What We Do
Grains are the foundation of beers and spirits. A large percentage of these grains are "base malts" that have the ability to convert starches into fermentable sugars. Malt also contributes to the color, aroma, and flavor of beers.
But what is Malt?
Malt, or malted barley, is raw barley that has been converted to a () of protien, starches, enzymes, vitamins and minerals that are used by the brewers and distillers. Wheat, rye, oats, triticale, maize, sorghum, millet and rice can also be made into malts, however the are less common.
Base malts have high enzymatic activity that ensure the conversion of starches into fermentable sugars. Specialty malts are malts that offer different characteristics such as more color and aroma, but don't have as much enzymatic activity.
The Maine Malt House was started with a simple idea: to keep local grains local. Traditionally, malt quality barley grown in Maine has been sent to Canada to be malted at a large malting facility that sources grain from multiple growing regions. We knew we could close the loop and keep the grain local. This would cut down on the carbon footprint, support local farms and benefit the end user.
Barley and wheat have been key commodities for centuries, dating as far back as 10,000 BC in the near-eastern fertile crescent. Historians believe malting and brewing have been practiced for over 6000 years. The origin of malt is not known but there is legend that early Egyptians produced malt by placing the barley in wicker baskets and lowering them into open wells of the time. They would first lower the basket into the water for steeping and raise the basket above the water for germination. It is likely that they would dry the malt by simply spreading it out to be exposed to the sun. In the following centuries maltsters would have adapted the use of man-made cisterns and natural caves to produce their malt.
Those natural practices would continue on until the malt demand increased and artificial means of controlling temperature and humidity were necessary. In the 17th century floor malting started as a way to produce larger quantities of malt. The development of larger breweries in the 19th century led to an industrialization of malting. With the industrialization of malting, malt barley became a mere commodity. At the Maine Malt House we are breaking away from this trend. We are offering unique local malts that provide brewers with flavors reflective of our region.
The Malting Process
Mention floor Malting and pnumatic system for credibility?
The Maine Malt House uses the traditional floor malting process to provide a unique and artisan characteristic to our malts. The traditional method of malting has been around for thousands of years. The goal is to prepare the grains for the brewing process. Barley and other cereal grains are the backbone of any style, providing color, flavor, mouth-feel and body. It also makes its way into quality whiskeys. There are three main steps in producing traditional floor malt.
High quality, pre-cleaned grain is steeped in a stainless steel tank for 48 hours. It undergoes various cycles of air and water to reach the desired moisture content which, begins the germination process.
The 'chitted' grain, grain that has begun to grow, is cast on the concrete floor in a thin layer. The floor malting method is our artisan approach to creating quality malts by controlling the complete process. The grain germinates for 4 days as it undergoes the desired biological changes.
Once the enzymes needed for brewing become active in the grain, it is time to halt the process. The grain is dried in a kiln for 24 hours, using various temperatures and aeration speeds to produce different types and flavors of malt. The finished product is then cleaned and packaged and ready for use.