Craft malting ups the game for brewers

North Dakota has remained one of the top three barley producers in the country for over 100 years. One business is capitalizing on that, and craft beer drinkers are rejoicing.

This is malt, one of the key components to making beer. But before it's bagged and shipped away, this malt was once a barley plant on a family farm in Goodrich, North Dakota. 

Two Track Malting CEO Jared Stober said, "We settled on malting just because there's not a whole lot of people doing what we're doing across the country. And with 5,000 craft breweries that are growing each year, it's just a great opportunity."

Two Track Malting started production last year and is currently the only craft malting company in the state. They've even had to do a recent expansion to keep up with all of the demand.

Jared Stober: "We're in about 23 states though nation-wide and we've supplied to about 50 breweries across the country," said Stober.

The process of malting is broken down into three steps. Steeping, which is submerging the barley in water to increase it's moisture content. Then it's put into a germination tank to break down the starch. Lastly, they put it in a kiln that turns the grain into malt. 

"The purpose of malting is to take starches from the field in the barley and convert it to sugars so then the brewers can make the beer which, you know, creates the alcohol," said chief maltster Chris Fries.

It's all put into 50 pound bags and sold to breweries as far as Florida, but as close as Bismarck-Mandan. Fries will also take time to visit some of the breweries to see the final product. 

He said, "I always say that we make the paint, they make the art."

Bird Dog Brewing in Mandan is a microbrewery that buys Two Track's malt for some of their beers.

"The craft malters are great, especially when they're local like Two Track, because then you can speak to them and tailor recipes toward something they might be working," said owner Dennis Kwandt.

Two Track can even show you the exact location where the grain was grown, and the background on the farmer who grew it all right here in North Dakota. 

Two Track's malt doesn't just serve beer drinkers. Their unused product is sent to local chicken and hog farmers for feed.

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