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Red Shed Malting

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

Since Bernard Hamill moved his wife, Madge, and their six young children from Ireland to Canada in 1929, the Hamill family has been living and growing barley in Penhold, Alberta. Today, the farm is on its fourth generation and expanding their business. John and Susie Hamill have teamed up with their sons Matt and Joe to take their barley production to the next level. With Joe brewing his own beer and John carrying on the tradition of growing world-class malt barley, the idea for Red Shed Malting was born.

Matt, Daelyn, Joe, John, and Susie Hamill

“[We asked ourselves], ‘how do we get dad’s barley into Joe’s beer?’” says Matt Hamill. “And malting [was] obviously the important step there.”

Matt Hamill got his start in malting by attending the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre in Winnipeg. He also received a Nuffield Farming Research Scholarship in 2017, where he was able to travel the world and learn more about malting best practices. Through his excursions, Hamill gained an appreciation for the central Alberta climate.

“Barley is an Albertan success story,” says Hamill. “Before I got into malting, I thought barley could grow anywhere, but [Alberta] really is the place to grow barley. The long summer days, cool nights, and the rainfall that we get—it’s perfect for barley. It’s perfect for getting malt-grade consistently.”

But growing malt-grade barley is only the beginning of the process. In 2014, Red Shed Malting was incorporated and the marriage of farming and malting began. Once the barley is harvested from the family farm and cleaned, it is then brought to the malt house to be put through the malting process.

“The malting process is steeping, increasing moisture and germination, which is [a] kind of chemical reaction to get some of the attributes that we want in a malt,” says Hamill. “Then [it is] kilned, which is stopping that whole process and drying it down so it’s a shelf stable product].”

Perfecting the science of creating high-quality malts is no small task, and the business has made a name for both its base and specialty malts.

“With our base malts, we keep them variety specific,” says Hamill. “We let some of the flavours and attributes from that variety of barley and the terroir, which it has been grown in, come through in the finished product.”

With the specialty malts, it’s the way the barley is roasted that really allows it to stand out. The craftsmanship behind finding the right time and temperature is an art unto itself.

“The specialty malts are going to give the flavour, aroma, and colour [to the beer],” says Hamill. “They’re kind of the spices. With our roaster . . . we can start making malt taste like biscuits, crackers, Cheerios, coffee, or chocolate. Just [by changing the] time and temperature, no other [added] flavours, we can really start getting creative with these beers.”

Today, the family remains active in their community, partnering with local breweries and growing up alongside them.

“We like to be the connector in [the] story,” says Hamill. “We help the breweries and distilleries put a face to the ingredients they’re using.”

In fact, each bag of malt from Red Shed Malting includes the story of the farmer, the field where the grain comes from, and the type of malt.

Ultimately, Hamill states that Red Shed Malting has one main goal.

“[We want to] make more beer styles possible out of only Canadian ingredients.”

This has been a Home Grown segment, brought to you by connectFirst Credit Union, showcasing Alberta producers, artisans, and farming communities.

Watch Matt Hamill’s full video interview here.


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