|THE MALTING PROCESS
Malt quality is the result of many factors, ranging from raw barley quality to plant sanitation to processing controls. Experts in our management and production teams handle every phase of the malting process, from barley procurement through production and delivery, with careful attention to detail.
We have earned a reputation as a leading independent producer of premium quality malt because we incorporate a strong tradition of superior customer service with modern production facilities and strict attention to detail in all phases of the malting process.
Our production staff has the experience and dedication it takes to produce the premium quality malt our customers require. In addition to superb technical competence and exacting scientific methodology, we have the intuition based on experience - the extra ingredient that turns malt production into an art as well as a science - that makes our malt a dependably consistent product.
Malt, a processed form of top quality barley, is the basic ingredient used in the production of beer. Often referred to as the "heart" or the "soul" of beer, malt provides most of the complex carbohydrates and sugars which are necessary to give beer its distinctive flavour and alcohol. For the same reasons, malt is also used in making whiskey and other distilled spirits. It is also gaining considerable popularity in the food industry as a flavouring component and a source of nutrition. Quality, therefore, is essential. The main raw material used in the production of malt is "special" barley, also called malting barley. Prairie Malt is surrounded by some of the best barley-growing soil in the world, which is a tremendous advantage. Prairie Malt is able to choose from the best of the best, buying only the finest quality malting barley with which to make our malt. In addition to barley, the malting process requires a tremendous amount of fresh air and fresh water. At Prairie Malt, a massive underground aquifer supplies the malthouse with a nearly endless supply of nature's finest quality water.
Likewise, the climatic conditions of Saskatchewan are also favourable to malthouse activity. The extreme cold temperatures of the Saskatchewan winter act as a natural guard against insect infestations. As a result, Prairie Malt Limited is able to avoid the use of any chemical treatment on either its barley or its malt. Low humidity year round makes Saskatchewan's air excellent for drying the barley at the "kiln" stage of the malting process. Conditions of the air flowing in the kiln are precisely controlled to dry the malt and create the perfect mix of extract, enzymes, color and flavor for the master brewer's use. Plus, the air entering the plant is said to be among the purest in the world. When producing malt for the world's best brewers, quality is everything!
How Is Malt Made? - Steeping
At Prairie Malt Limited, malt is the result of a carefully monitored process which begins on western Canadian farms and ends with delivery to domestic and overseas customers. First the western Canadian farmer must grow and harvest a high-quality barley crop. Then, after having a barley sample tested and approved by the Prairie Malt laboratory, the farmer delivers his "special" barley to a country elevator which then ships it to Prairie Malt Limited. Upon arrival at Prairie Malt, the barley is again tested by our laboratory to ensure the barley meets our high quality standards. Once approved, it is put through two complete cleaning processes to remove any impurities, chaff, broken or low-grade barley kernels. Chaff and broken or low-grade kernels are sold for livestock feed. Meanwhile, the cleaned, "special" barley is placed in large tanks of water to soak for up to 48 hours.
This process is known as "steeping" and the tanks are called "steep tanks". As the barley absorbs water it begins to respire, taking in oxygen and exhausting carbon dioxide (CO2). In order to maintain optimum malting conditions for the barley kernels, the CO2 is drawn off and replaced with fresh oxygen.
Next, the barley drops through the bottoms of the steep tanks into "germination streets" where cool, moist airflow creates the perfect malting environment. Biochemical changes within the kernels transform the steeped barley into what is called "green malt". After 4-5 days, the green malt has been "modified" to our exacting standards, and is moved to another compartment known as the "kiln". The kiln operates much like a conventional oven. Hot air is forced through the green malt, drying and roasting it so that all biochemical activity stops, and flavour develops. The "special" barley is now considered malt. Before, during and after the malting process, each batch is put through rigorous laboratory analysis to ensure its quality. Prior to shipping, the batch is blended for uniformity and put through one final cleaning process
How Is Malt Made? - Malt To Market
We control the malting process by analyzing samples of malt taken at the necessary times and stages. Using the results of this scientific analysis, coupled with judgment based on experience, we then modify the process to achieve the desired product. Before, during, and after malting, advanced laboratory analysis guarantees adherence to the specifications of each customer.
Our malting process is monitored constantly by personnel who have both the knowledge and authority to make timely decisions. Quality control laboratories with automated equipment and sophisticated methodology provide rapid and reliable results. Each kilned sample, along with each car shipment, is analyzed for the required chemical and physical characteristics. The results are used by our people in barley procurement through to production, to adapt our procedures to ensure that a consistently high quality malt is being produced and shipped within our customers' specifications.
Malt is transported in clean hopper cars, containers, or loaded into trucks in bags. The majority of hopper cars go to Canadian ports such as Vancouver, where the malt is loaded onto ships bound for off shore markets. Each year, more than 293,000 metric tonnes of malting barley are used to make 220,000 metric tonnes of malt, which we ship to our customers throughout Canada, the United States, Mexico, the Pacific Rim, South Africa and Latin America.