Barley from Kangaroo Island makes the grade at Coopers Brewery

Malt barley from Kangaroo Island is flavour of the month at the Coopers Brewery malting plant.

Coopers has just finished bottling its Extra Strong Vintage Ale that exclusively uses KI malt barley supplied by KI Pure Grain.

In another success story for KI agriculture and cropping, the barley is going to make some of the best brews around Australia.

Doug Stewart is maltings manager at Coopers Brewery and said he was more than pleased with the quality of malt barley coming off the Island in recent seasons.

“It comes from a pristine environment, it something a little bit different and it is marketed as such,” Dr Stewart said.

The barley being used in the current production process over recent weeks is actually from last year’s harvest as it needs to sit and age for several months.

“It has a dormancy period and so its harvested in November December and we can’t use it until after April when it has matured,” Dr Stewart said.

Of the 55,000 tonnes of barley used by the state-of-the-art, high-tech Coopers Brewery malting plant each year, about one third of the malt produced was used to produced Coopers beer while two thirds was sold to other breweries around Australia and internationally.

Coopers purchased about 1000 tonnes of malt barley from Kangaroo Island to make malt for its Vintage Ale and also to sell as a high-end product for craft breweries.

And it was looking at getting a bit more next year, he said.

The Westminster variety of malt barley from Kangaroo Island was processed separately with the malt going specifically to make Coopers’ Vintage Extra Strong Ale.

The remaining KI malt is then sold to craft brewers around Australia.

It is a limited run done in three batches, each producing around 10 tonnes of malt or 30 tonnes all up.

“Brewers we have spoken to really appreciate knowing it comes from a pristine environment and it’s been greeted with a great deal of enthusiasm from the craft brewing industry,” Dr Stewart said.

The Westminster barley variety was actually older variety from the United Kingdom, also grown in cropping areas around Geelong, and it was suited to a more maritime climate.

The Vintage Ale for 2018 has just been bottled using the KI malt and Dr Stewart was hoping some of it could make it across to the Island so that the farmers could taste the fruits of their labour.

Dr Stewart visited the Island a few years ago when the relationship with supplier KI Pure Grain first began.

KI grain grower Neil Pontifex said the relationship was another great example of KI Pure Grain seeking out high-end markets.

“It’s being grown specially for a high-end market and proves we can produce things you can’t produce anywhere else in South Australia,” Mr Pontifex said.

Other examples were soft wheat going to Arnotts for Tim Tam biscuits, GM-free canola going to Japan and broad beans going to SE Asia.

If it was not for Coopers paying a premium for KI malt barley, there would not be any grown on the Island.

And the premium price paid helped negate the high transport cost of getting the product off KI, he said.

Malting 101

Barley is converted into malt by a manufacturing process that is essentially controlled germination. Once received at the malthouse, barley is cleaned and subsequently the production of malt includes three stages.

Steeping - In order to increase the moisture content of each barley grain from 10 per cent to 40 per cent, the barley is periodically immersed in water and aerated. The aeration provides the barley grain with oxygen and avoids grain suffocation. Steeping takes around 24 hours and involves two immersions in water separated by one air rest.

Germination - Triggered by the steeping process, the hydrated grains germinate under strictly controlled conditions. In a process taking approximately four days, the internal structure of the grain is transformed by biological processes to allow the carbohydrate in the grain to become available for hydrolysis during the brewing process. The maltster controls temperature, moisture, airflow and air reticulation. 

Kilning - Through the kilning process, the germinated grain, or green malt, is dried and cured by hot air. As part of the kilning process, the important flavour and colour compounds of malt are developed. Different kilning temperature profiles produce many different types of malt. For pale malt the temperature typically begins at 50⁰C and is completed at 80⁰C over a 20-hour period.

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