Nearly every beer that is made primarily consists of barley. Thus every brewery uses a large amount barley. At Mt. Lehman Brewery, we get most of our barley from Gambrinus Malting Corporation in the Okanagan Valley. Barley grown in British Columbia and Alberta is shipped to Gambrinus where they malt it, a process that converts the starch in barley into sugar. Gambrinus’ malted barley is distributed throughout BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado and further. If you are drinking a beer from a brewery in the Pacific Northwest, it is very possible that beer was made with Gambrinus malt. As the smallest malting company in North America, they are like Canada’s micro-malthouse. Perhaps because of their small size, they have great customer service and are willing to sell malt to homebrewers at very reasonable prices, given you pay in cash/cheque and pick it up in person.
(The Okanagan Valley: an area more known for its wine than its beer)
AJ combined a visit to his brother, who lives near the malt-house, with a trip to pick up eight 25 kg (55 pounds) bags of barley from Gambrinus. The drive from Abbotsford (the home of Mt. Lehman Brewery) to Armstrong is roughly 4 hours, but is completely worth it. Plus AJ got to drink beer with his brother.
Our order consisted of:
Pale Malt: 4 bags (its our primary base malt)
ESB: 2 bags (a malty-er, more bread-like alternative to the Pale)
Munich Light: 1 bag (we go through enough of this to justify purchasing of bag of it. It adds a deep amber colour to our beers, plus a sweet, malty, nutty flavour)
Wheat Malt: 1 bag (we still have half a bag of wheat left, but we need more for summertime wheat beers)
We did not order more honey malt because we still have 40 pounds left from our last order in Janurary 2012.
The big advantage of buying directly from Gambrinus is selection. While you can get a bag of Gambrinus Pale malt from nearly any homebrew store, Gabrinus Malting Corporation can offer bags of ESB, Pilsen, Vienna, Munich light, Munich dark, honey malt, and wheat malt. They also have organic offerings of some of their malts. Gambrinus only sell their malt in 25 kg bags, so do not expect to be able to just purchase a couple pounds of a particular malt.
A word of caution: buying specialty malts in 25 kg bags is a rather onerous undertaking. You might easily go through a bag of Pale malt because you are using 10 pounds each batch. After 5 batches, you will have nearly finished the bag. However, buying a bag of honey malt is likely going to last you a very long time. Let’s assume you put 1 pound of honey malt (which is a lot, we normally don’t put more than 8 oz in a batch) in every batch of beer you make. It would take 55 batches to finish off that whole bag of honey malt, resulting in 1265 litres of beer. You might need to extend your circle of friends to dispose of that much beer. While we think honey malt is a fantastic malt, you are nearly guaranteed to be unable to finish the bag. Depending on your brewing habits, it may also be difficult for a homebrewer to finish bags of Munich Light, Munich Dark, and Vienna malt as well. If you want these malts in smaller quantities, you should go to your local homebrew store.
More information about the malts offered by Gambrinus Malting Corporation can be found here. It is not their official website, as they don’t appear to have one. It is the website of some malt broker. However, the website provides the necessary information on the colour, protein, moisture etc.
(The grain silos at Gambrinus Malting Corporation)
(Complexities of the malt-house.)
(Fancy farm mural showing barley. Culture!)