locally grown barley – and provide the farmers with an assured market for the crops they produce. Crisp is able to communicate directly to growers the requirements in terms of quantities, varieties and specifications and facilitate a dialogue on husbandry, marketing and other relevant issues.
“This is a long-term business,” says Adrian Dyter. “The fact is, it takes time to grow crops, and even longer to develop new varieties, both of which are vital. We need trusted, long-term relationships with our suppliers. They are crucial partners in our enterprise. We offer seminars to keep growers up to speed with agronomic and varietal developments, and have frequent exchanges of information and insights.”
The raw ingredients
Crisp buys more than 300,000 tonnes of barley a year from local farmers in Britain. In most seasons Crisp is able to procure the vast majority of its raw ingredients from farms close to each plant. Barley varieties are carefully selected to provide the necessary levels of soluble nitrogen, extractable sugars and enzyme activity for the perfect mash.
Tradition and technology
Crisp Maltings combines nearly 150 years of experience and knowledge of malting with the latest technology and technical expertise to produce around 430,000 tonnes per year of premium quality malt for food and drink. This includes the tonnage produced by the plants in Hamburg and Bydgoszcz. The traditional floor malting at Great Ryburgh produces malt in the way it’s been done for centuries – if not millennia – while continued investment in state-of-the-art facilities and quality controls puts Crisp at the forefront of modern malt production.
Outstanding customer service
“We aim to provide truly excellent customer service; fantastic product range and quality; and first class technical backing,” says Adrian Dyter. “Our team combine impressive technical expertise; an in-depth understanding of the raw materials and extensive knowledge of, and experience in, brewing and distilling. Our flexible approach, passion for quality – and above all, the desire to get it right for customers means we can offer outstanding levels of service.”
Adding value every step of the way
“Today, whether in food, brewing or distilling, customers require a more value-added product,” says Adrian Dyter. “We have a lot of very well trained and experienced people who can provide the relevant technical expertise to customers. If a brewer, distiller or food manufacturer is seeking individual specifications to suit their plant or recipe, we have scientific knowledge to tailor the malt exactly to their requirements. Equally we can advise them on impact of the different ingredients on flavour, colour and body.”
From micro to global
Crisp is well positioned to accommodate growing demand from the burgeoning craft beer and whisky sectors in the UK and across the world. It has developed a wide range of speciality malts to provide everything that the craft brewer or distiller needs and will supply whole or ready-crushed malt delivered in 25kg bags or in bulk.
“It helps that we have one of the country’s four remaining traditional floor maltings where sprouting grain is turned by hand. Craft brewers and distillers from as far away as Japan are fascinated to come and visit the floor malting and try their hand at raking and turning the malt themselves.”
Equally, Crisp supplies global businesses, and has worked closely with brewers AB InBev to develop a supply chain of barley that can be used for the brewing of the Budweiser in the UK.
The malting process
Once the barley comes in from the farms, it needs to be dried to roughly 12 per cent moisture to provide consistency throughout the grain. It is also cleaned so small kernels that don’t meet specifications are removed. The barley is stored in silos until ready to process.
A batch of clean barley is loaded into large steep tanks and is immersed in water two or three times to increase its moisture content. The grains then start to sprout.
The sprouting barley is moved to a malting floor or vessel. The moisture content and temperature is carefully controlled and the grain is allowed to grow for four to five days. This process naturally modifies the barley releasing starch and breaking down protein into amino acids.
The germination process is stopped by gently drying the malt on a kiln for one or two days. Varying the final temperature results in different coloured malts with different flavours. The rootlets are removed and the final malt now has all the extract, enzymes and nutrients that are needed for brewing, distilling and food production.
The maltsters adjust the temperatures of the kiln and the time the grain spends being heated according to the flavour and colour of the malt required. Results vary from malt so pale that it’s barely discernible from raw barley to so dark that it’s black.
For brewing Crisp produces a range of base malts for lighter coloured beers to darker ales. Clear Choice Malt is a unique product developed by Crisp, which helps craft brewers eliminate haze and can help extend shelf life.
The company’s range of speciality malts includes crystal and Cara malts, which are roasted straight after germination. This stews the starchy endosperm of the grain and creates a layer of caramelisation and browning. Sweet, toffee and caramel flavours can be developed, as well as red hues of colour.
Crisp has also developed speciality malts from new and heritage varieties of barley including Maris Otter and Chevallier Heritage Malt.
The majority of Crisp distilling malts are produced in Scotland. The finest two-row spring barley is malted by delicately adjusting temperatures, air supply and water levels to balance protein and cell wall modification. It is then skilfully kilned retaining the high levels of enzyme activity desired by distillers.
For food production, malt from barley, wheat, oat and rye delivers a great range of flavours, colours and textures. Crisp’s sister company EDME processes malt supplied by Crisp to produce nutritious wholegrain flour, flakes and kibbles for the food industry – bakery in particular.
Malt is used widely in drinks, especially hot drinks. It also lends itself to use in more contemporary products, such as smoothies and health drinks. A wide range of savoury products – including gravies, sauces, soups, pie fillings, pasty fillings, crisps and snacks, and ready meals – can also benefit from malt.
Liquid malt extract has been used in confectionery products for many years to add enhanced flavour to confectionery, chocolate and ice cream and to give a smoother mouth feel in toffees. Organic malt is also available, as Crisp registered under the Soil Association organic standards.
The food industry’s best kept secret
Malt may be respected in brewing and distilling sectors, but is probably still the food industry’s best kept secret and offers huge opportunities to food manufacturers.
Adrian Dyter concludes: “At Crisp, we remain committed to adapting to thechanging world of business and flying the flag for British malt in years to come.”