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April 12, 2020

This week's member profile highlights the North American Craft Maltsters Guild (CMG), founded in 2013 by eight U.S. malthouses who came together to advocate for the burgeoning craft malt movement. The organization sustains the tradition of craft malting in North America by making the work visible, partnering with other professionals organizations such as the American Malting Barley Association, the National Barley Growers Association, and academic institutions to foster research on the cultivation of new barley varieties and work in other areas. They connect people and organizations across the supply chain and provide education and camaraderie at their yearly conference. At the center of all of this is an interest in strengthening and supporting local grainsheds, of which craft malthouses are an integral part. 

With over 400 members, CMG serves organizations and individuals throughout the malted grain supply chain including seed companies, malthouses, breweries, distilleries, allied trade and equipment companies, research institutions, and farmers. CMG provides services and resources to members, guides those interested in opening up new malthouses, and works with established malthouses to uphold quality and safety standards for craft malt. Going a step further, CMG launched the Craft Malt Certified Seal to help brewers and distillers clearly and transparently convey their use of locally sourced ingredients to end-users and the public. 

CMG defines “craft maltsters” as those that produce small batches of malt (5,500 -11,000 US tons per year), focus on local ingredients (at least 50% of grain must be grown within 500 miles of the malthouse), and are owned independently (at least 76% majority). To give an idea of what this looks like in practice, here’s an illustration: the top twenty largest global malt companies combined can produce 24,000 tons of malt in as few as twelve hours. In contrast, it would take all of North America’s craft malthouses a full year to create that same amount. 

A smaller scale of operation is one of craft malthouses’ biggest strengths, making it possible for malt end users to “see eye-to-eye” with their maltsters, as CMG describes it. Smaller operations are often more nimble and responsive to the desires of the customers, and according to Jesse Bussard, CMG’s executive director, craft maltsters can provide a wider range of malt options and the ability to experiment. “You cannot get that creativity and community connection with the larger maltsters,” she says. They are also much more open to going the extra mile and working with individual farmers to process local grain. 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CMG has been cataloging information through its Coronavirus Resource Center. Bussard says, "I want to see us get through this [pandemic] and to the other side without breweries closing." CMG conducted a survey over the past few weeks to understand how their members are being affected by the coronavirus outbreak; they learned that nearly 94% have been negatively impacted. CMG will send a follow-up survey at the end of April to gauge the pandemic's continued effects. Read our full interview with Bussard on the AGC website and visit the links below for more information about CMG. 

Additional resources: 

A primer on the role that malt plays in beer, an overview of the industry, how craft malting is changing craft beer, and an engaging interview with "beer farmer" Brandon Whitt of Batey Farms in Murfreesboro, TN on the podcast Grounded by the Farm. Also remember to check out AGC’s Upper Midwest Resource List for a roundup of other tools and methods to support brewers and distillers during the pandemic. 

Profile header image - Harvest scene from Mecca Grade Estate Malt in Oregon and a group photo of the Root Shoot Malting team in Colorado. Photos courtesy North American Craft Malt Guild.


AGC Neighbor Loaves Update

Neighbor Loaves, AGC's program that supports farmers, millers, bakers, and eaters by promoting the sale and community distribution of locally grown and produced bread, has been gaining momentum since its creation a little over three weeks ago. In that time, more than 3,000 loaves have been sold between six bakeries and additional bakeries are signing on each week. Neighbor Loaves has been featured

in Wisconsin Public Radio, Bake magazine, the Appalachian Staple Food Collaborative and Bread Bakers Guild of America newsletters, and most recently, in this radio piece by Amy Halloran. 

Want to help out? Continue purchasing Neighbor Loaves! We’re keeping the list of participating bakeries up to date on the AGC Neighbor Loaves webpage, and if you’re a baker that wants to begin producing Neighbor Loaves, start here.

Image courtesy of Lost Larson.

Bakers Stepping Up and Giving Back

In this time of great need throughout the region and world, we’ve seen many acts of generosity and examples of people working together to care for their communities. Here are two more innovative projects from Upper Midwest bakeries:

Brake Bread in St. Paul is expanding what they do best - bread delivery on bikes - to support their community. They’ve created a donation-based program called Share The Loaf where they serve as a community conduit for neighbors to give and receive bread freely and joyfully with no strings attached, and are also supplying restaurants-turned community kitchens including Hope Breakfast Bar and Keg & Case. Donate here.

Baker Miller in Chicago, one of the co-founders of AGC, has created a program to feed healthcare workers. The meals are sponsored by the community, furloughed chefs are paid to cook the meals, and those currently without a job are employed to deliver the meals. Donate here.

The Beginning is a short inspiring film following the Breitkreutz family as they shift their fourth-generation family farm from conventional to regenerative agricultural practices. The film is the first in an ongoing series produced by the grassroots regenerative agriculture organization Farmer’s Footprint.

The Land Institute recently launched a new website for the perennial grain they've been working to domesticate, Kernza®. Found in everything from baked goods to beer, Kernza has a sweet, nutty flavor and offers many ecological benefits. Midwest partners for the project include University of Wisconsin, University of Minnesota, Sprowt Labs, Bang Brewing, Baker's Field Flour & Bread, and Birchwood Cafe. Birchwood has featured Kernza in grain salads, breads, pancakes, and in the focaccia of their famous Heirloom Tomato Sweet Corn BLT that was offered at the 2019 Minnesota State Fair. Find a list of Kernza-containing products already on the market here and stay tuned for an opportunity to participate in some citizen science related to this special small grain in the coming weeks.

The James Beard Foundation Impact Team has created useful and informative hospitality webinars on a range of subjects from "Intro to Sobriety Resources" to "Understanding the CARES Act" to "Tik Tok and Content Cooking for Chefs." The whole archive of webinars are free on their website. Additionally, the JBF home page has links to many COVID-19 resources including a food and beverage industry relief fund that you can donate to.

AGC was thrilled to be featured in a recent blog post by Zoë François, a classically trained pastry chef, bread baker, cookbook author, and Instagram sensation whose work has been featured in the New York Times, The Today Show, and Washington Post. Zoë published our list of Upper Midwest farms, mills, and bakeries, spreading the word that plenty of regionally produced flour, breads, baked goods, and beverages are available for consumers every day, including during this pandemic.
It was a pleasure to make your (virtual) acquaintance again. We hope you are well and will be back with more grain-y news and updates in two weeks.
Copyright © 2020 Artisan Grain Collaborative, All rights reserved.

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