Fremantle is one of Australia’s craft beer epicenters, boasting Little Creatures, The Monk, Gage Roads and others who paved the way over the last couple of decades for the now firmly-established tradition of bringing a more diverse array of beer flavours to Australians who thirsted for an alternative to what had been traditionally available. And Western Australia as a whole is home to a growing number of microbreweries and brewpubs who have taken up the baton.

Barrett Burston Malting supplies a number of WA’s own craft breweries as well as brewers in countries such as Japan, Thailand and Vietnam.

We spoke to Michael Ryan, the plant manager at BBM’s Perth malting facility, who has worked in the brewing and malting industry in Western Australia for about 25 years, and at BBM for the last four. His previous experience includes five years at Swan Brewery and seven years at Matilda Bay Brewery (previously also in Fremantle).

In between these two he worked at Kirin Malting as part of the technical team, comprising various roles, from breeding new barley varieties for specific malt styles, to barley purchasing and testing samples in the lab. Michael’s experience is thus pretty varied, giving him a well-rounded knowledge of brewing, barley breeding and malting. He has also been a regular member of the judging panel of the Perth Royal Beer Show, of which Cryermalt is a sponsor.

Michael will be delivering a presentation on malting at this year’s Fremantle Beer Festival in the Cryermalt Masterclass tent at 6pm on Saturday 12th November.

Michael’s presentation will be called “MALT ME” where he will discuss the importance of Malting Barley in WA, different malt types for ales, lagers and specialty beers and some brief manufacturing information and history about BBMs Malting facility in Welshpool WA.

The Fremantle Beer Festival will take place in Esplanade Park, Fremantle from Friday 11th to Sunday 13th November 2016.

Barrett Burston’s Perth plant, acquired in 2011, sources all its barley from local WA growers. Having a malting plant in the state has fostered a closer working relationship with the more than 100 local growers that supply them.

In practical terms, this means valuable feedback from growers about what they feel best equipped to grow, in terms of variety and specifications for different styles of malt depending on the soil type or micro-climate of their farms.

They are also able to give feedback on what varieties are doing well and producing the best yields. This helps BBM to determine growers’ yearly contracts, which specify the barley variety they should grow, specifications and tonnage.

Michael says that the growers are supportive, sending in samples and updates on how the crops are doing. He says it’s these longer term relationships they build with many of their barley growers – especially those that grow trial varieties – that is invaluable to BBM.

Tim Nixon is a Western Australian barley grower that supplies BBM’s Perth malting plant. The Nixon family farm is located in New Norcia, to the north of Perth.

Origins of the BBM Malting facility in Welshpool WA

The Barrett Burston Malting company has origins dating back to the 1860s with the Barrett, Smith and Burston families, who ran some of the earliest malting operations in Australia. Now the second largest and one of the oldest malt producers in Australia, Barrett Burston Malting supplies Australia’s large domestic market and craft brewery market, as well as exporting to Asia.

The Perth malting plant works closely with Barrett Burston’s other malting plants, in Pinkenba, Queensland, and Geelong and Burnley in Victoria. Michael manages the Perth plant, which employs 17 other staff plus a number of different contractors. The Perth Maltings was first commissioned in 1978 and was upgraded by Barrett Burston after they took over the site in 2011, with an annual production capacity of 50,000 tonnes.

Barrett Burston Malting Timeline

  • Charles Smith started the malting industry in Victoria in the mid 1800’s, followed soon after by Samuel Burston

  • Barrett family bought out Gough & Sons in 1860

  • Smith Mitchell was founded in 1911

  • Barrett Bros. & Burston Co. was formed in 1912 as a merger of the two family dynasties

  • Smith Mitchell joined forces with Barrett Bros. & Burston in 1973

  • The business was bought in 1980 by Henry Jones IXL and became part of Elders in 1981

  • In 1984 James Hood (Collingwood) was acquired

  • In 1991 ConAgra bought Barrett Burston

  • In 2006 BBM became part of United Malt Holdings

  • In 2009 UMH was bought by Graincorp

  • In 2011 the Kirin malting plant in Perth was bought by BBM

  • 2012 saw a major upgrade to Perth Maltings by BBM