Nova Scotia

Horton Ridge Malt and Grain Company to open organic malt house

Nova Scotia's first organic malt house, in the Annapolis Valley, is aiming to make local beer and whisky even more local.

Love local? Atlantic craft breweries soon to have access to 300 tons of locally sourced malt

It may not look like much now, organic farmer Alan Stewart plans to have the first batch of malt ready this fall. (Submitted by Alan Stewart )

How do you make local beer and whisky even more local? You build an organic malt house to supply brewers and distillers in the heart of Nova Scotia — and that's what Alan Stewart is doing. 

"I have good cause to be excited. and I know there are a lot of other people involved who are excited as well," the organic farmer told Information Morning's Phlis McGregor. 

Stewart is the farmer behind Horton Ridge Malt and Grain Company, Nova Scotia's first organic malt house. 

"​​We will create our malts with the same level of artistry that craft brewers and distillers create their beers and whiskies," says the company's website. "Malt is the soul of beer, and represents its largest non-water ingredient."

The company broke ground on its site outside of Wolfville in May and plans to have the first batch of malt ready this fall.

"We could try to get some beer with some local malt on the store shelves by Christmas," said Stewart.

What is malt and how is it made?

Early civilizations noticed that when grain gets wet, it becomes less starchy and more sugary. Humans knew that once you had sugar, you could ferment it and make alcohol.

The results of the three stages of malting grain are shown here. From left to right: kilning, germination and steeping. (

"Somebody put two and two together — you take some grain, wet it down, allow the germination process to proceed to such a point that enough of the starch gets converted to sugar, and then you can go from there and make some beer," said Stewart.

He said the centuries-old process involves three stages:

  • Steeping: Harvested grain, usually barley or rye, is put into tanks and soaked or steeped, as it's known in the business.
  • Germination: The wet grain is spread out and allowed to grow. This is where the starchy innards of the grain are broken down into sugars by enzymes within the grain. 
  • Kilning: The grain is dried in a controlled way to freeze the grain's growth and dry it to a stable state. This is where the colour and flavour of the fermented malt develop. 

The process takes seven days.

Stewart has designed the facility to handle 300 tons of grain per year — that's about 10 per cent of what Atlantic Canadian brewers use. He said there's lots of interest in the regional brewing community to source their malt close to home.

And it's not just beer.

"If you're in the whisky business — which many distillers are — first you make beer and then you distil that down to whisky. So really, the core ingredient of a whisky is the same core ingredient as beer," said Stewart.

"We're very much looking forward to working with a very rapidly growing distilling industry."