Weyermann Maltings: German Roots, Global Reach

Feature by | Aug 2010 | Issue #43

Photo by Amy Hardy

Weyermann Specialty Malt, one of Germany’s oldest malting companies, sits on the city limits of Bamberg, Germany. What started as “a tiny shop under a tarp lean-to in downtown Bamberg,” as fourth-generation co-owner Sabine Weyermann puts it, is now the world’s largest organic malt producer, supplying more than 80 different types of malts to clients in 115 countries—and they’re still evolving.

Weyermann Maltings was founded in 1879 by Johann Baptist Weyermann. “[My great-great grandfather’s] only products then were coffee substitutes, which he made from malt and fruit in a handmade cranked roasting drum,” Sabine says. “The company was named the Mich.Weyermann Malt Coffee Factory, after his father, a Bamberg grain merchant.”

From the company’s inception, they’ve kept a step ahead of the rest by spearheading product innovations and leading the way in technology. “We have, since 1903, developed products such as our Sinamar, a liquid color malt extract made from de-husked and thus de-bittered roasted malt … [which] adheres to both the Reinheitsgebot and organic requirements,” says Sabine’s husband and Weyermann co-owner Thomas Kraus-Weyermann.

In 1904, Weyermann was the first malting company to install a Galland malting and roasting drum that allowed for the best heat and moisture control available at the time. Over the years, ecological improvements, such as after-burners for gaseous emissions of the roasting drums, have been implemented.

In 1993, a new malting plant was installed inside Weyermann’s historical brownstone buildings, including two 60-ton steeping tanks, three germinating chambers and a kiln. A year later, a fully automated process-controlling system for monitoring, adjusting and documenting the entire malting chain, from receiving to shipping, was installed. In 1999, the system was tied in to an integrated computerized data system. Perhaps the only thing that has stayed the same at the plant is its red brick facade, which has been preserved over the years—and as I toured the plant with longtime employee and plant manager Jüergen Buhrmann, I could see his delight and pride as he revealed the improvements already installed and the progression of new and ongoing projects.

In the ’70s, Kraus-Weyermann says their peak annual shipping volume was about 22,000 metric tons; today, Weyermann ships about 80,000 metric tons of malt per year, about 60 percent of which is exported. Most beers made in the world contain at least some Weyermann malt to enhance their color and flavor.

“I think the phenomenal growth of our maltings company in the 1980s and 1990s is attributed to the result of rapid technological changes,” Kraus-Weyermann says. “Between the fall of Communism and the use of the computer as an industrial and marketing tool, our reach has increased very much.”

As a homebrewer, I was pleased to have been shown the small pilot brewery on the Weyermann’s premises. A skeleton staff of brewers create 66-gallon pilot batches of various beer styles. At the time of my visit, there were four beers available, including Schlotfegerla (a smoked wheat beer), Landbier (a Porter with a touch of smoke), Rauchweizen (another variation of a smoked wheat beer containing 35 percent wheat malt) and another smoked beer, aptly named Weyermann Smoked Porter. All four beers were brewed to showcase Weyermann Beechwood Rauch malts.

Other than base grain, Weyermann offers dozens of specialty malts including Pilsner, Vienna, Munich, Melanoidin and Wheat in pale, dark and caramel varieties, CaraMunich, CaraVienne and rye malt. Smoked malt, acidulated, roasted rye and a variety of Carafa malts and other various extraordinary specialty malts are also available. Carapils is a Weyermann’s registered trademark malt that was first developed in 1908, and is the first protected brand name in the malting industry worldwide.

And what exactly is the malting process? Raw grains (predominately two-row grains) are steeped in an aqueous solution at a particular temperature. These warm, wetted malt grains produce a sprout, or “acrospire,” which partially germinates, allowing the seed’s resources to become available for brewing beer. In this process, enzymes are produced, proteins and carbohydrates are created and broken down, and starches are made available for the brewer’s touch. This process is called modification. Typically, fully modified malt will have a germinated sprout roughly the same size as the length of the seed. The germination is subsequently halted by a drying and curing process. If the seed continued on with its growth, the germinating plant would use up its stores of starch in its growth process. The plant’s life is actually cut short by the malting process… our sympathies to the germinating barley.

A Primer on Malted Barley and Wheat
The following is a brief overview of a few commonly used malted wheats and barleys, and typical beers that incorporate them. The level of color is designated by the term “Degrees Lovibond,” with elevating numbers meaning increased color, which range from Light Wheat at 1–2° L. to Carafa III at 488–563° L. Caramelization and roastiness are two flavor parameters produced as a result of prolonged roasting times. Brewers use their artistic license and experience using these various roasted grains to produce beers with individual characteristics. The combinations are limitless.

Pale Ale Malt | 2.6–3.5°L | Used as a base grain for most styles of beer
Pilsner Malt | 1.4–1.8°L | Base grain for most styles, especially Pilsner
Vienna Malt | 2.3–3.5°L | Specialty malt for Vienna Lager, Oktoberfest, Bockbier
Light Munich Malt | 5–6°L | Bockbier, Oktoberfest, German Lager, caramel flavors
Melanoidin | 23–30°L | Specialty malt, German Lager, Oktoberfest, Bockbier
CaraMunich I | 30–48°L | Specialty malts, flavors of caramel, raisin, dark fruits
Light Wheat | 1–2°L | Hefeweizen, supplemental malt, tart flavors
Dark Wheat | 6–8°L | Dunkelweizen, Witbier, specialty malt
Smoked Malt | 2–3.5°L | Rauchbier (Smoked Beer), specialty malt
Cara Aroma | 300–400°L | Stout, specialty malt, dry coffee-like flavors
Acidulated Malt | 1.5–2°L | Used with other malts to acidify the mash
Dehusked Carafa series | 300–488°L | Used as a debittered coloring malt 

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