John G’s Jibber Jab- Why Do U.S. brewers care less about malt?


Industry treasure & Drake’s Head Brewer John Gillooly has a lot of opinions. He will also share them at will (trust us). So, we’ve decided to share his opinions with you nice blog readers. And with’s post about the romance behind malt, we thought his thoughts on malts from the May 2014 newsletter would make a perfect companion:

When I talk to other brewers, we often get quickly to hops – “Have you tried EXP 01210? What do you think of Azzaca? How are your Simcoes this year?”

We will talk about the nuances of early harvest vs. late harvest, ask about the newest hops coming out of Germany (Mandarina? Polaris?), and New Zealand (Waimea? Rakau?). We talk about dry-hopping techniques (do you drop the yeast first? at what temperature?), and the evolving technology of hop extraction. But we never get that deep with malt.

If you ask a brewer what’s in their silo, you’re most likely to get a brand name – Great Western or Rahr, most likely, or maybe something “fancy” like a German Pilsner malt, or British Pale ale. But ask them if they know the variety of malt, well, maybe the British malt guys know (Maris Otter, Golden Promise, etc..), but otherwise, we aren’t paying attention to that.

IMG_6712The majority of malt Americans buy is domestic malt that is blended to meet certain technical criteria. The varieties can change. Currently, my silo contains a blend of Meredith, Copeland and Metcalfe. I know little about any of those varieties. If we were British brewers we would be talking about malt every bit as much we do hops – is Golden Promise “sweeter” than Maris Otter? Do you like Halcyon? But here? Can you imagine if brewers just bought hops on their specs? What do your choices become – American hops- citric, American hops- pine, British hops- earthy, Pilsner hops? Crazy.
It is a real curiosity to me that this is how those two markets evolved, and I am frankly surprised that we as brewers accept it. And where are the suppliers trying to sell me an “heirloom” malt variety? Why is no one planting Maris Otter in America?

:dismounts soapbox:

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  1. I would love to talk to you about our company and what we’re accomplishing in the craft malt scene down here in Texas. We not only use 100% Texas grown and farmed grains, but we are traditionally floor malting it. We have created an entire market with malting barley in Texas farms and have expanded growth from a couple hundred thousand pounds to a few million in just over a year.