10 Questions for: Valley Malt

Andrea tests barley for moisture content. Image used with permission.

Andrea and Christian Stanley started Valley Malt in 2010, and since then they’ve increasingly provided local malts for brewers throughout New England. Nobody disagrees that sourcing ingredients locally is better for giving things (in this case, beer) a sense of place. And thanks to this duo (from Western Mass. and Buffalo, NY respectively), who are brewing nearly at capacity by malting 8,000 pounds of grain per week, breweries have the option of brewing beers that have more local flavor. We had a few questions for Andrea, who will be joining us in the store this evening from 5 to 7 p.m.!

Having a local maltster speaks to the concept of terroir and buying local. How would you describe the terroir of your malts?
Our malts are delicious. They have flavor. Partly from the local soil that the grains are grown and partly from our artisanal approach to malting the grain. Our malts are grown and malted to have character We also grow varieties that do well in New England and so these varieties are going to unique compared to those from the mid-west and Canada.

How many different types of malts do you produce?
We produce mostly pale, pilsner, wheat, and rye malt. We experiment with malting other grains like spelt, emmer, oats, triticale. Another layer is how we can make all of these base malts into roasted, caramel and smoked specialty malts.

Do you work with brewers to create custom malts?
Yes. I really enjoy talking with brewers about making something unique and just for them. I just finished a Crystal Oat malt for Ipswich today. It is around 80 L.

How much has demand increased since you started malting in 2010? Is supply ever an issue?
Yes. We feel as though the two sides (supply and demand) are growing nicely and slowly together. Hopefully that will make this industry more sustainable.

Making malt requires three steps: Steeping, germinating, and kiln drying. How long does this process take, start to finish?
It takes a total of seven to nine days to make a batch of malt. Two days steeping, three to five germinating and one to two kilning.

Tell us about the Supported Agriculture program.
The BSA is like a CSA for brewers in Massachusetts. They pay $500 upfront for the planting of fields of barley and then are entitled to at least $500 worth of grain after harvest. Many use more. The program is in its third season. The first, in 2011 was tricky because it was a rainy year and bad for grains. Last year we had 15 breweries sign up, and sign ups for this season begin on our website on April 1.

What’s a typical day like for you?
A typical day is a lot of physical labor and talking on the phone. The malthouse tends to be loud and dusty. I really enjoy working hard and making something so simple and necessary.

What are some of the challenges and bonuses of growing grains in the New England climate?
Challenges are infrastructure. Not enough farms are equipped to grow grains, it has been a part of our local food system that has been missing for many decades. The bonuses are the successes: good yields, quality grains, and when everyone along the supply chain is happy about being a part of making a truly local beer.

What’s something that most people don’t know about what you do?
I listen to Bob Dylan or Wilco on Pandora almost every day when I am stirring the malt.

Which New England breweries use your malts?
It.s a pretty long list:
Beau.s All Natural Brewing
Bly Hollow Brewery
Brewmaster Jack
Cambridge Brewing Company
Cambridge House Brewing
Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats
Element Brewing
Funky Bow Brewing
Good Nature Brewing
High Horse Brewery
Hopshire Brewery
Idle Hands Craft Ales
Ipswich Ale Brewery
Jacks Abby
Kelso of Brooklyn
Heartland Brewing
Maine Beer Company
Mystic Brewery
Nashoba Valley
Night Shift Brewing
Notch Session Ales
Oxbow Brewing Company
Peak Organic
Peoples Pint
Rising Tide
Sebago Brewing Company
Smuttynose Brewery
Throwback Brewery
Trillium Brewery
Watch City
Wormtown Brewery

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