Red Shed Malting
A GoBarley Maltster partner
Red Shed Malting was born of a desire to create a connection between Canadian beer, the barley it’s made from, and the Canadian farmers that grow it. Based in Red Deer, Alberta, and owned and operated by the Hamill family, Red Shed is the missing link between the barley grower and the brewmaster. Barley grown on the Hamill family farm, and on neighbouring farms, is used to create Red Shed’s high-quality specialty malt.
- Base malts
- Kilned malts
- Roasted malts
How a farming family built one of Alberta’s first specialty malt houses.
Not all businesses are managed from around a boardroom table. This is especially true of the Hamill family, whose Penhold, Alberta farm has been managed from around the dinner table for the last 86 years. “My grandpa immigrated here in 1929,” said John Hamill, third generation farmer and Red Shed Malting’s head of barley production. “So, we have been growing barley basically since 1930.”
It was around the same table that a new idea began to grow. “The family was sitting around having a beer that Joe had home-brewed, and we thought it would be a great idea if we could try to take some of the barley from our own fields and malt it so he could use it in his beer,” said John. Now, nearly two years later, a lot has changed. What started as an interest in locally produced and malted barley, for John’s son, Joe Hamill’s hobby home-brewed beer, has since become the Hamill’s newest family business—Red Shed Malting Ltd.
“Along with Hobo Malt, we were one of the first guys in Alberta to be doing specialty malts on this scale,” Matt said. “Everything happens here. So, [the barley] is grown in our backyard, malted in our malt house and then shipped to the brewers, which are usually within a few hundred kilometres.” Red Shed’s business practices have made their malt sustainable and traceable too. In fact, the Hamills can track a batch of their malt to where it was grown—down to the exact quarter section of land. Though Red Shed is a micro malt house, the reaction from Alberta’s craft beer industry has been huge.
In less than a year since becoming fully operational, Red Shed now supplies specialty malt to a growing number of local craft breweries: Hell’s Basement in Medicine Hat, Alley Kat and Situation out of Edmonton, and Village and Boiling Oar from Calgary, just to name a few. Looking back, it was a big investment and 18 months of researching, sourcing equipment, and building the malt plant to get Red Shed to this point. “It is really nice to be past all of the purchasing of equipment, putting it into position and getting it all ready to go and stuff,” said John. “That was a lot of work and stress and fear.” Now that Red Shed is fully operational, Matt said he is excited for the opportunities that lay ahead.
“We know there is still a tonne of work ahead,” Matt continued. “To keep up with all of the new breweries that are starting up.” 745 barley acres, four generations of Hamill farmers and a new family-run malt house — a lot can happen in 86 years.
In today’s hectic world, families are lucky if they meet twice a year for Christmas and Thanksgiving. And for some, that’s two times too many. That’s why the latest GoBarley partner is so remarkable. Red Shed Malting didn’t just start on the family farm. It’s a true family affair. “We formed Red Shed Malting to provide premium, locally grown, specialty malt to the selective craft brewer,” said Maltster Matt Hamill.
As it turns out, everyone on the Red Shed team shares the same last name, which is either a feel-good story of family ties or one heck of a coincidence. “When we started up last year, it took all of us to make it happen,” said Matt. Joe Hamill, who will be handling the day-to-day malting operations, his wife Daelyn and parents John and Susie also joined the fray.
Putting their malt where their mouth is
Like any successful business or family, they share a common vision. “Right now, if a brewery wants to market a craft beer made of local ingredients in Canada it’s hard to do, as most specialty malt is imported from Europe and the U.S.,” said Matt. As Susie, the office administrator, noted, “100 per cent of the craft brewers in our market feasibility study said they’d be interested in a local specialty malt supplier. And if that’s what the brewer and consumer wants, we’ll be there to supply it.”
Teaming up & reaching out
While they’re well practiced on passion, they’re relatively new to the business world, which is why their partnership with GoBarley is so important. The Hamills reached out to the Barley Council of Canada when the business plan was still on the back of a napkin, and the partnership grew from there. “Once we’re up and running, GoBarley will bring our products and samples to trade shows and certify our malt as being made from a minimum of 90 per cent Canadian-grown barley,” said Matt.
Brewmasters will taste and see the quality of Alberta-grown barley and will want to tell their customers about the benefits of the GoBarley program. For the producer, Matt said that as Red Shed grows, they hope to buy more and more grain from local farmers, giving them another avenue for selling their products and enhancing competition in the marketplace. As John explained, it’s this local focus that unites Red Shed and GoBarley and makes for a powerful partnership.
“Thanks largely to our climate and soil, we have some of the best barley in the world right here in Alberta. This collaboration will give us true traceability, letting us track the malt right back to the quarter section where it was grown and the farmer who grew it.”
And as collaboration goes, it’s hard to top the Hamill family. Even the company name reflects that. “There’s a big red shed on dad’s farm that we took over to get started in this business,” said Matt. “It’s also what you envision when you think of a small family farm.”
The second half of the year promises exciting milestones for the business. In the fall of 2015 they plan to have a limited supply of roasted malts, with production of all malts slated for winter. In the meantime, they’ll continue to learn together and rely on each other as they move forward. And in the end, isn’t that what family is all about?