Malt residence startups assistance fuel field-to-glass movement

July 13, 2015 - garden totes

LISBON FALLS — The name comes from Paul Bunyan’s favorite companion. And if a stars align, Joel Alex’s Blue Ox Malthouse competence do for a pellet attention what Bunyan did for lumber.

Joel Alex samples a drink he brewed with malt from Blue Ox Malthouse.

Maltster Joel Alex of Blue Ox Malthouse removes steeped barley from a malt tank as worker David Brand assists.

Maltster Joel Alex of Blue Ox Malthouse has leased 7,500 block feet of room space in Lisbon Falls for his new qualification malt startup.

In a room down an industrial highway in Lisbon Falls, Maine’s newest maltster is focussed over a immaculate steel tank. Unloading damp and creatively germinating barley to be mixed, a Colby College connoisseur creates a collection of what shortly will go to market: qualification malt done of 100 percent Maine grains.

This pivotal part in brewing is a substructure of a age-old beverage. Malt gives drink tone and physique and, some brewers say, a soul. But until recently, it has not been constructed locally or even nationally.

“We are in an rising industry, identical to where qualification brewing was in a 1980s,” Alex, a courteous 29-year-old who grew adult in Old Town, said. “We are holding a commodity product and formulating a craft, peculiarity prolongation out of it by regulating local, tender product and estimate it locally.”

After an 18-month hunt that took him from Biddeford to Caribou, Alex found a right fit. In January, he changed into a sprawling space, once home to a shoe manufacturer and garden tech company.

Inside Blue Ox Malthouse’s 7,500-square feet facility, rows of 2,000-pound totes of barley from Mapleton mount during a ready. Soon, a pellet will go by a seven-day, three-step process, branch 8,000-pound batches into malt.

To malt tender grain, it has to high in water, origin and dry in a kiln.

Once malted, brewers vanquish barley and supplement comfortable H2O to make a mash. This extracts a sugars into a glass so it can be used for brewing. Alex schooled a qualification in Winnipeg, interjection to a $1,000 technical extend from Maine Grain Alliance.

Just like milling, malting is starting to ramp adult regionally, and Blue Ox is staid to lead a way.

“Joel stands to offer an bursting marketplace of microbreweries that are looking to compute themselves with internal grains and singular recipes,” Amber Lambke, executive executive of a Skowhegan-based alliance, said. Lambke met Alex during a Kneading Conference she runs each Jul and was tender with his enterprise to assistance grow Maine’s “grain cluster.”

The cluster includes “goods and services and businesses that are good for grains,” Lambke said. “Farmers, millers, bakers, maltsters, distillers and brewers all fit into a pellet cluster.”

Although a product won’t be on a marketplace until after this summer, Blue Ox Malthouse is serve explanation of a “enlightened recognition of a strength of a pellet industry,” she said. “Malting is an activity that has not happened in Maine in a prolonged time.”

Slowly, that is changing.

In Mapleton, The Maine Malt House non-stop in February. Third-generation potato farmers converted an aged potato residence to malt their barley during Buck Farms. “Everyone’s concerned to try it,” Joshua Buck, conduct maltster, said.

The startup sells malt to breweries that embody Gritty’s, where a Mapleton Blonde done with 100 percent Aroostook County barley is on tap. The plantation also sells tender malt barley to Blue Ox. Buck views Alex some-more as partner than competitor.

“The tillage village altogether has potential. There are not a lot of places to go for malt-quality barley,” Buck, who is flourishing 240 acres of a crop, said. “It’s another source for farmers to sell.”

Five years ago, a infancy of malt sole to brewers was entrance from Canada or overseas, Lambke said. Maine barley farmers had to trade their stand to be malted. After water, malt creates adult 90 percent of beer, Alex said. The micro-beer marketplace offers a prepared opening for internal malt.

To Sean Sullivan, executive executive of Maine Brewers’ Guild, there is vital intensity in a informal malt market. “Craft drink is about clarity of place, and this magnifies that,” he said.

A association like Shipyard uses hundreds of tons of malt each week. By comparison, Blue Ox expects to furnish about 250 tons annually. The new zone has room to grow. “We are saying a outrageous mercantile impact brewers are carrying in Maine,” Sullivan said. “The malt residence is a pivotal member of that.”

And Lisbon Falls, home to Moxie, now has a new invention to gloat about. Much like his space, Alex found his business niche after a prolonged search. The environmental studies tyro worked on farms for years in Farmington. He wanted to assistance strengthen Maine’s food complement and strut a state’s “working landscape.” A possibility confront with a Maine brewer set a malt residence in motion. “He told me this is what’s needed, and no one is doing it,” Alex said.

He asked himself, “How can we assistance Maine rise sustainably? How do we make it viable economically?”

As he prepares for new apparatus to arrive, including a building malting complement and kiln, he will shortly find those answers.

“We are in a unequivocally fun spot,” Alex said. “We are assisting breweries find singular products and bond to their village so they can put out locally brewed beers. It’s an sparkling time.”

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