DANISH MALT FOR ALL THE WORLD’S BEER
BEER BREWING: Nowhere else does barley grow better than in Denmark. And since barley is the best cereal for beer brewing, Denmark has become a large exporter of quality malt barley
In some places in the world, the climate is better for growing rice, in others for sugar cane and others again for barley. Neither rice nor sugar cane grow well in Denmark. But barley does, and that is one of the reasons why Denmark is among the world giants in beer brewing. Beer requires malt, and the best malt is made from Danish malt barley which is exported to most of the world. From the Asahi breweries in Japan and the Caribbean to Becks in Germany. And the exporter is the local Fuglsang Brewery in Haderslev, Denmark. In addition to brewing beer for the local region, the Fuglsang family also runs Denmark’s largest malt factory with production in Haderslev and Thisted.
“The vast majority of more than 150,000 tonnes annually is exported,” says director Kim Fuglsang. “That corresponds to about 3 billion bottles of beer. Although Danes are beer drinkers, they practice moderation, so only 15% of our production is used in Denmark, where by and large all breweries are purchasers. The other 85% is exported to most of the world.”
A normal harvest in Denmark produces around 3 million tonnes of spring barley, most of which is used for pig feed. But some farmers are specialising in growing malt barley which is highly suited to the climate. Danish malt barley yields a relatively low protein content and correspondingly higher content of starch, which is part of defining quality malt barley.
“It is a basic, low-tech product that has been made in the same way for centuries,” says Kim Fuglsang. “The reason why we have grown to our large size and are approved by breweries throughout the world, is solely because of our quality and ability to meet the requirements of the various breweries for their special mixtures. It requires craftsmanship and understanding of the living organism of malt barley. Of course we use the latest technology, including high-tech measuring equipment and automated production equipment. But the feeling in the fingertips which comes from long experience cannot be simulated by computers. That needs real people.”
As Kim Fuglsang puts it, the malt master’s “ability to read life in the germination box,” is what decides the quality. When the barley comes from the farmer’s cereal stock it is cleaned, sorted and filled into large vessels where it is soaked. The wet barley is then pumped into germination boxes, where over five days enzymes are created which convert the starch into sugar. After the germination, the barley is moved into large malt kilns – gigantic drying devices-–where warm air is blown through the malt It is this drying process which decides the type of malt that results.
Fuglsang Malt Factory produces three main types of malt: the light lager malt, the slightly darker Münchner malt and the deep red Wiener malt. Within the three main groups there are many variants, which through mixing help to create the beers that breweries want to make.
“Good beer is determined by four ingredients and a skilful master brewer,” says Kim Fuglsang. “The ingredients are water, hops, yeast and malt. And it is how the master brewer uses them that makes the difference. He uses his own specific mixture depending on the type of beer he wants to create.” At the factory the various types of malt are stored in 50 different silos from where the finished malt is mixed carefully according to customer needs.
Turning waste heat to good use
Fuglsang Malt Factory has managed to stay competitive in the tough malt market, mostly on quality but also on price. A contributory factor is the company’s exploitation of energy from the factories’ power stations which supply electricity to over 4,000 households in Haderslev and 12,000 in Thisted. In addition, the surplus heat from electricity production is used for drying the malt.
“From time to time we ask ourselves whether we are in the malt and brewing industry, or in the energy industry,” says managing director Kim Fuglsang, Fuglsang Malt Factory. “In reality we are in both. Drying the germinating malt is very energy demanding. That led to the inauguration of our second gas fired power station in 2004, which supplies electricity to the national grid. It has become such good business that we last year earned more by supplying electricity than by making malt. But it also means that we can stay competitive in malt production.”
...After the germination, the barley is moved into large malt kilns – gigantic drying devices – where warm air is blown through the malt...
This page forms part of the publication 'FOCUS Denmark' as chapter 4 of 24
Version 1. 07-11-2006
Publication may be found at the address http://www.netpublikationer.dk/um/7466/index.htm