When you drink a beer do you ever stop to think where the ingredients for that beer come from? If not, you should take a few minutes and do that! Beer is a food product and comes from natural ingredients like barley malt, wheat, and hops. The grain for malt is grown all over, especially here in the Midwest, where we have lots of great cropland. I believe that Rahr Malting is the biggest single-site malting facility in the USA, and is located right in Shakopee, MN. Several members of Jack Of All Brews Homebrew Club work at Rahr and Brewer's Supply Group and have been kind enough to give tours of the facility. This place is enormous, with its own water treatment plant and railyard.
The unmalted grains come in from rail and are steeped in warm water to germinate, simulating wet spring conditions that encourage the seeds to start growing into plants.
After a couple of days the grain is transferred to these long beds that are periodically stirred up with gargantuan augers, and continue to grow rootlets and plump up.
After they have reached the right stage, they are transferred to the kilns and roasted to the specifications of the maltsters and brewers. More time in the kiln results in a darker grain. The majority of the malt coming through here is lighter 2-row or 6-row for the larger brewers, but more craft brewers are having specific malt or blends made from Rahr too. Once the grains are fully dried, they are run on giant conveyor belts to the trucks or rail cars. The amount of grain here is mind-boggling and the pictures lack the scale of this operation.
Think about the time, effort and skill it takes to create that basic ingredient in your beer. Trust me, you will appreciate the final product all the more! I use a lot of Rahr malt in my home-brews, and many of my favorite commercial beers use it, such as Summit and Magic Hat.
|The best view of Shakopee, from on top of the facility|
|Let's get "arty"|