Crafting malt in Dunsandel

Wednesday, 13 April 2022

Crafting malt in Dunsandel

It’s a warm, Friday, summer evening. Gabi and Doug Michael head to their local pub after work for a drink.

They sip on craft beer and smile to themselves, knowing they were a part of making that beer - and almost any beer crafted in New Zealand!

“Three Boys Brewery, Sawmill Brewery …,” Gabi starts to make a list of her brewers and then says it’s probably easier to list how many breweries they don’t supply their malt to - it’s a much shorter list!

“Every craft beer and brewery in New Zealand and the big boys, Lion Nathan, DB and Asahi, are all under us,” she says proudly. “Anyone that can brew a beer is familiar with Gladfield. It’s a huge achievement.”

 Gladfield Malt supplies their malt internationally, exporting to the South Pacific, China, Japan and India and have their own warehouses in Australia.

In 2003, on their first date, Gabi says Doug mentioned he had a “crazy, but great idea” to start his own malting business from the barley he grew on his farm.

Based in Dunsandel, sitting on 560 acres, Gabi says it is one of the best places in the world to grow barley due to the maritime climate.

As a fifth generation barley grower, Doug has a lot of knowledge on growing barley, which helps them customise different malts for customers.

“With barley, every grain is different, so it’s about manipulating and understanding what you’re malting.”

With the capacity to make 25,000 tonne and over 35 different varieties of malt, Gabi says breweries are spoilt for choice – and they also take special requests.

“If someone wants a malt with a unique colour, we will just make it for them. We managed to get our business big enough, but small enough to care. It’s the reward at the end of the day when you have a brewer that appreciates what you do.”

Gladfield Malt has 12 full-time staff, including founders Doug and Gabi. Fifty percent of their staff come from different cultural backgrounds. As a migrant herself, Gabi says this is something they embrace.

“I have two Fijians, two Indians, one Argentinian and I am from Brazil. You can’t deny that I am not from New Zealand, and the way Doug is so supportive of that makes them feel that they can be themselves as well. They have their uniqueness that adds a lot of flare to the work environment. Having a bit of diversity, it makes everyone equal.”

Originally from India, Param Kaur works as a lab manager for Gladfield Malt. Param says from day one, four years ago, the staff at Gladfield Malt felt like family to her.

She laughs, “Other than supporting India in cricket, I’ve never felt like an outsider.”

Also from India, Neethu Raju joined Gladfield Malt in October 2021 as their office administrator. She says she wants to continue working at Gladfield Malt for the rest of her life.

“The work culture and atmosphere is really good out here. I can be who I am and they accept me. Gladfield feels like a home to me, I don’t feel like I am going to work.”

Gabi says moving from Brazil and starting Gladfield Malt was an amazing experience.

“New Zealand has that woman power that Brazil doesn’t. There’s no way I would be this far ahead in Brazil or have the things that I have here, the freedom or the opportunities.”

Gabi says she loves living on a farm and hopes to inspire her three children, aged 14, 13 and 10, to get involved with Gladfield Malt.

During school holidays, Gabi’s and Doug’s eldest daughter Isobel works in the office, but also isn’t afraid to muck in and help out on the farm.

“She’s as good as any other staff member that I have. And the boys are just miniature Dougs,” she laughs, “So whatever Doug does, they do. He’s got his two pocket rockets beside him – it’s quite cute to see.”

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