K E N T U C KY ’ S F I R S T
M A L T I N G O P E R A T I O N WRITTEN BY TRIPP STIMSON
n Kentucky, making bourbon has long been a way of life, one that has allowed for craftsmen to create many different and unique products. These differences often come in the way of a grain bill or yeast strain, or different cooperage or bourbon blends. As a distiller and a craftsman, I too wanted to do things a little different and create unique products that would set us apart. While at the helm of Kentucky Artisan Distillery’s operations I began creating bourbon and rye grain bills consisting of locally grown grains. These grains were not just Kentucky grown, but grown right here in Oldham County just a mile down the road at Waldeck Farms. For a couple of years we made hundreds of barrels of bourbon and rye whiskey utilizing all locally grown grain except for a small percentage of grain that was the backbone of the fermentation process—malt. In traditional bourbon grain bills, malted barley is typically the smallest percentage of grain, yet it has arguably the greatest impact. Malted barley contains enzymes that are important in ensuring that the long chain starch molecules are converted into the smaller, easier to handle fermentable sugars. Without these enzymes, the yield will be low, there will be lots of waste, and the final product will suffer. Malted barley, as well as other grains, is made in huge quantities by large commercial companies who have invested large sums of money in equipment that creates a highly modified malted grain
with a high consistency. The highly modified, consistent malted grains ensure that with each seed used there is a maximum amount of enzyme available. Consistently achieving this high level of modification while avoiding all of the potential pitfalls is what makes malting such a difficult and tedious craft. While making bourbon and rye whiskey day in and day out at the distillery I am constantly thinking of innovative ways to set us apart from all of the other players in the game. Since all of our raw materials, other than the malt, were already coming from Oldham County, Kentucky, malting my own grain was the logical next step. Having done plenty of research on malting at this point, I was well aware of the difficulties in creating a highly modified, consistent malted grain. However, I have always liked a good challenge. So, well aware of the challenge in front of me, we planted five acres of barley and off I went putting together a plan to build Kentucky’s first modern malting operation, hopefully before harvest. History tells us that the traditional maltsters used a floor malting process which required someone turning grain by hand with a rake or shovel. Historically, this has been a very effective method, yet one that is very physically demanding. With an innovative attempt to do things a little differently I began looking into all of the ways people were malting and found that there are many ways to effectively malt grains. Companies were using towers, saladin boxes, drums, WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
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