Weirdly the first I had heard of New Zealand’s Gladfield Malt was through an American podcast called The Session. Husband and wife team Doug and Gabi Michael did a great interview and I was intrigued to hear more. Thankfully Australian Brews News came to my rescue with their own interview.
But still I wanted more so I emailed Gladfield Malt and was stoked to get a reply. For a number of weeks it seems like the calendar gods were intent on preventing us from chatting but finally Gabi and I managed to catch up on Skype.
Before I go on I just want to recommend listening to the interviews on The Session and Australian Brews News because I deliberately didn’t chat with Gabi about things like their malting operations and how Gladfield started because I feel they were extensively covered in these previous interviews.
A huge thank you to Gabi for chatting with me for more than an hour! I hope one day to take her up on her kind offer to visit Gladfield.
a passion for malt …
It’s clear that Gabi is passionate about malt from the way she talks about what her and Doug have achieved in their 11 years of running Gladfield.
“Without good malt, the yeast won’t do anything and the hops will taste bad without the balance provided from the malts,”
Gabi Michael, Gladfield Malt
Whilst beer lovers will discuss hops at length malt often gets overlooked and hence Gabi and Doug often refers to malt as “the forgotten heroes”. As an industry we frequently call out the hop variety in a beer, we discuss where it’s from, how it came about, what other beers are using it but when it comes to malt we rarely bother with anything beyond what type of malt is used. Time for that to change!
really great malt …
According to Gabi, the important question to ask when it comes to malt is: “What barley did they use?”
Hops only grow under specific conditions which is why you don’t see hop farms popping up all over the world. Hops need the right climate and the right conditions. Malt might not be quite as picky but where the malt is grown is still a significant factor to the end result.
“We pride ourselves on growing the best barley in the world,” Gabi says referring to Canterbury barley growers. This is where Gladfield is located, where all their barley comes from, and the area has a reputation for growing some of the best quality barley and wheat. It is Canterbury’s maritime climate that provides optimal conditions that result in grain that is fat and ripe. Gladfield not only grow their own barley but they take in barley from other farms in the Canterbury area, supporting their local farmers and confident that the grain they are getting is the best quality.
“Our quest is to be selling unique malts because they come from a unique area.”
Like almost everything in craft beer, it’s freshness that will separate good malt from great malt.
As Gladfield grow the barley and get it direct from local farmers, as well as malting it and then also selling and distributing it, Gladfield are uniquely placed. From growing to selling, they’re in control and it leads to a level of service that is a cut above.
Gabi told me a story about a brewer who had been using their malt and had come to them and asked, “can you tweak this?” and Gladfield were more than happy to help. The result was the creation of their American Ale Malt that Gabi says is perfect for brewing big West Coast IPAs because the malt is mild in the flavour, allowing the hops to shine but still providing a rich body and the colour needed for such that beer style.
It’s this sort of open dialogue between brewer and maltster that Gabi loves and when I asked Dave Bonighton, co-founder and chief brewer of Melbourne’s Mountain Goat, he echoed much the same.
“I like the way we have direct lines of connection from barley grower, maltster to salesperson – they’re the same people!”
Dave Bonighton, Mountain Goat Brewery
Mountain Goat have used Gladfield’s speciality malts in their Rare Breed beers. For instance their India Red Ale brewed in early 2014 used Gladfield’s Redback. “It gave our India Red Ale an amazing deep, blood red colour and a sensational caramel/toffee flavour to boot,” Dave said.
Speciality malts have only been in the Gladfield Malt portfolio for the last three years and Gabi says it’s a fine balancing act to produce base and speciality malts. Though the speciality malts are not significant volume they are still a significant part of the Gladfield family, they even have a pilot brewery on site to help them develop new malts.
Not all malt is the same …
Malt isn’t all the same and so it won’t behave the same either. For Gabi using Gladfield Malt is like driving a Ferrari. “I love saying that,” Gabi laughs. It means there is also a degree of education involved when Gabi goes out and talks about Gladfield Malt. In time Gabi hopes to add a section to the website to aid brewers in getting the most from their malt.
a few beers to try …
Keen to drink some beers that use Gladfield Malt? Mountain Goat’s Rare Breed beers often use Gladfield speciality malts as do Moon Dog Brewery. Cavalier Brewing use only Gladfield for their brews and Rocks Brewing Co in Sydney also use a portion of Gladfield across their range.
Moon Dog and Mountain Goat beers can be found at good craft beer shops like Mane Liquor and Cellarbrations Carlisle | Como Liquor, The Wine Box Shenton Park, Rosemount Hotel, Liquor Barons Carlisle, Thirsty Camel High Wycombe, Liquor Barons Swanbourne and Cellarbrations Como are stocking Rocks Brewing bottles and the Rocks Governor Golden Ale is currently pouring at Hotel Northbridge.
For those WA home brewers out there, all grain brewing supplier Urban Brewer WA is bringing in Gladfield Malt.