Get To Know PEI's Shoreline Malting
This past week I got to sit down with Shoreline Malting's John Webster. We met at the Stillwell Freehouse and as he was contemplating what to order I unknowingly suggested a pilsner on tap that actually used his malts, the latest batch of Stilly Pils! After talking for about an hour I realized I have tasted Shoreline malts in tons of local offerings as of late. The reason I start this blog post off mentioning that is because it shows the quality of the malts that this trio is producing. Local brewers are opting for Shoreline Malts over German malts for German-style beers... that is a huge showing of trust. They should trust Shoreline, our chat left me very impressed with just how much research and preparation they have done to get their malts to the high level they have reached. I hope you all enjoy the interview and when you are done don't forget to drop them a follow @shorelinemalting on Instagram as they do some interesting malt educational posts as well.
What brought you into the malting business? Tell us a little bit about yourself?
There are three partners, Jansen Clark, Trent Caseley, and myself. This all started more than 5 years ago. I grew up on PEI and there was lots of barley grown but it was for feed. I thought malt barley was possible because milling grade wheat is grown on PEI but nobody had really done malt before. At the same time I was looking at malting grains, Trent and Jansen had started looking at it as well. The farm community on PEI is relatively small and it was my cousins that ended up connecting Jensen, Trent and I and we decided to work together towards our goal. The three of us also bring different skills to the table.
Trent runs a multi-generational family farm. Having farming expertise was very important to us as there is a steep learning curve growing a new crop that has such high quality standards. Jensen was interested in taking on the role of being the Maltster and running that side of things. My role is being the main communicator to brewers, talking about our product and what it can bring to local craft beer. For me, I love Craft beer the first craft beer I ever had was Granite’s Peculiar, while I was doing my undergrad in the city. I have been drinking craft for over 20 years so this has always been an interest to me and I do think local malt can bring something to what is already a great local industry.
When we started Shoreline we weren’t worried about pushing being local. When we looked at what brewers needed it was quality and consistency at the top of the list. Innovation and collaboration came next because the reason this industry keeps growing is innovation, brewers are constantly trying new things. Local came third, we don’t expect brewers to compromise on lesser quality malt in order to support local. So from the beginning we have always been focused on producing a top quality and consistent malt and we want to collaborate with breweries that have the same drive to create top quality and consistent beers.
Are you only growing barley at Shoreline or are you growing other grains as well?
Trent has been growing malt barley since 2014, he has been growing it since before I met him to dial it in to local conditions. Trent also grows wheat, we produce a pale wheat malt today. We would be malting oats this year but Hurricane Dorian wreaked havoc with that. We’ve grown rye as well and have tried our hand at spelt but of course there is a learning curve so we’ll have to try again at that. We are very interested in trying to grow the whole spectrum of all the conventional brewing grains.
What barley varietals do you grow? Are there any experimental ones you are excited about?
To date we’ve grown about seven but this crop year we have 4 in the ground. When we try out a variety we are planting a minimum of about 10 acres to get it at a big enough scale to get a true understanding of how it will perform in our conditions. We have been taking an approach where we try four at a time and cycle out underperforming varieties. We have also found that growing multiple varieties of barley have given us the ability to do different things, for instance we have a variety right now that has a much lighter seed coat than others so we can nail down such a light Pilsner malt at 1.5SRM, another example is some varieties are a bit meatier for lack of a better term, so these would stand up better to barrel aging program, etc.
One of the Canadian heritage barleys Trent has grown is Harrington, Harrington was one of the barleys that proved to Europeans that we could grow 2-row malt barley and export it. Harrington is the father to most of the more modern Canadian malt barleys.
What types of malt do you produce?
In terms of our malts we are producing a Pils (1.5 SRM,) European Style Pale (2.5 SRM,) a Vienna (4.5 SRM,) a light Munich (7.1 SRM,) a dark Munich (10 SRM,) and Pale Wheat (2.5 SRM) based on red wheat. As well as raw wheat for brewers that are brewing with raw grains. We are not trying to clone anything outright but we are certainly chasing the best malts of the world in terms of quality.
What type of climate does PEI have and how is it for growing barley?
One of the biggest challenges that we have is most of the plant breeding research in growing barley in Canada has been geared towards Western Canada so you are looking at a climate that does not have as high humidity but does have hotter, drier summers. I would argue that we are having hotter, drier summers now, that is a real thing, and that is actually working to our advantage but the level of humidity here is our biggest challenge. We avoid any problems with that by testing our barley before it even makes it to the malt house.
When it comes to terroir we are just starting to try and explore that now. In the local craft brewing scene, brewers are just starting to dive into the cleaner styles which really showcase technique but also ingredients, like pilsner and lager. Which are styles that show malt being a bit more dominant and coming forward. In the absence of a heavy kilning regime, you are getting some of that flavour. The feedback that we get is that our process is mitigating Di-methyl sulfide which is the creamed corn-like off flavour that’s precursor is found often in lightly kilned malt. Other feedback we get is that our base malts are very clean and can stand alone in a pilsner but is not very “shouty”. We have noticed that there is some variety differences that we are testing side by side in Single Malt and Single Hop (SMASH) tastings.
Are there any beer locally available that showcase your malts?
2 Crows Brewing – Milosh Helles
2 Crows Brewing – Run by Night
2 Crows Brewing - Waltz
Stillwell Brewing – Stilly Pils
North Brewing – We Do Helium
North Brewing x Tatamagouche Brewing – Cool Melon Watermelon Kolsch
North x Propeller – Wing Ding Lithuanian Pale Ale
Boxing Rock – Puck Off Lagered Ale
And more to come!