On a recent trip across the pond to the UK, BSG CraftBrewing’s John Guzman – Southern US Sales Manager, Chris German - Midwest Sales Manager, Laura Hansen - Director of Supply Chain and I had the pleasure of visiting Crisp Malting Group at their Great Ryburgh malting facility, visiting the Maris Otter “Mother-field”, and taking in the sites of Cambridge while enjoying some stellar UK beers.
Our tour guides from Crisp for the day were Euan Macpherson - Group Managing Director, Rob Moody - Director Group Logistics & Craft Brewing, Steve LePoidevin - Sales Director, and Jake Lambert - Maltings Manager. There wasn’t a question that couldn’t be answered, or aspect of the malting facility that couldn’t be explained.
We started off right way with one of the areas used for floor malting. At one time the facility was one of the largest floor malting sites in Europe. It’s now become one of the largest and most efficient malting plants in the UK, producing 115,000 tons of finished malt per annum.
After raking the floor malt a bit, and taking in the history that comes along with a building from the 1850’s, we headed to the weighing station, labs, R & D area and warehouses. We hadn’t even begun to look at the where the bulk of the malt is produced and we were already in awe!
The scale and modernization of the facility was impressive to say the least, and to witness how so much Maris Otter and other premium UK malts are made certainly gave us a greater appreciation for the process, technique and people that create the great malt of Crisp Malting Group. One of the aspects that makes the Great Ryburgh facility so special is that is situated in the heart of the prime barley growing region of the UK, North Norfolk, which allows this facility to take in high quality barley directly from growers, not far from the field. In so many ways, this malting facility and the surrounding community are built on the growing of barley, malting and the breweries that use the malt to make beer; a full circle of economic prosperity, community building and sustainability.
After a thorough tour of the facility, we were far from over with the day’s events. Steve had secured the location of the Maris Otter “Mother-field”, and we were going to say hi. This field if referred to as the Mother-field because it’s where Maris Otter was first grown. It is now a Pre-Basic field, which means it’s the first stage of the multiplication process of propping up seeds for commercial use.
Barley seeds go through 5 steps before they are ready to be used for commercial growing. Seeds first come from breeders as Breeder Seed, this is then grown into barley to create Pre-Basic seed, the Pre-Basic seeds are then used to grow Basic Seed, then to C1 seed, then to C2 seed and finally the seeds collected from the C2 plantings becomes the seeds used for growing the commercial malting barley. Whew! That’s a long journey before it’s even considered to be used to create malt, much less beer.
This process speaks to the work being done behind the scenes; all along the way the seed is analyzed to ensure it’s a single variety, and the seed is meeting strict quality standards. The seed breeders, merchants, farmers, and maltsters all play a critical role in making sure that quality barley makes it’s way to the malt house.
Quality and consistency are just as important upstream from the brewery, as it is downstream to the beer drinker. From farm to table, the same tenets that signify success are true for everyone. If you’re making and/or enjoying a great beer, make sure to thank a farmer!
After a full day of malt houses and budding Maris Otter fields, it was time to head to the lovely and historic city of Cambridge. It was a first time for many of us, and Steve and Rob from Crisp made sure we had a fantastic evening of activities; floating on a punt while taking in the sites of the University, drinking at a few famous pubs, and having a wonderful meal that paired some serious meat dishes with some splendid real ales.
Truly a day and night to remember.
We hold a great deal of value, respect and appreciation for our suppliers, in large part because they make, produce and provide some of the world’s best brewing ingredients. And with those ingredients, brewers around the US are making beers that are setting new standards of quality, flavor and innovation world-wide. But in equal parts, we hold them in such high regard because they share our principles of building success on quality, people, partnerships and love of great beer. BSG is proud to represent and distribute Crisp Malting Group here in the US, and we know our customers appreciate using their world-class malts.
Cheers to great beers made from select ingredients,
Jake Keeler – BSG Market Manager