Montana has been moving up the charts for barley acreage and production over the last few years. It ranked No. 2 behind mighty Idaho in bushels of barley produced for 2016, passing North Dakota. Craft breweries have certainly been demanding more and more malted barley and other grains — and more specific and unique types. To supply some of those needs, Montana Craft Malt is forming to add acreage and value to Montana’s budding barley agriculture. The group is in the final stages of finding a location for its malting facility in southwest Montana; it expects to be fully operational by 2018.
From an article on the NorthernAg.net:
“Montana has arguably the best growing environment in the world for barley — a wealth of sophisticated growers, strong logistics infrastructure, and abundant quality water supply – it’s sort of nirvana, really. The coming together of all these things positions us very well to satisfy the diverse needs of the booming craft brewing industry, in Montana and beyond,” said local businessman Ron Ueland, president of the venture Montana Craft Malt.
According to reports, the malting facility will be designed to produce smaller batches of specialty malts. MCM has plans to dive into more unique products — heirloom varieties, trending two-row malts and other interesting grain varieties customers demand. Plus, these Montana Craft Maltsters are saying that they will work directly with craft breweries to design new recipes from the barley up. Actually, partnerships will be a thing for MCM. From that same article:
Working with an alliance of select craft brewers, Montana Craft Malt plans to partner with Northern Seed and the Montana State University barley lab, under the direction of Dr. Jamie Sherman, to identify and test a diverse portfolio of base malt and specialty malts, allowing the brewers an opportunity to help shape the product offering from seed to bottle. These partnerships will also allow Montana Craft Malt to provide batch data to brewers, something that is necessary to manage consistency in brewing, but isn’t always available to them today.”
It all sounds very cool. The actual $15 million malting facility will be able to handle 10,000 tons. MCM will then contract with growers for malting barley and other grains. The group is aiming to have malt available by 2018. BUT, I guess we should note that news reports are popping up around the ag industry that there was a barley surplus in 2016 –specifically in Montana. From our previous article:
“Everything that I’ve been told is that there is just a lot of good quality malt barley in the bin already,” said Collin Watters, bureau chief for the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee. “We had a good crop in 2015, followed by a bumper crop in 2016. The brewers are looking at their balance sheets saying, ‘We’ve got a lot of grain on our hands,’ and if everything goes as normal this year they won’t need much more.”
Hey, there are always challenges. Regardless, good luck Montana Craft Malt. Sounds like a very interesting operation.