The essential ingredient to beer is malted grain. The grain with the greatest amount of the enzyme necessary to turn starch into sugar can be found adhering to the kernels of barley. Lacking modern technical and scientific tools did not mean that the folks brewing fermented beverages in ancient established settlements did know the importance of allowing various grains to almost sprout, stop the growth and dry the grain to use to make sweet liquids that would become desirable beverages.

Today the agricultural industry includes mega-corporations tending to hundreds of thousands of acres of genetically altered grains designed for one purpose or another. They supply equally large grain processors who malt the grain, also to incredibly specific standards. These highly designed grains go on to be the ingredients of just as highly processed foods and beverages. Enormity insures consistency and uniformity.

And then there are the small farmers, supplying traditional strains of grain grown in traditional ways and harvested for use in traditionally produced small operations producing artisanal foods and beverages.

Recently I visited with two maltsters who were attending events at the 2015 New York City Beer Week. One was from New York and the other from Massachusetts. One of them also brews beer and runs a brewpub. The other is in the malting business specifically.

Their observations say much about two things. The first is the part of “Passion” in a business plan. (The business plan you DON’T show the bank. The plan YOU believe in.) The second commonality is a solid understanding and belief in “interconnected”. Mega-corporations struggle with the latter while, as I discovered, use it to build relationships with businesses that may not seem related. I offer just one example. A maltster selling malt to a brewer and arranging for the spent grain to be trucked to a beef farmer who barters with the brewer who sets the farmer up with an account that specializes in locally produced vegetables, produce and meats.

Why don’t I settle down, pour a beer in a favorite glass and let the maltsters I met tell their stories…

First, from Oswego, New York, let me re-introduce you to Natalie Mattrazzzo, malster at The Farmhouse Brewery.


Meet (L-R)

Marty Mattrazzo and Natalie Mattrazzo

Chatting with the folks from The Farmhouse Brewery of Owego, NY I discovered a brewery that not only brewed from locally grown grain, they grew and malted it themselves. I’ll let maltster Natalie Mattrazzo tell you about it…



Now, from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts I would like to introduce Andrea Stanley, maltster at Valley Malt, Hadley, MA.


She will give you a good idea of the essential challenges faced by small maltsters…

Thanks to all who helped with this post…

remember to click on the logos to visit the folks featured in this post.