The craft beer craze in America has arguably been driven by hops. While other countries focused on hops for more restrained purposes, such as adding balance and mild spicy or flowery flavors and aromas, Americans found them to be much more exciting than that. Hell, sexy even. So we focused on hops. And more hops. And then just for fun, you guessed it — more hops!
But Troubadour Maltings, located right here in Fort Collins, had a different take on things. You see, they understood that malt is really the backbone of great beer. And with that in mind, they set out to create a business that would work with local farmers, and focus much-needed attention on the primary ingredient in beer (aside from water), and that’s malt.
Co-Founder Steve Clark says, “Malt is the soul of beer, the backbone, and often overlooked by the consumer. From color, flavor, sugar (to make the alcohol), mouthfeel, head retention, haze (or no haze) and yeast nutrient, the argument can be made that malt needs way more attention. Consumers should explore all these attributes when enjoying the beer, and as with hops, they are now starting to ask the question of where the malt came from, how the malt is produced, where the grains are grown, etc. Our mission at Troubadour is to tell the story of craft malt through working with local growers, producing the highest quality malt, and enabling brewers and distillers to be true artisans of their craft.”
Troubadour Maltings was founded in late 2013 by Steve and his business partner, Chris Schooley, two home brewers with collective backgrounds in pharmaceutical manufacturing and coffee roasting. On why they opened, Steve admits that, “immersed in the Fort Collins craft brewing scene, we saw a gap in the supply chain where brewers and distillers had limited access to locally grown and malted grains. The missing piece was a malt house to process the raw grain into malt. At the time, there were only a handful of craft maltsters in North America, while in Colorado there was access to wheat and barley.”
Malting is a process that involves taking in raw grain (barley or wheat usually), germinating the seeds to a point where enzymes are released that help turn starches into fermentable sugars, and finally, roasting the grains to varying degrees in a kiln to stop the germination process, and create color and flavor.
With the availability of local agriculture in Colorado, Troubadour is able to work directly with both farmers and brewers to produce malts specific to the scientific and artistic needs of brewers. In fact, according to Steve, they work with five barley growers and one wheat grower, all of whom are in either Larimer or Weld counties, to source their grain. And they sell to more than 100 breweries. Describing their product, Steve says, “Whether base malts or specialty, all our malts have been developed to stand on their own with intentionally different attributes than what’s traditionally available in a catalog. Our Serenade base malt, for example, was designed to impart a strong golden color (4-5 Lovibond) with tones of rich floral honey, almond and lightly toasted golden grains. Brewers love the unique malt forward flavors that jump out.”
My guess is that you’ll love it too — if you take the time to notice. So the next time you’re sipping on that beer and gushing over the dank hops jumping out at you, take a minute to think about the malt, because it could have been grown right in your backyard, and without it, there would be no beer!
- Justin Crossley is the founder of The Brewing Network, a podcast network for brewers and beer lovers, and co-owner of The Hop Grenade Taproom Fort Collins.