When Tyler Schramm — owner and master distiller at Pemberton Distillery — was learning the tricks of his trade in Scotland, part of his education involved studying malting.
Thanks to a government grant, Schramm is now putting that knowledge to use.
On May 15, the B.C. government announced the Pemberton Distillery is the recipient of $14,775 through the federal and provincial governments' Canada-B.C. Agriculture Innovation Grant.
The money will be used to test a micro-malting facility at Pemberton Distillery.
"When I was in Scotland studying distilling, we covered malting pretty extensively, because it is so important to spirit production and getting the type of spirit that you want," Schramm said.
"(Now we're) taking that background knowledge and we're trying to figure out how to apply that at a small scale."
The idea of local malting has been brewing at the Pemberton Distillery since the provincial government changed distillery licensing two years ago, Schramm said.
"They said that if we wanted to be designated a craft distillery we have to use 100-per-cent B.C. agricultural input," he said.
"There's nobody in B.C. that's producing a smoked or a peated malt, which we need to produce our Scottish-style whiskey, so we kind of realized that if we were going to keep producing that style of whiskey we'd have to start malting our own grain."
Thanks to that unexpected hurdle, the Pemberton Distillery is now poised to be one of the first micro-malting facilities in the province.
"It's really exciting," Schramm said.
"I think it's something that we thought about doing early on, and then with some of the changes that the province brought in it really gave us incentive to go this route. I think we'll be able to show other distilleries in the province that it's a viable thing to do, and it's great to be kind of leading that charge."
The grant funding will cover about half the costs of the project, Schramm said — things like materials and test grains.
But for a small-scale operation such as this there's a lot of labour involved.
"At the small scale, somebody really has to be there pretty much throughout the entire process to keep an eye on it," Schramm said.
"At different stages different things have to happen and we have to be around to make sure that those happen at the correct time."
Being certified organic, the Pemberton Distillery has always faced challenges in sourcing its raw materials — but having its own micro-malting facility opens up new possibilities.
"We definitely have always wanted to get into some of the other whiskeys, like an organic bourbon whiskey and an organic rye whiskey, and both of those you need malted rye to do that, and there's nobody in B.C. that's malting — even non-organic rye is impossible to get," Schramm said.
"It's going to allow us basically to do products that up until now we have not been able to produce just because of the limited availability."
Funding for the project is part of the Growing Forward 2 Agreement — a partnership between the federal and provincial governments that provides money to agriculture innovation.