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Craft Malt

In recent years, the hop industry has seed a shift away from breeding for high alpha acids and bitterness (what the big guys want) to more flavor and aroma. The malt industry is starting to make the same transition. Barley breeding has historically produced strains that produce more yield and are more disease resistant. The barley is sent to a few gigantic maltsters to produce the range of malts comercial and homebrewers use. There are a few special varieties of barley that make their way into malt (think Maris Otter) and some maltsters have been producing malt that is made using historic methods, like floor malting. BUT there are now a small number of craft maltsters that are producing small batches of malt, creating unique flavors, and malting grains mostly for their local brewers.

What makes craft malt so special?

Craft maltsters produce malt on a small scale. Some members of the parent organization, the Craft Maltsters Guild, produce as little as 5 metric tons a year. Some produce as much as 10,000 metric tons. This sounds like a lot, and it is. By comparison, Rahr Malting, in Minnesota here, opened an expansion late in 2016 that increased their Shakopee facility by 70,000 metric tons! Again, this increased their production by seven times what the largest craft maltster makes. Rahr now produces about 460,000 metric tons a year.

Craft maltsters source local ingredients. The Craft Maltsters Guild states that over 50% of the grains processed by craft maltsters are grown within 500 miles of the malthouse. Some malthouses even grow their own to be turned immediately into malt. This allows them to experiment with different varieties that are not widely grown and make specialty grains.


Craft maltsters are also independently owned. With buyouts and mergers in the beer industry making the news every week, the same is happening on farms and other food production facilities. The Craft Maltsters Guild supports malthouses who want to stay independent and produce special products for their neighbors.

Since craft maltsters are independent and use local ingredients, they can tell you right where the grains come from. What harvest, what farm, and even what field.

They have the flexibility to try different grains, heirloom varieties and results of advancing breeding programs.

They also have the ability to try new techniques. The process in malting can make a significant impact on the flavor of the malt. The different production techniques can conserve resources while making high quality products.

What craft malsters are there?

At the moment, there is only one craft maltster in Minnesota that is a member of the Craft Maltsters Guild. Vertical Malt Company is up in Fisher Minnesota. There are other craft malt houses in the Midwest; North Dakota and Michigan being a few of the closest. There are also more opening.

We have group accustomed to the variety of hops that can impact our beer. Why not do the same for the malt? Search out unique malts and try some malt from craft maltsters.

Other information and links:

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Local Breweries to Have a Drink At

At Duluth Homebrew Supply, we love to support local businesses. We carry products from local businesses like Duluth Loves Local, Harbor Hops, and Sota Clothing. When we aren’t drinking the beverages we make ourselves, we like to visit and support local breweries. Below is some information about local breweries that we like to visit and support:


Bent Paddle Brewing Company (

Bent Paddle has a small taproom serving all their distribution releases and typically a tap room only selection. No kitchen but carry-ins are welcome and sometimes a food truck stops out front.

* Bent Paddle gives a discount for American Homebrewers Association members.

1912 W Michigan St, Duluth

Blacklist Artisan Ales (

Blacklist has a sizable taproom and a garage door that opens with nice weather. The taproom pours their distribution releases and multiple special taproom only selections. No kitchen. Blacklist occasionally has live music in the evenings.

120 E Superior St, Duluth

Canal Park Brewing Company (

Canal Park serves a rotating selection of beers in their pub-style restaurant. Canal Park offers a great outdoor area looking towards Lake Superior to sit and eat or to just have a beer.

300 Canal Park Dr, Duluth

Castle Danger Brewery (

Castle Danger has a large taproom and outdoor patio. The taproom pours their distribution releases and special taproom only selections. No kitchen but carry-ins are welcome.

17 7th St, Two Harbors


Fitger’s Brewhouse (

Fitger’s Brewhouse pours a selection of flagship beers in addition to many seasonal and special beers in the pub-style restaurant. The beer list is constantly changing and there is outdoor seating.

* Fitger’s Brewhouse gives a discount for American Homebrewers Association members on growler fills.

600 E Superior St, Duluth

Hoops Brewing (

Dave Hoops, former head brewer at Fitger’s Brewhouse, just opened this brewers in Canal Park. Focusing on great examples of beer styles, Hoops will have a large beer hall-like taproom. No kitchen but carry-ins from around the area are welcome.  Hoops even had runners to get food if the location does not deliver.  Take beer to go in crawlers.

325 S Lake Ave, Duluth

Lake Superior (

Lake Superior has a small taproom off the side of their production brewery which pours a selection of their production beers. You can see almost the entire brewery while you have your beer. No kitchen.

2711 W Superior St #204, Duluth

Thirsty Pagan Brewing (

Thirsty Pagan pours s selection of flagship beers and a large selection of seasonal, special, and sour or wild fermented beers to accompany its pizza menu. Thirsty Pagan frequently has live music in the bar area and has a small outdoor space.

1623 Broadway St, Superior


Coming Soon as of June 27, 2017


Earth Rider Brewery (

Tim Nelson, co-founder of Fitger’s Brewhouse, is renovating the former Leamon Mercantile Co. building in Superior into a brewery. The taproom will be in the Cedar Lounge just down the block from the brewery. Renovations are going and plans are to begin brewing later summer.

1617 N. Third St, Superior


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Local Hops

When most homebrewers think of hops to use when brewing, they think of the small silver bags of pellets they get in a beer kit or pick up at the homebrew store (like Duluth Homebrew Supply ). But, where do these hops come from? It would not surprise you that the majority of hops that you see in these little packets are grown come from Germany and the Northwest United States. (Actually, in 2014 according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Ethiopia actually harvested the most hops, followed by Germany and the US.) But, did you know that hops are grown around us in the upper Midwest? We are at the same latitude (around the 47th north) as Washington state where some of the largest US hop farms are located. Yes, our winters are a little harsher and summers a little cooler, but because of the similar latitude, we get similar sunlight for the hops top grow.

In Minnesota, there are 28 commercial hop farms according to the Minnesota Hop Growers Association ( Wisconsin also has a number of commercial hop farms, many of them are members of the Wisconsin Hop Exchange ( Within 100 miles of Duluth there are four hop farms and a couple just a little further up the road.

At Duluth Homebrew Supply, we carry whole cone hops grown and packaged at Harbor Hops on Hwy 2 outside of Two Harbors. You can easily drive right by the farm and miss it. If you have gone to the start of the Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon the past couple of years, you have driven right by the farm. This is a small 10 acre hop farm that is currently growing 18 hop varieties. At DHS, we are happy to have bags of whole hop cones of Crystal, Northern Brewer, and Saaz from Harbor Hops.

Part of the hop growing process is taking care of the rhizomes, the root-like structure that annually sends up the bines upon which the hop cones grow. These rhizomes are periodically thinned and split in the spring. These new rhizome pieces can then be planted to grow new hops. Harbor Hops makes their extra hop rhizomes available to home growers. If you would like to grow your own hops in your backyard, you can pick up rhizomes from us as DHS. We currently have great looking rhizomes of Brewer’s Gold, Centennial, Challenger, Crystal, Golding, Northern Brewer, and Saaz. How is the time to plant these rhizomes. Once they poke out of the ground, they are fast growers. You can almost watch them grow, sometimes growing inches in a day and can grow up to twenty feet tall in the right conditions. If you want to grow your own hops there are many great resources; books, blogs, articles, and forums (and maybe a future DHS post).

Harbor Hops hops have been used by local breweries. Our friends across the hall at the Fitger’s Brewhouse used 175 pounds of centennial right off the bine from Harbor Hops to make a wet hop beer last fall. Let’s hope they do it again. Many of the other hop farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin also work with local breweries making similar beers. There is something special about a beer with hops that were picked just hours earlier.

If you are not sure about growing your own, you can help pick hops at some of the local farms. Harbor Hops realized last September during their hop harvest that there was no way that they were going to be able to pick all the hops that grew while the hops were at their peak. So, they invited people to come pick a bine full of cones and take it home with them for much less than you can get from a store (even DHS) and much fresher.

Most of the hops you can use to brew are harvested, processed, packaged, and shipped around the world. Why not try something new and brew with some hops grown locally. Extend the local support from drink local, eat local, and shop local to brew local.

Duluth New Tribune published an article about Harbor Hops in April: Local hops add flavor to Northland brewing scene

Local Hop Farms from the Minnesota Hop Grower’s Association:

Aaron & Linnea Hansen – Aitkin

Harbor Hops – Two Harbors –

North Road Hops – Hovland –

Six Finger Farms – Beaver –

Squeedunk – Hackensack

Sunny Knoll – Brook park