Podcast Episode 146: The Nuances and Complexities of Malt, with Richard Simpson of Simpson's Malt

The fifth-generation leader of this family-owned British malthouse discusses the ins and outs of barley, malting, heritage varieties like Golden Promise and Maris Otter, crop year challenges, crystallization and roasting, batch blending, and more.

Jamie Bogner Jul 31, 2020 - 5 min read

Podcast Episode 146: The Nuances and Complexities of Malt, with Richard Simpson of Simpson's Malt Primary Image

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The story of malt—from seed to field and harvesting, through the malting and kilning process, and into the tuns of brewers—is far more rich and varied than one might expect when looking at a bag of grain. In this episode, the fifth generation head of family-owned Simpsons Malt, Richard Simpson, sheds light on that story, discussing malt's life cycle in depth.

From the agronomic development of barley varieties to the background of popular varieties such as Golden Promise and Maris Otter, Simpson talks about what it takes to make barley varieties work (from farmer to malthouse to brewer), the ways in which they support agronomic diversity and brewing history, the impacts of specific malts in finished beers, the importance of sustaining heritage barley varieties that would otherwise fall out of favor with a purely agronomic-focused industry, and more.

The malting process itself is more involved and complex than most realize—like brewing, it’s more than just pushing buttons on a machine and taking whatever comes out the other side. Simpson discusses the unique ways in which they’ve designed and built their malthouse to accomplish certain goals. He celebrates the art and craft of master maltsters as they make process decisions that depend on crop year or differences in terroir, or they blend smaller batches of specialty roast malts for greater consistency.

In every brewing tradition, ingredients impact the development of beer styles, and that’s true whether the locale is Germany, Belgium, the UK, or the US. Here, Simpson talks about the ways that the unique flavors inherent in British malts have led to British beer tasting the way it does, and how brewers everywhere can use that in their own creative brewing pursuits.

This episode is brought to you by:

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Jamie Bogner is the Cofounder and Editorial Director of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®. Email him at [email protected].