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Malt Insider: Investigating What Sets Floor Malt Apart

Could floor-malted barley provide an edge for your beers? It has old-fashioned charm and its share of fans, even if its differences with pneumatic malt are relatively subtle. However, new research is beginning to explore what makes floor-malted barley different.

Don Tse Apr 15, 2024 - 10 min read

Malt Insider: Investigating What Sets Floor Malt Apart Primary Image

“Tina Turner,” the malt turner on the floor at Admiral Maltings. Photo: John M. Verive.

As founder and brewmaster at San Francisco’s Magnolia Brewing since 1997, Dave McLean has brewed a lot of British-style ales for their handpumps, and he’s used a lot of British malt.

Over the years, he says, “we used a lot of Maris Otter from different maltsters. I came to love floor-malted versions of Maris Otter the best.”

The differences are relatively subtle, he says, but “every time I’d open a bag of floor-malted Maris Otter, I’d find a more complex aroma. This really came through in our beers, which are served warmer and with lower carbonation.”

To McLean, there was something special about floor-malted barley, and he long dreamed of having access to locally produced floor malt. That’s how he became one of the cofounders of Admiral Maltings in nearby Alameda. For craft breweries in California and others located increasingly farther up and down the West Coast and beyond, Admiral malts grain in a less automated, more traditional way on its three temperature-controlled floors.

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Don Tse is an internationally recognized beer writer and beer judge, working from his home base in the middle of North America’s barley belt.