Yes indeed, it is Craft Malt Week. I know, it comes earlier every year doesn’t it? In honor of this beer ingredient backbone, this post is a review of the top craft malt stories of 2023 so far.
But before we get to that, a quick word about Craft Malts (in caps) in general. This is an official designation from the Craft Maltsters Guild, certified by the Craft Malt Certified Seal program. More than 100 breweries and distilleries across the U.S. currently carry the seal.
The seal is designed to provide a key point of differentiation for Guild Member Malthouses and the brewers and distillers they work with. Its usage on products and in other marketing helps bridge the “grain to glass” divide and connect local grain farming families with brewers, distillers, and their customers.
Breweries and distilleries interested in signing up for the Craft Malt Certified seal program should follow the following steps to get involved:
- Join the North American Craft Maltsters Guild as an Individual Brewery or Distillery Member.
- Partner with a Guild Member Malthouse to meet the 10% usage baseline.
- Sign a licensing agreement with your Member Malthouse. A Guild Member Malthouse will certify that you are meeting the necessary thresholds.
- Receive the seal and begin incorporating it into your marketing and promotional materials. Each brewery and distillery also get one (1) FREE wooden Craft Malt Certified sign to hang in their tasting room.
Why care about Craft Malts?
“We have complete control over the full processes from start to finish here at the malthouse,” says Root Shoot’s Malting Malthouse Manager Mike Myers. “It all starts out in the field. There are a lot of people who have never stepped foot into a barley field or watched it grow from seed to harvest. When you can see it come full circle, when you can stand out in the field and imagine what the beverage is going to taste like, it’s almost a spiritual, lightbulb moment that happens.”
Here, here. Now, onto the news recap.
Barley crop production
In June, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released its acreage and grain stocks reports, revealing a 14 percent increase in seeding barley in 2023 (3.36 million acres) over 2022. NASS also just released its Crop Production Report in July, and in that report barley production is forecast to be around 177 million bushels in 2023. That’s up 2 percent from 2022. Kudos to the American Malting Barley Association for posting those. From the report:
Based on conditions as of July 1, the average yield for the United States is forecast at 70.1 bushels per acre, down 1.6 bushels from last year. Area harvested for grain or seed, at 2.53 million acres, is unchanged from the acreage report released on June 30, 2023 but up 4 percent from 2022.
That probably means barley increases in America’s top three growing states — Idaho, Montana and North Dakota — which is good news as barley and malt shortages have hampered some brewers in the last couple of years.
Grains to know
What’s also good news for craft brewers is the amount of interesting new malt products arriving to the market in 2023.
For instance, Regenerative Organic Certified malt is now available for craft brewers. Regenerative Organic Certified is a new certification for food, fiber and personal care ingredients that aims to represent the highest standard for organic agriculture in the world — with stringent requirements for soil health, animal welfare and social fairness.
Kernza | In its effort to scale organic and Regenerative Organic Certiﬁed ingredients, Patagonia Provisions, which is the food and beverage business of outdoor apparel company Patagonia, recently introduced its new brewery partnership program. Eleven partner breweries throughout the country have released new beers, each brewed with Regenerative Organic Certiﬁed Kernza — a deeply-rooted perennial grain. Kernza is the trademark name for the grain from an intermediate wheatgrass being developed by The Land Institute out of Kansas.
Thunder and Lighting | Root Shoot Malting, the Colorado-based craft malthouse, is committed to implementing regenerative farming practices to improve soil biology, reduce the need for tilling and replanting, promote carbon sequestration and reduce carbon released into the air. In addition to Kernza, Root Shoot Thunder and Lightning are two new winter barley grains developed by Oregon State University.
Thunder and Lightning experimental seeds are planted in the fall with the hope that it can withstand the Colorado winters. OSU has developed these two varieties that are more resistant to the cold, and when dealing with warming springs, fall-planted barley has some real advantages: namely, they get all the winter moisture in addition to spring rains, and they spend less time in the heat of summer.
Craft Maltsters on the rise
Inc. Magazine named Riverbend Malt House 3,992 on the list of the 5000 fastest growing private companies in America. Riverbend ranked #96 on the list of fastest growing North Carolina companies. 2023 marks the second consecutive year that Riverbend has made the Inc. 5000 list, one of the most prestigious rankings of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies, representing top tier independent small businesses in America. Inc. 5000 status is conferred based upon a company’s cumulative revenue growth over the preceding three years.
In 2022, Riverbend Malt House malted 3.3 million pounds of craft malt, which included mainstay styles as well as custom and smoked malt for specialty projects. This production level was 28 percent higher than in 2021.
Maine-based Blue Ox Malthouse is another standout. It was awarded two Malt Cup awards earlier this year, bronze Malt Cup awards in the Pale and Light Munich categories, which come at the 10 year anniversary of Blue Ox Malthouse’s incorporation to become Maine’s first malthouse. Blue Ox’s light, clean, and crisp Pale has mild sweet and grainy aromas and is fully modified for high extract and enzyme potential. It’s malted to elevate the foundation of lighter beer styles like Kolsch, Blondes and Pales. Their Light Munich style yields lightly toasted bread crust flavors rounded by a deep biscuity sweetness with hints of peanut butter. It’s malted to build character for many beer styles.