Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Another Step in the Craft Brew Revolution: In-House Malting

"Engineering grad student Joe Hortnagl led the malter design/build team. He's explaing how the rotaing augur keeps the barley seed bed from turning into one giant mat.."  Photo and Text Credit: John Foyston 

I can see the future: craft breweries touting their small-batch house-malt beers.  It may soon be possible thanks to some industrious Beaver of Oregon State University.

John Foyston, writing for the Oregonian has the story of the OSU malter:

A group of Oregon State University engineering students didn't wait to graduate before endowing their alma mater: For their senior project, they designed and built an innovative barley malter that allows OSU to now teach every step of brewing, from barley field and hop yard to bottling line.

"It's the bread machine of barley malters," said professor Pat Hayes of OSU's Crop and Soil Science department. The malter, which looks a bit like a half-ton stainless steel rocket motor, automates and consolidates the task of steeping, germinating and kilning barley to make barley malt.

Graduate student and team leader Joe Hortnagl and mechanical engineering seniors Aaron Mason, Tyler Froemming, Eric Sunderland and Curtis Barnard designed and built a machine into which you can pour raw barley, set the computer and come back in about a week to shovel out as much as 300 pounds of fragrant, toasty, Grape-Nuts-tasting barley malt.

In reality, it's a bit more fussy than that, but the students' flexible and affordable rig has piqued the interest of commercial maltsters and food companies that use sprouted grain.

If they can perfect the technology and make it reasonably idiot proof, malting in-house on a small scale might become the newest-latest trend in craft brewing and in brewpubs.

In fact the lovely aroma of malting barley might be a nice little addition to the local brewpub.

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