NAGBW – Malt Night

A couple nights ago, lucky members of the North American Guild of Beer Writers talked malt with Admiral Maltings, Headlands Brewing and Crisp Maltings,

Here are my takeaways from the night and a review of the Headlands beer too!

Hops get the headlines, yeast gets some spotlight along with malt whilst water is left out altogether. But new malts like from Haná barley could bring some more shine.

Haná is a heritage barley, the second from Crisp after Chevalier. It was a key component of pilsner way back and a landrace un-heavily modified barley. It hasn’t been malted in the UK for 100 some odd years before Crisp re-started it. And the reason Admiral Maltings was involved is that they had a relationship with Crisp and because Haná has been and now is again, grown here.

Let’s jump to the end of the chain first and describe the Headlands Brewing Munich Helles. It pours a light straw yellow color. Nice bubbly look to it. Normally for me, a Helles would have a minimal aroma. But this one was bright and reminded me of spring. It had a great balance of lightness but also very full flavored. A mix of cracker and bread dough.

Back to the malt. There are precious little malt collaboration beers and even less that count two maltsters collaborating so the fact that two maltsers from two different countries floor malted this same heritage barley is a big deal. And an even bigger deal was being able to get your hands on some of this malt. A brewery had to jump at the chance when offered.

And you may see some if you are near Russian River, Firestone Walker, Alaro, Sierra Nevada or Almanac (which is next door to Admiral). Those breweries got small allotments for R&D. Or you can head to the Bay on June 29th for the It’s the Malt a craft Malt Festival that celebrates local agriculture and craft malt.

Chevalier and Haná are first steps into reviving a host of barleys that bring with them different flavors as well as making brewers adjust how they brew to maximize them. We have seen how different hops require new ways of brewing and it is exciting to see that come into play with malts. Because that will create whole new playing fields and maybe, new beer styles.

Which Door

Cactus honey is the first ingredient that my eyes locked on when I saw this new label from Cellador Ales. But this “rustic Saison” also has some malt cred with grains from Admiral Maltings. The third piece of note is that ABV, this might need to be a shareable beer.

Not for Leaves

If the idea of creating a local, smaller-scale malt house was both crazy and cool. Then the next step in Admiral Maltings evolution builds on that idea to take malt education a step further. Opening on (or near) January 26th is The Rake named for the tool used to turn germinating barley. There will be 20 beers on tap of examples made with Admiral’s malt plus cheese, charcuterie, and sandwiches. Even better, you will be able to look into the malthouse while sipping a Bay Area beer made with that malt.

And if you needed an excuse to head there, Almanac Beer Co. is moving into that same building with a taproom and beer garden.

AM is the combo of Ron Silberstein, brewer at Sand Fracnsisco’s ThirstyBear and Magnolia Brewpub founder Dave McLean.


Infrastructure isn’t the most sexy of topics but when it comes to craft beer, (as in highway potholes) it is very important. Which is why the upcoming opening of Admiral Maltings in the Bay Area is so noteworthy.

It is California’s first modern floor-malting facility and Admiral Maltings “will produce premium malt at their new facility for select craft breweries and distilleries with 100% sustainably grown barley procured from California family farms.”

You can check out their IndieGoGo campaign HERE which will also help them establish a pub onsite much in the same manner that White Labs has brewing at their yeast facilities.

Now we just need a hop farm with pub like Bale Breaker.