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Powells Malt - My Experiences

Aussie Home Brewer

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MAH

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This will be a several part post describing my recent experiences. Please note these are simply my experiences and hopefully others might find some of it interesting.

It all started after reading a few articles on Powells malt, in particular that they are floor malting, I wanted to try their product. This is because I'm increasingly convinced that grain variety eg Mariss Otter, Golden Promise, Sloop etc has less of an inpact on the final product as compared to the way the grain is malted. I reckon fresh floor malted generic Aussie barley, should be better than non-floor malted MO that was harvested God knows when, and then shipped half way.


Customer Service
I contacted the company and asked if they would sell to a home brew group, and they said no problems. Powells generously offered to give me the 1 tonne price break on an order of 400kg or more, and I had no problems with getting enough home brewers to order a pallet (500kg).

At the Powells end, they arranged for the transport and all I had to do was hand over the money. Nice easy and hassle free. It was mostly done via email. They don't seem to get to their emails too quickly and there can be a couple days wait, but they do eventually respond. They even followed up with a few phone calls to me, which is pretty good considering I'm a non-commercial buyer.

Since delivery there have been a few issues (to be discussed later) which I've needed to follow up with them, mainly in relation to their quality assurance. Again it hasn't been the quickest of efforts on Powells behalf, but they have managed to get back to me.

So from my experience I would say they're welcoming, generous, but a little slow in communication. This is fine for me as a home brewer but would p!$$ me off if I was a commerical customer (but then again a commercial customer buying in large regular quantities would probably get better service - or at least you would hope so).
 

MAH

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Quality Assurance

With only a 500kg order I've noticed a number of QA issues. One might of been acceptable, but the handfull of issues that have arisen would suggest that they need to concentrate on their QA a lot more.

The Mystery Malt
First QA issue was to do with a bag of Caramalt. It might have said Caramalt on the label, but what we found was a mystery base malt. It definitely wasn't a crystal of any sort. When you bite into the malt there is no glazed apperance to the grain, and it certainly isn't in the 15-30 EBC range. Powells kindly offered to replace the malt, but said they couldn't offer me a bag of Caramalt becuase "the only bags we have in stock are from the same batch ,and might give the same result".

Mouldy Malt
I opened a bag of Munich and as I weighed the malt I could see that quite a few grains had a greeny blue tinge. 90% of these grains would have been broken in two and the colour was on the exposed ends. Other whole grains also had this colouring, but to a much lesser degree. Enough of the grains had this colouring to make it quite visible, and you didn't have too look to hard to see it. My guess is this colouring is due to staining from mould growth. No idea at what stage it occured, but it's there. When you taste the affected grains they've a very strong acrid and foul flavour. I certainly wouldn't use it to brew with.

I contacted all the brewers in the bulk order and no other malt was affected in this way.

None Malt Matter
Another thing that stood out was the amount of vegetable matter that isn't malt. Compared to malt from other companies, there's loads of stalks, burrs etc. It's all soft vegetable matter, and I haven't found any stones or anything like that. It's not a significant problem with the malt, but again it's a QA issue.

Broken and Uneven Sized Grains
The malt contains a considerable amount of grain that's broken into 2 or more pieces and there's lots of uneven sized grains. As a homebrewer I don't think this is a major issue, but for a commercial brewer it might be.
 

Doc

Doctor's Orders Brewing
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Great post MAH.

I was lucky enough to be given some Powell's malt for some test brews last year.
I too noticed the foreign objects in the malt such as grass/straw, stalks/stems etc.
Also the uneven grain size meant that I had to run the grain through my mill three times (as opposed to the normal two that I do).

The resultant beer was very good though (if you are into strong hoppy Pils beers) :p

Beers,
Doc
 

MAH

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First Brew

To date the only beer that I've tried to brew with the Powells malt was a Mild. I used the ale malt as the base malt.

First thing I noticed about the malt was the great smell. When I opened the tub of malt I was hit with a wonderful whaft of fresh malt aroma.

The crush was also first rate. The grain cracked very easily and I was able to open the gap on my Valley Mill wider than usual. This preserved the husks more, but the inside still crushed up really well. End result was that it made for an easy lauter (I batch sparge).

Again the aroma of the run-off was great and it had a really nice malt flavour. At the end of the boil my partner came home and she also commented on how good it smelt.

I can't make too many comments on how it fermented. I pitched 11gms of Windsor ale yeast into 22litres of wort, which should have done the job nicely, but that night we were hit with a bit of a cold spell, and in the morning the wort temp had dropped to 12C. It flucuated a bit over the next couple of days, but never really got into ale fermenting temps. Consequently it was a sluggish ferment so I can't comment too much on how it attenuates after mashing at 66C.

I'll have to leave the next update for a week or so, before it has dropped clear, kegged and gassed.
 

Sean

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I've noticed most of the above - straw etc (not the wrong malt or significant mould), but just taken it on board as part of buying from a craft producer (not to mention one presumably still working some of the quirks out of the system). In any event, my second sack had significantly less straw etc than the first.

The bottom line is quality of beer, which so far has been first rate. Enough so for me to take delivery of another 4 sacks.
 

warrenlw63

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Doc said:
I too noticed the foreign objects in the malt such as grass/straw, stalks/stems etc.
Also the uneven grain size meant that I had to run the grain through my mill three times
[post="65164"][/post]​
These symptoms are not mutually exclusive to Powells. Your average bag of Joe White's can reveal similar signs too. Namely stalks and uneven kernels.

Warren -
 

AndrewQLD

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I'd agree with you there Warren, I have just opened a bag of Joe white pilsner malt, a fair bit of straw and such, also a few stones that the mill didn't like.
I found the crush with this bag was really good, the grains were very friable and went through the mill very quickly compared to the last bag.

Andrew
 

sosman

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MAH - thanks for writing that up. Did you pass this on to Powells? What was his response?

I have been brewing with Powells malt for well over 6 months now and haven't had any of the problems you mentioned - although someone (Gout?) did say he noticed lots of foreign matter in the pale malt.

I have done a Marzen with 80% of their munich malt and apart from screwing up on brewday with the wrong ingredients, I couldn't complain about the malt profile.

I have used their ale, munich and wheat malt and I wouldn't mind checking out their crystal malt when vermont fuel and produce get some in.

cheers
 

MAH

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Sean said:
The bottom line is quality of beer, which so far has been first rate. Enough so for me to take delivery of another 4 sacks.
[post="65179"][/post]​
Yep I agree the bottom line is quality beer. But if there are significant quality assurance issues, which mean you can't consistently make a quality beer, then it's a problem. For myself the issues I've experienced with Powells haven't been enough to put me off trying them again, because for me it's only meant an inconvenience. However for a commercial enterprise it might make a financial impact that's unacceptable.

In my small order of 500kg, there were three QA issues that could prove costly, 1) mislabled malt, 2) mouldy malt and 3) numerous broken grains. If I experienced all this in a small order, just multiply the potential QA issues for a commercial order.

Yeah I accept that they're working on these problems, and I hope they fix them. But I'm of the opinion that when it comes to business, you don't open your doors to the public until you have your QA procedures in place. It's extremely difficult to change market perceptions if you get it wrong in the first place. Much easier and less costly to work through as many QA issues as possible before you get a negative market reputation.

Unfortunately for Powells that perception is already out there to some degree. I was at a brew day on the weekend and one of the brewers who is starting a commercial venture, wasn't interested in Powells as a supplier for some of these QA issues.

Just as a side note, at the same brew day, one of the science type boffins, said that the mouldy malt has the potential to contain compounds that are some of the most toxic to the liver. If true that's a huge QA issue.

But as I said at the start, these are just my experiences and I really do hope Powells succeed.

Cheers
MAH
 

Batz

Batz Brewery...Hand crafted beers from the 'Batcav
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Firstly thankyou MAH for a very informative and interesting post.
And thankyou for the time taken to reply to my PMs , much appreciated.

Couple of questions here as you have wet my appetite regards a bulk purchase of malt.

What happened to the mouldy malt and mystery malt ?
Did Powells replace it for you?
If they did, did they freight you a new sack?

Overall I take it you are happy with the malt for the price you paid.

There seems enough interest from the Queensland boys for us to follow suit.

Thanks again

Batz
 

Sean

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I'm not excusing mislabeled malt or mouldy malt, both of which are inexcusable but I hadn't heard of elsewhere. I was really responding to the third point, (other stuff in the malt) which, based on my experience in the UK, does tend to go hand in hand with the smaller craft maltings. If you want consistency at the expense of everything else, you go for the big maltings. If you want quality at the expense of some consistency, combined with local service geared to small customers, you go for the smaller independent floor maltings. Of course, real ale is intrisically an inconsistent product, and so enthusiasts are used to prefering quality over consistency.

Anyone would love to work all the bugs out of the system before you go to market. Generally, though, this isn't a luxury you can afford. The reality of needing an income means you have to go to market at some point, ready or not. Anyone serious will recognise that and be prepared to retry them again when they are established.

It should also be noted, that there are plenty of small brewers out there disatisfied with the service they get from the big maltings already.

Just as a side note, at the same brew day, one of the science type boffins, said that the mouldy malt has the potential to contain compounds that are some of the most toxic to the liver. If true that's a huge QA issue.
True, but if it's as obviously bad as you say it is hard to believe anyone would make beer with it (or that said beer would be drinkable if they did).
 

johnno

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I have been using them since last year and I have to say I have been very happy with them. I have found some stalks in some of the batches I have got but nothing to wory about. I have never seen any funny coloured grain.
I get mine from Grain and Grape..
No affiliation with any place mentioned here.

cheers
johnno
 

Wort Pig

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The Powells malt in which I have brewed with, (all pale ale brews, and 3 of them only at that!) have all displayed heaps of protien break in the boil. Im not sure as to the specs of these malts, but found the resulant beers to be quite ok.
However, I did find quite a bit of foreign matter ie stalks, grass and a couple of stones. The grain plumpness and husk quality was also lacking uniformity.
I love the idea of boutique maltings, and hope these guys can stick at it and iron out early probs and be a competitive supplier in this growing market.
Does anyone know as to what barley varieties they are using? ie Gairdner, Schooner, etc.
 

dicko

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A big thanks to MAH for his efforts on the bulk purchase and also a big thanks to each and all of the other AHB'ers who have organised bulk purchases with all the other consumables.
From a guy who lives 600 kilometers from a capital city it is a big saving for me and enables me to persue my brewing hobby/obsession at a more economical level.
Thanks to all, and "go the bulk buy"
Cheers
 

MAH

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Sean said:
Anyone would love to work all the bugs out of the system before you go to market. Generally, though, this isn't a luxury you can afford. The reality of needing an income means you have to go to market at some point, ready or not. Anyone serious will recognise that and be prepared to retry them again when they are established.
Hi Sean

I agree with what your saying. Real life means that you often do have to go to the market before all the bugs are ironed out. However we probably have different definitions of QA. I'm not talking about having a system so well refined that there are no production problems, when I was refering to QA I meant systems that pick up these production problems and limit the impact of such problems. In this example the mouldy malt is obviously a production problem. But from a manufacturing perspective, you would expect that batches of malt are inspected and analysed for quality. At this stage (a QA stage) the production problem should have been picked up and the batch of malt should never have been sold. Even if you can't iron out the all the bugs of production, it's paramount to the repuation of a business that systems are in place to identify a problem when it occurs. As already mentioned, for manufacturing, the minimum standard is post production inspections. The consequences of getting a negative market reputation should be seriously weighed up against the need to start generating a revenue stream, because it could cost you even more in marketing to change initial perceptions.



Sean said:
Anyone serious will recognise that and be prepared to retry them again when they are established.
Personally, I will try them again, because I love the idea of floor maltings and a fresh product not damaged by excess transport times and conditions. I also encourage all on AHB to try Powells for themself. But in business if you try a product and it doesn't meet your expectations you find a new supplier. If that new supplier provides a high quality and consistent product there is no incentive to then re-try the original supplier. Get it right first time and secure your market share.

Cheers
MAH
 

davidp

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I use Powell's and have had no problems. The odd bit of straw or small stone, but that makes up a minute proportion and hasn't posed any problems.

The point I'd like to make is that I'm sure Powell's sample their batches to check for quality. However, I'm not clear on how much of your order has a quality assurance issue.

If Powell's take a sample of each batch, and give it the all clear, the whole batch may still be unsatisfactory , just by the nature of probablity. Say you give it the all clear with an alpha=0.05 - there's still a 5% chance that the batch is in fact unsatisfactory. You may just have been unlucky - and that's a perfectly valid outcome in quality assurance. It's either impossible or completely impractical to that guarantee 100% of what is shipped out the door is of a satisfactory quality. I think you'll find this is true of any manufacturing process, whether you're making TV's, corn chips or malt.
 

Jim_Levet

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The RedOak Brewery gets through a truckload of Powell's Malts, Organic Pilsner & Wheat I am certain of.
James
 

warrenlw63

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Think that Holgate also uses Powells. ??

Warren -
 

davidp

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warrenlw63 said:
Think that Holgate also uses Powells. ??

Warren -
[post="65380"][/post]​
Yep.

As Brew left Romsey, Grant and Michael Powell were busy loading bags of caramalt onto a truck for delivery to Paul Holgate at the Holgate Brewhouse in Woodend. Holgate confirmed later that the malt was destined for a strong, Belgian ale style beer to be named Double Trouble.
(From here)
 
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