How to Malt

Henneberg Brewing Co. is different from the other breweries out there because I grow and malt my own barley. In fact less than 5% of breweries in NYS malt their own barley, even less than that also grow their own barley.

Malting barley is an amazing process that dates back as far as humans have been making beer. Every maltster has a different routine for malting. Each of these maltsters have many hours of trial and error to get the right combination in order to get the best efficiency possible. There are currently no small scale commercial malting systems on the market. If someone malts their own barley they either bought it from someone else or they made it themselves. I made all my own equipment. 
This beautiful transformation takes about 8 days, here it is in a nutshell:

First, you have to grow barley. This is me in my 3 acre barley field last summer.

Day 1
Once the barley has been harvested it is ready to malt. Raw barley or green barley must be thoroughly washed. Raw barley contains a lot of dirt and barley dust that is undesirable in beer.
After washing the barley it needs to be lightly dried. It then needs to be soaked. During the soaking phase the barley starts to soak up water. They soak up water through one little tiny hole on the bottom of the seed (the same spot where the roots will emerge). Once they soak up enough water they need to be dried again and then they are ready to germinate. If they soak up too much water they will drown and if they don't soak up enough they won't germinate properly.

Barley drying
Barley soaking in water

Day 3
After the barley has soaked up enough water they need to germinate. During the germination phase they start to grow roots as well as the plant stalk (the plant stalk is the part that would grow up out of the ground if planted in the soil). This initial plant stalk is called the acrospire. This is the most important part of the malting process. During germination the seed is naturally converting its complex sugars into a more usable form of sugar for the plant. This more usable form of sugar is what is extracted during the brewing process. Once the acrospire grows to 75% of the total length of the seed, the seed is said to be fully modified. If the malting process stops before the acrospire reaches 50% of the total length of the malt it is considered under modified. Temperature, humidity, depth of malt, and water content all effect the growth of the acrospire. During this phase the malt needs constant monitoring. The grains needs to be turned/flipped several times per day. The traditional maltsters in Scotland floor malt their barley. This means that during the germination phase they throw their malt on concrete floors. This technique has been effectively used for centuries without a problem.
Barley with the good root growth
Barley germinating on my raised concrete pads
Day 7-8
The final step in malting barley is very important. This is the drying and baking phase. Barley needs to be dried immediately in order stop the germination process. There are many different temperature ranges that achieve many different types of malt. Chocolate and black malts are burnt in order to develop their flavors: chocolate, coffee, roasted, marshmallow, toasted, and the list goes on and on.

In my mission to be as "Green" and earth friendly as possible I have one final step for my barley. After the barley is malted it gets used to make beer. I then give the spent grains to my chickens. They love it! The chickens in turn provide my family with delicious eggs and they provide excellent fertilizer for my hop plants.

I hope you enjoyed my lesson in malting barley. 100% of the base malt in my beers is malted right here at the brewery. You'll never have a fresher and more local beer than a beer from Henneberg Brewing Co. Enjoy! 


  1. Very informative! I'm moving to Caz next week and am looking forward to visiting the new tasting room. My homebrew equipment is riding in the car with me and not the movers. #preciouscargo

  2. Good to hear! #preciouscargo !

  3. Great tutorial. I have just started home brewing: got kits from Fishers. I am so happy that Madison County is developing a "beer trail." I am looking forward to visiting your new tasting room when it reopens in April. We have an old hop farm in town of Eaton (unfortunately, the hop kiln fell down a few decades ago.). Still have some feral hops in the hedgerows.