WHAT’S IN YOUR BEER?
I know next to nothing about the makeup of beer when I find myself seated in a combine harvester next to Simon Nitschke of Arable Solutions, with barley flying into the harvester behind us.
We’re gathering the crop in Simon’s fields in Marton, to send to the nearby Malteurop processing factory. Malteurop is one of only two malting factories in New Zealand and processes malt for many of the beers we drink in this country, from those produced by big operations such as Lion and DB Breweries, to craft breweries including Garage Project and Panhead.
Earlier, Malteurop operations manager Glen Simmonds showed us around the extensive factory, where production never stops. “Barley quality is vital,” says Glen, as are optimum processing conditions.
In this age of celebrating ‘real food’, not many people are aware that beer is as real as it gets. The recent New Zealand Beer Survey, conducted by the Brewers Association of New Zealand, found that 58 percent of beer drinkers do not know what goes into beer or how it is made, and only 16 percent know that most beer is 99 percent sugar free. The fact is, beer is made up of just four key ingredients: water, malted barley, hops and yeast, and many New Zealand beers use locally sourced ingredients and are free from preservatives.
Simon’s family has been growing barley for Malteurop since it opened in 1980, and Simon learnt to harvest while he was at school. “It’s always been in the family,” he says. “We’ve always grown grains, always been really passionate about it.” He studied crop production before restarting the family business after his father closed it for a stint. He says it works best as a family business because of the long hours. Sometimes he works until midnight – the barley harvest waits for no one.