BURLINGTON, Wash. – Microbreweries and home-brewers across the nation may soon be looking to the Skagit Valley for one all-important ingredient needed for their varieties of beer: malt.
Thanks to a partnership among entrepreneurs, grain researchers, local farmers and the Port of Skagit, Skagit Valley Malting LLC will soon start moving equipment into an 11,745-square-foot building at the Bayview Business Park in Burlington. Company founder Wayne Carpenter said large-scale production should start in the first quarter of next year.
Malting is the process of taking grain – barley for most brews, but occasionally wheat – and preparing it to release internal sugars and flavors into water to start a batch of beer. Special equipment and processes are used to clean and sort the grain before it is hydrated to stimulate germination. Once germination is complete, the grain is roasted and then transported to breweries.
Carpenter, the former president of a software company, said he worked with Port Director Patsy Martin to come up with a business plan that would capitalize on Skagit County’s resources and key in on growing demand. Carpenter said he brought together a group of interested – and largely retired – engineers, investors, maltsters and brewers to get the company off the ground.
The large and growing legion of microbreweries is proof positive of demand, Carpenter said. According to the Washington Beer Commission website, the state is home to 150 craft breweries.
Carpenter said Northwest microbreweries currently import 25,000 tons of barley malt per year from Europe.