Craft maltings on the advance

As craft beer is on the advance so is craft malt. A number of small malthouses opened up in America in the last years and many more are expected to follow.

Before the rise of craft beer the malting industry in developed countries saw a heavy consolidation just the way it happened with the beer industry. These times are over.  Small regional malthouses producing base and specialty malts fill the regional gap for smaller regional breweries. They source locally grown barley and they provide a product with a favorable ecological footprint. Because of the low productivity of small scale operations, malt prices are usually much higher which can only partly be compensated by lower logistics costs and favorable state tax laws.

Craft malting started about 15 years ago and many of those operations are still working on a part time non-profit basis. The majority of operations have an annual capacity of about 50-100 metric tons. This is hardly enough to satisfy the demand of one or maybe a few craft breweries, depending on size. Therefore some of the operations are only targeting the home brewing sector.

The Craft Maltsters Guild, a lobby group of small scale maltsters in the U.S., was formed in 2013 and unites already more than 30 craft malting operations under its roof. President of the association is Andrea Stanley, who runs together with her husband Christian, Valley Malt in their small agricultural town of Hadley, Massachusetts.

One of the largest craft maltings, which is still under construction, is the 1886 Malt House in Fulton, NY. The $9.1 million malting plant will be operated by the oil company Sunoco, which already uses much of the space of the former Miller Co. brewery to make corn-based ethanol. The plant has a capacity of 2,000 metric tons of malt, which is tiny compared to normal industrial standards. Anyhow, when the plant becomes operational next year it will supply local breweries and craft spirit makers mainly in the state of New York. What makes it competitive is the state's farm brewery law, approved in 2012, which provides tax and fee cuts and eases some regulations for brewers who use New York state-grown or produced ingredients. Similar regulations also exist for farm distillers.

The name of the Malthouse comes from the date when the statue of liberty was erected by French engineer Gustave Eiffel in the harbor of New York City. This was also the time that had the most significant technological progress in the brewing and malting industry in the state of New York and all over the U.S.

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