Hogarth Malt is a small malthouse located in Olds, Alberta that uses organic grain for their traditionally crafted malts.
Most people are familiar with the four main ingredients of beer: water, yeast, hops, and malt. Maybe if you’re adventurous enough, you’ve even tried to brew your own beer at home. Perhaps even harvested your own hops or grew your own grain!
Making beer is a work of art, which involves selecting ingredients to create unique flavour profiles. One very important ingredient in that mix is malt. Malt is much more complex than simply throwing grains into your beer though.
Malt (noun) \ ˈmȯlt \ : barley or other grain that has been steeped, germinated, and dried, used for brewing or distilling and vinegar-making.
Hogarth Malt is a craft malthouse run by Aaron and Alex Hogarth, with the help of their 3 kids. This relatively new malthouse, which started its operations in 2020, offers many varieties of traditionally crafted malts to home brewers and craft brewers. Importantly, they use organic grain for their malt.
“We feel strongly in organic agriculture in general and stewarding the land”
Previously, Aaron was a brewmaster for a small brewery in Alberta. However, with the explosion of craft brewers in 2015/16, the Hogarth’s decided that they wanted to do their own thing and Hogarth Malt was born. Alex tells us more about their process of malting and how they’re slowing things down by going old school.
Malting in 3 Steps
Step 1: Steeping
First, the Hogarths bring the malts onto their site where they are sorted for size — only the plumpest grains make it past this point. From there, they are put into a steep tank, where they are steep for 2 days on average. The steep tank puts the grains through cycles of soaking (in water) and aeration, allowing the water content of the grain to rise. At this point, they’re aiming for about 45% moisture content.
Step 2: Germination
Many craft malthouses use GK (germination kilning) vessels. These vessels contain large augers that slowly turn the grain. The kernels undergo modification, which breaks down the protein and carbohydrates, unlocking the seed’s starch reserves..
At Hogarth Malt, they do things a bit differently. Instead, they choose to use the traditional method called floor malting. “We have a 3000 square foot room where we lay out the grain on the floor”, Alex says, explaining their process of germination. Over the next 4 days, they turn the malt twice per day using a device similar to a rototiller. It’s powered with an e-bike motor that’s charged using solar panels on top of their house. “We call it the only solar powered malt turner.”
This method of floor malting gives them more hands-on control of their malting process. Alex explains: “If it’s getting too hot in the bed, [for example], if it’s a six inch bed, we’ll spread it out to two or three inches. Now it’s not going to build up heat as quickly…[and/or] maybe we turn it three times a day instead of two times a day to help dissipate the heat generating in the grain bed.”
Step 3: Drying
At this point, the grain is modified. To stop the process, it’s put into a kiln with the goal of drying it back down to 4% moisture.
This process of malting a batch of grain typically takes 6-7 days from start to finish.
Alberta currently has five small craft malters and two of the largest malters in the world: Rahr Malting and Canada Malting. Unlike other regions, many brewers in Alberta can claim that their malt is ‘local’, simply because a lot of that malt is made in Alberta. However, these big companies process about 450 tonnes of malt per batch, which is quite different from Hogarth Malt which processes one tonne per batch.
Hogarth Malt offers a “unique, small batch, artisanal product that can add a difference to the beer at the end of the day”, Alex says. “Most people try to buy their coffee roasted fresh. It’s kind of the same idea with malt…the fresher the better. You’re going to have the best taste and flavour coming out of it. The sooner it comes out of that kiln or roaster, the better.”
On top of this, Hogarth Malt purchases their grain from organic grain farmers and is in the process of becoming certified organic. “Most of the farmers who are going organic do it because they truly believe in it. They believe it is the best for their farms, soil, and operation.”
Similarly, the folks behind Hogarth Malt want to stay true to their values and goals of creating excellent products and for them, it means using organic grains. “We feel strongly in organic agriculture in general and stewarding the land; allowing nature to kind of do what nature does best and then just helping enhance that”, says Alex. “We want the product to shine for itself”.
Since their launch in 2020, Hogarth Malt has been catching the attention of craft brewers and home brewers alike. So the next time you’re in Calgary, Alberta, check out The Dandy Brewing Company and other craft brewers who use Hogarth Malt and taste the difference yourself!
Learn more about Hogarth Malt
Want to try your hand at growing organic grain? Apply for the Young Agrarians Apprenticeship Program to get hands-on experience on an organic grain farm!
Interested in learning more about growing organic and heritage grain? Check out this excellent webinar.