By Tim Kalinowski, Staff Writer
With the greater prominence of the craft beer industry in recent years, there are new niche opportunities available to supply that industry. Craft brewers tend to want local ingredients and a local story as part of their brand campaign.
That’s where Red Shed Malting comes in.
Red Shed Malting started up earlier this year, and is run by the Hamill family (brothers Joe and Matt, parents Susie and John, and Joe’s wife Daelyn). This small, artisan, malting business represents a new approach to the market. Self-described “maltster” Matt Hamill explains.
“We’re definitely doing things differently than what the big malt houses are doing,” confirms Hamill. “Rahr and Canada Malting and they are at about 140,000 tonnes a year. We are looking at doing about 250 tonnes in a year. The majority of what we use in our operation is coming right from Dad’s farm, Hamill Farms. We have purchased some barley from some other local area farmers as well.”
Although only starting up in April, Red Shed Malting has already seen some early success.
“Some of the uptake hasn’t been quite as quick as I was expecting,” admits Matt, “but we are really happy to be working with some of the best craft breweries in Alberta. These guys really stand behind their word of using the best ingredients and local ingredients. And we have been a part of some really awesome beers.”
For the brewers Red Shed works with, explains Hamill, it’s all about localizing their product as much as possible to improve its marketability with discerning consumers in a highly competitive craft brew industry.
“We are starting to see more demand of customers wanting to know the story from grain to glass, and we’re more than happy to be a part of that through Hamill Farms and Red Shed Malting. And we love it when brewers tell that story as well,” says Hamill.
Hamill explains the difference between the demands of the craft brewers and the larger breweries, from a malting point of view.
“There is going to be a little bit of a difference in some of the characteristics of the actual barley variety people are looking for. The macro-beers need barley varieties that have higher enzyme levels, which will help breakdown some of the adjuncts added; so the sugar that comes from corn, or honey, or rice, or what have you.
“Whereas with the craft industry, all the sugar and alcohol is coming from the barley itself. So they don’t need quite as high of enzymes. So it ends of using three to seven times more barley per the same quality.”
Red Shed Malting is also able to better custom its operations to produce a wider ranger of malt tastes by using different temperatures in its kiln boxes, and even roasting in some cases.
“It’s been a learning process,”acknowledges Hamill. “My brother and I, we both went to malt academy at the Canadian Malt Barley Technical Centre in Winnipeg. We did a course there and they’ve just been a huge resource for us… Others in the industry have been helpful as well. It’s a pretty neat industry.”
Hamill says his family decided to make the jump into the specialty malting industry now because the circumstances are right to do so.
“Joe was doing a little bit of home brewing,” explains Hamill. “Dad’s been a farmer for his whole life. So we are a fourth generation farm. We just kind of got curious about what happens in between Dad selling off the combine and Joe opening up the homebrew store. We also recognized the market was poised for some growth between the new brewmaster school in Olds College and some of the changes in the (Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission) regulations. We saw an opportunity.”
Hamill says the biggest benefit thus far is his whole family has found a common interest and passion, and is working together to be successful in the malting business.
“We’ve definitely got the whole family going,” says Hamill with a chuckle.