Perhaps the most important stage of malting is barley procurement. Bairds Malt procures more than 85% of its malting barley at harvest time. Only malting grade barley is purchased. It is very carefully inspected on intake, dried in our own driers and segregated by variety. The storage conditions are very carefully controlled and monitored. Barley is only released for malting when it has reached its optimum vigour.
With an annual malt capacity of approximately 255,000t malt, we need to ensure that we have enough quality barley to service that production requirement – approximately 330,000t of raw barley. This necessitates strong links with local farmers and merchants in the surrounding areas to supply the sites with the right barley varieties that will meet our customers' high expectations. This barley, combined with the water and energy demands of the sites, represents our raw material requirement for the finished malt product. We work continually to make intelligent grain marketing decisions and push to get maximum efficiency from each of our production sites in order to give us value and ultimately the best quality for our customers.
Integral to this whole process is the work that we have done for generations alongside our growers. Year on year, we hold our own private growing trials in order to identify new varieties and most importantly ensure that we’re working alongside our suppliers to maintain a sustainable industry.
From Drill to Still…
One of our core values at Bairds Malt is sustainability. We consider this aspect throughout the entire process starting from the initial seed selection that goes in the ground to when the glass is filled with the final product. A key part of our sustainability mission are the Spring Barley Trial Plots we organise each year. Identical sets of Spring lines are trialled in tandem across two different geographies in Scotland to assess how these new varieties compare with the current mainstream commercial varieties under different growing conditions. This provides benefits to all the key stakeholders in the supply chain from our suppliers, the farmers, right through to our customers, the brewers and distillers. It enables us to be at the forefront of the assessment programme for new varieties coming through the plant breeding system for the industry.
Our agronomists analyse the full growth cycle of each line and provide detailed information to farmers on the agronomic qualities of the varieties. This process identifies the strengths or weaknesses on disease resistance, standing power, maturity, brackling and all agronomic factors that influence a variety’s suitability to withstand Scottish growing conditions.
Once harvested, samples of the trial varieties are submitted to our central laboratory in Arbroath for testing. A full analysis suite of barley and subsequent malt analysis is generated on each variety. These data sets provide initial valuable information on potential brewing and distilling quality.
Working in partnership with breeders we have the potential to be ahead of the curve in varietal selection, whilst providing an important impartial insight for farmers and final end users alike. This evaluation system has already identified a number of Pot Still and High enzyme yielding varieties that are now fully utilised by BML for commercial distilling malt production and purchased each year through our barley contracting programme.
We understand that communication and knowledge are important considering there are so many variables between crop years. The weather can impact both the quality of barley and market pressures, so we have introduced The Barley Forecast as a means to keep our customers informed of what is happening in and on the ground.