Palatia Malz’s malthouses in Wallertheim and Kreimbach-Kaulbach start to get busy at harvest time: Tractors chug as farmers from the region queue up to deliver their freshly harvested brewing barley. Most have only limited storage capacity and are eager to hand over their crops as quickly as possible. Palatia Malz offers extended opening times for deliveries during this period, even at weekends. This is when the most important raw material that forms the basis for all of the company’s products arrives at the plant. Not all beer fans are aware that outstanding malt or beer requires excellent brewing barley.
Growing brewing barley is not easy
The company processes 90,000 tons of barley and other grains every year to make its base and specialty malts. It gets the raw materials from different sources, for example from agricultural and wholesale trade or from cooperatives. However, cultivating outstanding brewing barley is by no means straightforward. That’s why for three generations now, the family-owned business from Heidelberg has championed the cultivation of brewing barley and the interests of local farmers. After all, some of the barley used to make malt comes directly from local farmers.
As Michael Huber, Head of Purchasing, explains, “At the same time, our suppliers have to meet strict criteria, because brewing barley is complicated to grow. For example, years with little rain produce smaller grains.” Deliveries are screened to ensure that 90 percent of the grains are at least 2.5 millimeters. All barley grains smaller than 2.2 millimeters are rejected and can only be sold as animal feed at a considerably lower price.
Brewing barley is a premium product
Only certain, especially cultivated types of barley are suitable for brewing. For example, they must produce high yields for the farmer, be resistant to disease, and have sturdy stems. Good malting and brewing properties are also important to ensure problem-free processing later on. These include the protein content, germination potential and dissolving properties. In Germany, the Malting Barley Association (Braugerstengemeinschaft) identifies and recommends the most suitable varieties of brewing barley every year in its “Berlin Program”.
Varietal purity for higher quality
In Wallertheim, Palatia Malz currently only processes spring barley varieties, while in Kreimbach-Kaulbach, winter barley as well as wheat and organic grains are also used. This makes storage and logistics more complicated, explains Michael Huber: “Both plants malt only one variety at a time, which means keeping different types of grain or varieties of brewing barley separate during intake, storage and malting. That’s because each variety has different characteristics in the malting process, for example regarding the amount of water they need for germination or the temperature in the kilning process. Varietal purity is therefore essential for high-quality malt.”
Direct link to producers
Palatia Malz has worked with most farmers in the region for many years and gets information on the quality of the barley crop each year first-hand. Shortly before harvest time, the purchasing department and management visit the farms to take stock of the state of the crop.