Josh and Jason Cody
Josh and Jason Cody own the farm-to-glass operation, Colorado Malting Company, along with their father. Founded in 2008, Colorado Malting Company is a premier craft maltster with customers all over the world.
SEASON 2, EPISODE 14:
MILLET – BUSINESS IN THE FRONT, PARTY IN THE BACK
TOBY TUCKER – DIRECTOR OF SALES, COUNTRY MALT GROUP
GRANT LAWRENCE – TERRITORY MANAGER, COUNTRY MALT GROUP
JOSH AND JASON CODY – COLORADO MALTING COMPANY
Key Points From This Episode:
How Colorado Malting Company is a huge family operation where Josh and Jason work and contribute each day.
What made them include malting barley and the need to diversify to stay on the family farm.
The natural choice of changing dairy equipment to steep, germinate, kiln, and malt barley.
Why their craft malting forefathers were born out of necessity and right place and time.
How all their grains and ingredients are grown, malted, and roasted on-site for 100% estate beer.
How their college projects were working to prove fresh malt benefits.
How Colorado Malting Company sees growing demand to create and offer gluten-free beers.
Milling challenges and the shift for alternative grains – millet, buckwheat, and sunflower seeds.
Why millet leaves coagulant at the bottom of the can for gluten-free beer.
How Colorado Malting Company is known for unusual flavors, such as peanutty and caramelized brownie.
Transcript - Millet - Business in the Front, Party in the Back
EPISODE S.2, E.14
[MILLET – BUSINESS IN THE FRONT, PARTY IN THE BACK]
[00:00:00] TT: All right. I appreciate everybody joining in for another wonderful episode of The BrewDeck podcast. I’m Toby Tucker. I’m hosting today along with my partner in crime, my buddy, Grant Lawrence. Hey, Grant.
[00:00:13] GL: Howdy.
[00:00:14] TT: How goes it?
[00:00:15] GL: Doing well, doing well. I am excited to hear what these guys got in store for us today.
[00:00:19] TT: Yes, me too. They’re wonderful individuals, a great story to tell, and it’s a fantastic topic, to say the least. Really excited to chat with them more. Grant, I have a question for you. I don’t know why I haven’t asked this before. Tell me something about you that the listeners may not know. I know one thing. It’s interesting. Let me start here and see if I’m accurate. I think you have a background in food and science.
[00:00:43] GL: Yeah, food science. I studied that in grad school.
[00:00:46] TT: Did you at one point butcher large animals?
[00:00:50] GL: Yes, I did. Yeah, for beer money in college. We went from slaughter to retail cuts. You could buy it at their own campus. It’s pretty cool; I got free steaks. It paid me pretty well, too, for the time. It was gruesome but fun and rewarding.
[00:01:06] TT: When you get free steaks, were you making sure you’re bringing in all tenderloins, or they say, no, you can only have the flank?
[00:01:12] GL: It’s funny. You see it on the menu these days, but you’ll see hanger steak on the menu, especially with these fancy steakhouses now, and that is historically the Scooby snack for butchers. We would take that home out of tradition. Now it’s funny that they’re on menus. Little strangely ugly-shaped piece of meat that’s very tender, very flavorful by the skirt steak.
[00:01:36] TT: Nice. I get jealous. I know Grant loves to cook as well. I see some of the stuff he’s posting and some of the stuff he’s cooking. We’ve had many conversations about it at […]—just a talented all-around guy in the kitchen and in the brewery, for that matter.
[00:01:48] GL: Thank you.
[00:01:49] TT: Cool. Good to have you, Grant, as always. Without further ado, I want to introduce our guests today and am happy to have them on, Josh and Jason Cody from Colorado Malting Company out in Alamosa, Colorado. Guys, what’s up?
[00:02:02] Josh: What’s up?
[00:02:03] Jason: Hey, how’s it going?
[00:02:04] Josh: Thanks for having us on.
[00:02:05] Jason: Yeah, absolutely. It’s great to be here.
[00:02:07] TT: We’ve been talking about this for quite some time. I’m glad we could finally do it. Really no better time to do it in that; fingers crossed, things are bouncing back on the tail end of COVID. People are finally able to brew a bit more and enjoy the customer. They’re obviously able to enjoy the fruits of their labor a bit more.
Let’s start with this. Tell me about where you’re located in Colorado. I’ve had the privilege to visit, and it’s unique. Tell the listeners, Grant, and I about where you guys are located and what’s unique about it?
[00:02:38] Jason: We’re located in a really unique climate in Southern Colorado. We affectionately call it SoCo down here on the south part of the state, where everybody from the front range is discovering where you can go and not be surrounded by a million people. It’s called the San Luis Valley. It’s about 7400 feet above sea level. We have crazy heat indexes throughout, especially the summer months, and also a crazy UV index. One of the highest UV indexes and an efficient solar area in the continental United States, which makes it exceptional for growing small grains and bringing those to harvest in high-quality status.
Alamosa is a small little town, so we call it a one Walmart town. Our farm is located just southwest of Alamosa, also where the Colorado Malting Company is here on the farm. The Colorado Farm Brewery now as well is in its third year of operation. We have a unique spot in Colorado for sure.
[00:03:32] TT: We’ll talk a little bit more about your brewery here later on in the show. It’s absolutely a very cool setup. What I will say is the time that I’ve been able to spend some time with you guys is it is a family operation. I think I met six, seven people in your family out there over several days just working and contributing to what you guys are doing every day there at Colorado Malting Company and the brewery.
[00:03:54] Josh: Yeah, very much a family operation. Actually, we’re located on a fourth-generation family farm. Our great grandfather actually came here, homesteaded here in the 1930s, and bought a house from the government on an 80-acre plot as an incentive to help people move west. We’ve been here ever since, and we’re still here. Our grandfather was the one that started growing barley here. As people learned about the climate, some big breweries came in and started growing, malting barley here. That was probably 60 or 70 years ago. They’ve been growing barley here for 70 years.
[00:04:29] TT: Speaking of barley growing there, what prompted you and the family to move or combine the malting into your current operations there on the farm?
[00:04:41] Jason: Ours was driven by need. This is a real story. This is Americana in some sense with the decline of the family farms in our country and watching people who lived on the land and off the land for generations all of a sudden going into town to get work kind of thing. Our story was going to be the same. It was going to be small family farms are out; just deal with it. The only way for us to stay on the farm was to diversify and add value to our agricultural products. That was the only way we could do it.
We knew malting barley, and that’s what makes our operation unique. We came at the malting and the beer industry from the ingredient side instead of from the hopeful brewer side. That gave us a unique platform in the industry and also some unique insight and knowledge of what actually makes beer and spirits. That’s, of course, an agricultural product that we grow. Ours was need-based.
[00:05:44] Josh: Every generation, so many people have had to be that generation that left the farm. We just couldn’t be that generation. I don’t know how else to say it. It came so personal that we had to make it work. We still live in that mindset. We just couldn’t let it go.
[00:06:03] TT: It’s interesting. You mentioned not leaving the farm, but I believe both of you guys left at some point and came back to help out and assist the family in upstarting this malting company and bringing it to where it is today?
[00:06:16] Josh: Yeah.
[00:06:17] Jason: Definitely. We’re both in the Midwest working on master’s degrees and PhDs. It was actually a farm accident with my dad that brought us back. He was working on an irrigation sprinkler and had an accident. He was laid up, so that’s what brought Josh and I back and really was the conduit, I think, for bringing about the first commercial craft malthouse in the US with Colorado Malting. The drive that was initiated and created in us, now we’ve been doing it for 13 years. Absolutely.
That harkens back again to your comment earlier about being a family operation that you always back your family’s play; that’s our story.
[00:07:00] Josh: Definitely. I was living in the Milwaukee area. When my dad had his accident, it wasn’t a question of like, hey, my dad had an accident. It was like, how can I help? That was the natural reaction, even though Jason and I both felt that way. Even though we were both living in other places, it was funny because even when he was in the emergency room, ICU, and then eventually a rehab center, the doctors were like, why are you guys here?
They didn’t really understand, I don’t think, because there’s something about the farm lifestyle and growing up on a farm being part of a family farm that just cauterizes those relationships. They don’t just end because you get a job somewhere else. They don’t just end. It seems like it’s very strong, that bond that was born on the farm.
[00:07:48] Jason: Yeah, for sure.
[00:07:49] TT: Tell me about whose crazy idea it was to say, you know what, let’s try to make a little malting facility here, number one. Number two, I think I caught a glimpse of part or some of the original malthouse. Tell me about that and the challenge that was involved in, number one deciding, let’s get into malting, number two, how do we do this, and how are we going to build this thing?
[00:08:14] Josh: It’s Jason’s idea. Jason has to take credit or be blamed.
[00:08:17] TT: I was going to say, Jason, what are you talking about?
[00:08:22] Josh: I just think that my dad and Jason really cooked up the idea. Both of them got to have credit for it for sure, my dad Wayne and Jason. We had the old dairy farm here. When Jason and I were boys, we had a dairy farm on site. We milked cows and fed calves. Our life was not just a barley operation, but also an alfalfa hay farm as well as a dairy farm, which milked about 80 head of cows (Holsteins) that we sold the dairy in 1995.
From that year on, there were stainless steel tanks just sitting in the old dairy barn. It just sat there in disrepair with the stainless steel sitting there. It was a natural choice, I think, to use those tanks. That was the obvious choice. It really was.
[00:09:08] Jason: We basically got a vision. Picture a bunch of farmers sitting around drinking coffee, all-knowing that their family farms are probably 3–5 years from being extinct. There were always ideas thrown around. Maybe we should try a pellet plant. Maybe we should try making all this crazy stuff. Of course, one of those ideas that bounced around was like, I wonder what happens to the grain before they make beer from it, which is hilarious to me now, but we knew the malting barley side from agriculture.
It was like, well, what is the process? We started learning. We started working with some people who were experts in malting science. We decided to take the little stainless steel dairy tank that we had and see if we could make it into a steeping, germination, and kiln vessel that would do all three processes. We just went chasing that. I’ve got some photos of one of the first kilns […] that we built. It would just make you laugh. The thing looks like a giant squid.
[00:10:09] Josh: Yeah, my kids call it Doc Ock, a villain from Spiderman. It was like a giant octopus. That’s what it looked like.
[00:10:17] Jason: It was like little air tubes that were designed both to keep the grain cool in germination and also dry it out. I’m telling you, this company was built on absolute farmer MacGyver engineering in the beginning.
[00:10:34] Josh: It’s impressive.
[00:10:35] TT: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:10:36] GL: With the perfect setup for the stainless steel tanks. Steeping, germinating and kilning in the same vessel to start it’s not a traditional malting setup. They call that a flex malthouse when you have a GKV, but you’re adding a whole other step to it in one tank. It’s very cool.
[00:10:56] Jason: Actually, in some ways, it was revolutionary in the sense that to be able to malt any quantity in such a small footprint, to be able to steep in the same tank that you’re germinating and then in kilning it. In some ways, they were quite revolutionary. We’re still utilizing that basic design, of course, on a much more efficient and much larger scale, but we’re still utilizing this steep, germ, and kiln way of doing it. That’s how the story went.
I always tell the story of when we were just catching the dream; of course, we were busy on a farm, and there was a bunch of stuff going on. We were farming a couple of thousand acres of malt barley at that time. My dad pulled into the driveway where the old dairy barn was. I was in the backroom of that barn where they had stored a bunch of stuff.
[00:11:43] Josh: Calf starter.
[00:11:44] Jason: Yeah, some calf starter powder and an old negative air compressor for the stuff. I was just throwing things out into the driveway, trying to clean that space out so we could use it for malting. It was like, what are you doing out there? I don’t know why, but the dream, the drive, or the motivation was just in me.
[00:12:07] TT: Obsession, that’s what it is. Like a lot of people in our industry. Going back to what you guys said about beginning craft malting. With the run of people coming along and deciding to get into that game on a very small scale, would there be any listeners that would argue that you guys are the forefathers of craft malting?
[00:12:27] Josh: No, they would, but they call me the godfather of craft malting. It’s amazing to think that nobody was malting at that scale. It’s just almost amazing to think we were there at the beginning of it, but that’s just the way it was. It was born out of necessity and at the right place, the right time we’re in Colorado. It was the right place, the right time.
[00:12:51] Jason: We actually sent out 120 survey cards to all the breweries in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico—this was in 2007—asking them if they would buy a local, regional product that was malted on a small scale. We got a lot of those cards back saying, absolutely, here’s my contact information. Here’s how to get a hold of me. That spurred us on too. Although, when we first started malting to get the product out there, we weren’t really sure how to do it.
We just took one of the pickups on the farm and loaded a ton of malt in the back, a bag at a time. We just drove around the state of Colorado and went to breweries.
[00:13:31] Josh: Gave it away.
[00:13:33] Jason: I said, how much to make one batch of beer, man? They would say, oh, 200 pounds, 300 pounds, or whatever their brew size was. We’d say, here you go, call us if you like it. Then, boy, that snowballed.
[00:13:46] TT: At some point, you decided to start charging people?
[00:13:48] Jason: Yeah, exactly. We don’t want to do this for free. That’s rough. That’s the truth. That’s exactly what happened.
[00:14:00] TT: We mentioned family. You obviously mentioned the importance of family, that structure, that cohesiveness, and obviously that heritage there. How is it working together at the family farm, the malthouse, the brewery? Any interesting or funny stories you can tell us about that?
[00:14:17] Josh: There are so many funny stories. Honestly, for me, it’s a dream come true. We started this conversation by talking about how we actually left the family farm because we had to. The nature of the world was such that I couldn’t be here. I never thought I’d get to come back and work with my dad and my brother, work on the farm, and ride my bicycle down here to brew beer. I never thought I’d live like that.
Like everybody else, I had to leave, and that was it. For me, it’s a dream come true to get to work here and to get to be part of such a legacy. I never dreamt in a million years it would be as amazing as it is.
[00:14:56] Jason: Yeah. I feel that way too. The chance to work with your family is cool. Of course, it comes with challenges when we’re working together, coming up with ideas, and trying to schedule. Josh was saying before we started recording, it’s crazy right now. Josh and I had to come in.
We have a big board. We organize about a month at a time and have everything written down where everybody could see it. We had to come in yesterday at 11:00 AM because both of our brains were just spinning with all the stuff we’re dealing with. We came in and charted that out on the board for 45 minutes, and then we both took a deep breath. That helped. It’s pretty wild.
[00:15:38] Josh: The funniest story, though, is me trying to pick a hotel. I got the worst luck when we went to CBC or something like that, and it’s my year to organize it. We share that load, and if I pick a hotel, I have the worst. I’ll be like, hey, this looks like a good deal, and then it’s crazy.
[00:15:59] TT: It’s like my wife and me when it’s my turn to pick a movie to watch. Every time I pick, it’s always terrible.
[00:16:05] Josh: That’s me with the hotels. I got the worst luck with hotels.
[00:16:08] Jason: If you show up to a hotel, the first thing they tell you is no illegal drugs and no prostitution.
[00:16:14] TT: Whoa, wrong place.
[00:16:16] Josh: That actually happened. That’s the truth, and I thought, man, we got a really good deal on this place. Jason looked at me. I’ll never forget that day.
[00:16:28] Jason: It’s pretty wild, man. Then the cool thing is we did some projects overseas with the malting company four years ago. Josh got to travel over there more than the rest of us, but one trip we got to take together. It was dad, Josh, Bobby, our younger brother, and myself. We got to cruise over to Europe and mess around over there for about a week. We finally realized we were human again after the jetlag in this crazy steakhouse.
[00:16:56] Josh: More like a farm brewery.
[00:16:58] Jason: No, the first night. It’s a steakhouse. It was called the Texas Armadillo or something like that.
[00:17:04] Josh: Yeah, that’s what they called it.
[00:17:05] TT: It’s overseas?
[00:17:07] Josh: Finland. It was called the Santa Fe Grill.
[00:17:15] Jason: It was weird, man. That was about when we finally recovered after 24 ounces of whatever we drank that we started feeling like humans.
[00:17:21] Josh: Some Carlsberg beer did that.
[00:17:26] GL: Here’s a fun fact about Scandinavian countries, and you mentioned Texas. They actually use Texas as an adjective to describe something crazy in Scandinavian countries, if you’ve never heard that. They’ll just say, that’s so Texas. I’m not making this up.
[00:17:41] TT: Really?
[00:17:43] GL: Yeah, it’s pretty hilarious.
[00:17:45] TT: I guess there’s some truth to that. I’ve worked with Grant for a long time now, and there’s just some truth to that.
[00:17:51] Josh: It happens in Colorado too, actually. That was a joke.
[00:17:57] Jason: We always have to follow the RVs and the big […] down the road to see what’s up.
[00:18:01] Josh: What do you know about Texas plates? I was just kidding.
[00:18:04] TT: There’s no kidding about that. One time I thought I was going to get taxed to road rage because I was rolling around in my truck up there, going to the mountains of Texas plate, and there were some very adamant Colorado-loving folks who were just giving me the bird. Get out of our state.
[00:18:17] Josh: The funny thing is they just moved here from California last week. That’s a joke. That is a YouTube video. Just kidding.
[00:18:25] Jason: Yeah, we’re just kidding.
[00:18:26] TT: Let’s talk about your brewery a little bit. Tell us about your setup, house beers. Back up here, it’s great. Everything you guys were serving when I visited has been awesome. It’s pretty cool that you have the product right there that you’re taking from your own soil. End of the day, it really is grain to glass. Tell me a little bit about what beers you’re brewing. Is there something specific that catches people’s eyes or is very quenching after a long day’s work? Is there something with the SoCo gold malt? What are you guys brewing out there?
[00:18:54] Josh: Yes, exactly. We’re a hyperlocal farm brewery. We have an eight-hectoliter brewhouse on-site that services just our taproom. We don’t really do any distribution or anything. We got a couple of buddies that own restaurants around us that have a beer too there, but that’s it. Otherwise, it’s all on-site. We actually have a taproom in the old shop that my grandpa built. We used to fix tractors years ago, and now that’s where the actual brewery is.
What makes us quite unique is, like you said, we brew beer with all the state ingredients, 100% state. Everything’s from the property. The malt, the barley, the wheat, the rye, it’s all grown on-site. It’s malted on-site; it’s roasted on-site. Every aspect of it is done on-site. We have seven different varieties of hops that we try to grow here; try is the crucial word.
There are really only two varieties that like our climate, which is Cascade and Nugget. Most of the beers are brewed with those two types of hops. Jason actually captured a wild saccharomyces strain in my grandma’s old house here on-site, in the kitchen. We bank that at Wy’east up in Portland. We get a fresh slur each time we brew. Of course, we use well water, and so consequently, all four of the ingredients come from the property.
We have 100% state beer that we brew here, and that’s really what makes us unique. The best part about the yeast is even though it is a farmhouse yeast, it’s a pretty mild one. It’s a pretty good attenuator, and it does a lot of work. It’s pretty awesome—the yeast—actually to brew with, considering it was wild-caught. That’s really what makes us stand apart.
The fact that you get to actually come to drink a beer on the farm, which I’m convinced has some merit because we live about 10 miles southwest of Alamosa. It’s just enough windshield time to get your mind in the right state. By the time you take that sip of beer, you’re like, yeah, I like this place. That’s pretty much how it works.
We brew multiple estate beers, and those estate beers, it’s all SoCo Light for the base malt. The SoCo Gold does go in one estate beer, which is our batch two, which is something like an estate amber ale made with Cascade and Nuggets. We put a little Smoked Malt in it, and it’s smoked with cottonwood because that’s a local tree.
Actually, the name Alamosa means cottonwood. It’s what the Spanish settlers called the cottonwood groves that grow along the upper Rio Grande river. So it’s a cool historical piece to it. We smoke it with the tree that actually grew right here on the property. It’s a very estate beer.
[00:21:24] Jason: One of Josh’s most popular beers for summertime drinking is a farmhouse lager, which is an excellent beer. It’s estate hops, estate grain, of course. Then he’s also got a winner in the farmhouse porter. The farmhouse porter is one of the ones we’d like to talk about a little bit because we’re roasting the grain on-site for that beer and always shortly before we brew the beer. We end up with a bunch of volatile aromatics that we’re transferring from the roaster into the mash tun that you really can’t get unless you’re roasting on site.
[00:21:55] Josh: The grain is still warm. It’s still warm, mill it, and mash it out of the roaster.
[00:22:02] Jason: The aromatics on those beers are like none other because of that roaster being here on site. We’ll finish a batch of malt, and we’ll pull it out and […] it, run through the cleaner, and then it’s in the mash tun before it’s cooled down. There’s […] something to that. When you taste the beer, that will blow your mind because there’s something else going on in them. It doesn’t happen, so that’s cool too. Just maybe a plug for domestic malts.
[00:22:31] GL: A lot of people swear by roasting their own coffee beans these days and making coffee with it right away. It’s like that same thought on malt, very cool.
[00:22:42] Jason: Another thing we’re doing too is we’re involved in a project with CSU and UC Davis right now. We got some grants from ASBC and we got a grant from AMBA. We’re basically working on quantifying volatile aromatics and fresh malt. We’re going to have some big stuff to bring to CBC next year as far as data to prove the fact that malt doesn’t have to be aged, that fresh malt can really be a contribution to the industry.
We’re right in the middle of that project right now, working with another craft maltster out in California. Josh and I have been working on some other isolating sensory information based on not only varietals. It’s one of the things that’s driving me crazy right now. When people talk about different varietals and grain, they’re talking about it like it’s the only partner in the dance and they’re completely wrong. The variety is an important part, but it’s only one partner at the dance. You also have climate, you also have geography—based on geography, and then you also have soil type, which nobody’s talking about.
We found in our sensory data that it makes a difference in the grain, the way things grow, the way the environmental stresses happen, and what’s available to them in the soil. All these things in our sensory work are saying, hey, this makes a difference. You’ve got multiple partners in the dance. Your variety is important, but you’re dancing all alone out there looking weird if you’re only talking about that.
[00:24:04] Josh: The rye that we grow on site was the thing that really threw up the flag because it’s so unique and different from other ryes. We thought people are trying the same variety or whatever they’re trying to do. It’s our soil. Even within a few miles of us, the rye is different. One day we were like, why is this rye so different? That was the day that we thought it’s time for somebody to take it seriously, not just focusing on grain or varietals, but also on the other contributing factors to flavoring grain.
[00:24:33] Jason: Right, which is like coming at this from the ingredients side and the agricultural side. It’s something that we’re seeing firsthand.
[00:24:40] Josh: Yeah, totally.
[00:24:42] TT: Makes a heck of a lot of sense. Grant, you went to just drive up to Dallas? You mentioned windshield time. Are 11 hours too long to be able to come out to the brewery and enjoy your beer?
[00:24:54] GL: I’d do anything to get out of the house at this point.
[00:24:59] TT: Let’s jump into the meat of the episode, chatting about alternative grains. I don’t think there are any better folks to have on to discuss. When I say alternative grains, we mean anything other than your typical barley, wheat, and stuff of that nature. When did you guys get the idea to start malting and playing around with some alternative grains? Was that out of necessity as well? Was it, you’ve got the soil, you can throw some stuff on the ground, and let’s give it a try?
[00:25:26] Jason: Basically, we started working on these alternative grains in 2008, 2009, when we first started seeing a bit of a demand for malting alternative grains. When I say that, I’m basically talking about gluten-free grains like millet, buckwheat, quinoa, and things like that. That project got started—this is really harkening back to the beginning of the craft beer movement, too, with New Belgium. New Belgium was working on those gluten-free beers long before anybody else even had the idea.
They reached out to us as a small craft maltster, realizing that we could do some different things. The timing was right because simultaneously, the Colorado Department of Agriculture had reached out to us too. They were trying to drive the millet market. Colorado’s the number one millet-producing state in the country—a little-known fact there. The CDA was trying to help millet farmers up in Northeastern Colorado do something like all farmers are having to do, which is add some value to their commodity.
They reached out to us and said, hey, if we could get you a grant for modifying some equipment, do you guys think you could malt millet? As I said, the timing was right with the demand from New Belgium. We said sure, and we modified one of our tanks. Mostly the modification came some CFM stuff on the fan side in germination, but then also in the screen size in the malt tanks. We took the grant. It was a small grant, but we took it in and modified the malting tanks so that we could put much smaller grains through the steep, germ, and kiln process. That’s really what got us started.
Eventually, we ended up malting something called coix seed that they sourced out somewhere in the Orient. Then we malted some hemp. We’ve malted teff, the smallest grain on Earth. We had to come up with different ways to do that. They made some really nice beer in Fort Collins from those grains. Those grains are super unique too.
When you’re thinking about small grains or different types of non-cereal grains, there’s a lot of things to consider. Number one, any of those non-cereal grains are completely lacking an alpha-amylase or beta-amylase. Your diastatic power on malted millet is somewhere around 16, which is almost laughable compared to barley.
Those grains require not only yeast nutrients for proper fermentation but also usually some liquid or fungal enzyme to make the conversion. They definitely require a bit of background studying before you can just jump right into making a gluten-free beer from these non-traditional grains.
Of course, these grains also, we’ve taken through every step in the process. Imagine white proso millet or red proso millet being a Crystal 60. We have a really popular product right now that’s a red proso millet that’s basically taken through the malting process, gelatinization, kilning, and then roasting to 60 […]. That’s a really popular product for us right now.
The flavor contributions from these grains—sometimes, I think when people think about non-traditional grains, they think about gluten-free grains, and then they think, oh, those are only for making gluten-free beer. Not true. These things will add tons of different flavor profiles to a traditional beer as adjuncts and things like that. That’s how the story goes for us.
We’ve been able to work with a number of different breweries. Some distilleries even, believe it or not, saw some German millet really bring a lot of harshnesses down, and some first spirit runs on some White Dog one time up in Cedar Ridge, Colorado with Colorado Gold Distillery. They were pretty pleased with that. A lot has happened there on the non-traditional grain side. There are lots available.
We obviously have malts that we distribute with Country Malt Group, but then we also have a lot of dropship products that brewers can access or distillers can access through there. Right now, I think the total number we’re working with all those different grains that we’re providing right now is about 93 different malts from a host of different grains.
[00:29:35] Josh: One thing you didn’t mention was the sunflower seeds. That’s become pretty popular, and that was New Belgium too. It seems like the Midas touch there. They’re like; we’re interested. Peter Bouckaert reached out to Jason and me about a collab they did with a brewery in Belgium, the Hof ten Dormaal. Remember that beer?
[00:29:51] Jason: Yes, I do.
[00:29:52] Josh: They put two tons or one ton of malted sunflower seeds in the lauter tun in the big brewhouse. They ran just a massive amount of sunflower seeds that had been malted and then milled. We milled it for them. We sent it up there milled. From that time on, we’ve had a small cult following for malted sunflower seeds. People want to throw a couple of bags in and see what it contributes.
We can’t get any analysis on it. We tried it at malt labs, and nobody will even test it. They don’t even know how to start. One beautiful thing about craft beer is that people love to try things. They love to try new things, and they’re reaching out for that stuff.
[00:30:31] Jason: Those are confectioned sunflower seeds. Of course, there are lots of different types. There are oil seeds, black oil seeds. These are confection seeds like you’d buy at the gas station when you’re driving. Of course, that’s raw. It’s functionally sunflower seeds, unlike to grow plants.
But then we take them through the malting process. We have a really unique kilning schedule for these things. They come out pretty nutty—a lot of nice nutty background. We always tell everybody, no, please don’t add more than about 10% of your grist. They help with your lauter like crazy. It’s better than rice hulls, I think. At the same time, they give just a unique character to the beer, but if you overdo it, of course, it’ll get earthy.
[00:31:06] Josh: It’s like some oil.
[00:31:07] Jason: Earthy.
[00:31:08] Josh: Yeah, exactly. Right. Mouthfeel contribution.
[00:31:10] TT: I was about to get pretty pissed when you mentioned two tons of sunflower seeds. I was like; they’re taking away from a dill pickle stock; I love these things.
[00:31:20] Josh: We joke a lot like, we’re going to just put some in the roaster. Light them overnight and roast them. We’ve yet to do it.
[00:31:29] Jason: We did do some things with hemp. We looked at some things with hemp with a brine. We’ve looked at that a couple of times here. We’ve never done the brine here, but we’ve talked seriously about it. Lots of crazy grains down here at the farm and the malting company.
[00:31:43] GL: You mentioned millet. I’m curious. I’ve never brewed with millet. What flavors could somebody expect with millet? What inclusion rates would you recommend for that? You were saying that the diastatic power is really low on them. If you’re not doing a gluten-free beer, how do you all usually see it used? How do you all like to use it?
[00:32:02] Jason: If you’re going to use millet as an adjunct in traditional barley- or wheat-based beer, I think the most appropriate way is either to buy in a dextran form, crystal form, or a roasted form. Those bring out, of course, the most unique flavors.
Some people have said that white millet has a similar flavor to wheat. I agree with that on the base malt side. Aromatics on the base malt, white proso millet does have a weedy bread dough thing going on. If you’re working with the base malt, which you totally can, but when you take that thing through the roaster, the prune or the raisin sweetness that you get out of those crystal malts is pretty intense.
[00:32:48] Josh: Our experience there brewing with it, the white and red proso millet roasted dry roasts. Our Abbott millet or our Biscuit millet, those in particular have a really nice nutty character. I’ll give you a quick story. My wife gets together with a group of ladies around lunchtime, oftentimes, when all their kids are at school. One time, I had a sixtel keg that was brewed with some white proso biscuit millet about 15% of the grist. It was pretty nutty, a nice bread-like flavor like fresh-baked bread. That’s what it reminds me of every time I smell it coming out of the roaster.
I brewed a beer with it, and she pulled out that sixtel keg at noon. Normally, when I get home from work, they are gone for hours. I pulled up, got out of my pickup, and I could hear this laughing. I realized that the driveway was still full of cars, and they all sat there and drank that whole sixtel keg because of how good it tasted. That’s a white proso millet story. It is a nice contribution. It’s an amazing contribution, actually.
The other one we haven’t talked about much is buckwheat. The buckwheat, again, has no diastatic power, virtually none. However, when it’s roasted or even malted, it is a unique contribution in flavor. The roasted buckwheat, in particular, we actually call it peanut butter buckwheat because it’s a similar roasting schedule to biscuit malt, except it’s buckwheat, of course. It has just this nutty flavor.
[00:34:13] Jason: It smells literally like peanut butter.
[00:34:15] Josh: It is amazing. Of course, it’s not, but it’s just buckwheat.
[00:34:18] Jason: It doesn’t come across like peanut butter. Once you put it in the mash, it comes across as just nutty.
[00:34:25] Josh: Yeah, I agree. Nutty is the word I would describe for sure.
[00:34:28] GL: Sounds like it could be used well in a stout with all these peanut butter stouts and things like that to accentuate it. Very cool.
[00:34:35] Josh: It’s crazy that you just said that, Grant. We actually made a buckwheat stout here at the Colorado Farm Brewery. It was a huge hit. It was in Imperial Stout too. We literally had to cut people off it, too, because it has a nice nutty flavor. It definitely contributed to that, and that was actually really fun beer to brew too. I remember the brew date vividly. We’d mash and just had such a unique nutty smell. I remember that buckwheat.
It did actually help in the lauter tun, too, because those Imperials, the grain bill can get pretty big. It helped run that off the way. The hull of buckwheat is unlike any grain on Earth. It’s like this triangular-looking hull that’s actually quite tough. Even when it’s incredibly dry, it doesn’t really mill up. It almost cracks rather than mills. That hull really stays together.
I remember pulling the grain out of the mash tun that day, and it was layered nicely through that heavy grain bill. That was a cool one, actually. I’m glad we mentioned that. I’ve forgotten we brewed that stout. That was almost a year ago. We should do that again.
[00:35:41] TT: It’s interesting. I’m glad you mentioned the challenge to mill that. Overall, when we’re talking about alternative grains and some of these unique grains, do you have any suggestions? What are the challenges in general? Are there any suggestions you have that brewers should be aware of when milling some of these grains?
[00:35:58] Josh: It does require a paradigm shift for brewers. When we first started, we got a lot of interest in home brewers and macro; I mean super small craft brewers. They would send me a grain bill for an amber ale with barley. They’d say, can you convert this to a gluten-free bill? My first thought was, you’re already coming at it wrong. You got to learn that they’re different grains.
You have to be open-minded about what they contribute. You got to learn about it. You have to go back to your old days, and you can’t just plug it right into your system, necessarily. However, there are pieces, especially the adjunct brewing, where you can do that. We do a lot of milling of it. We have an isolated gluten-free facility. The original malthouse is actually an isolated gluten-free facility now.
We have an isolated gluten-free roaster, mill, and grain cleaner, […], vacuum, and bagger and […]. We have a whole facility where nothing goes through it that has gluten. Because of that, we do a lot of milling. Some of our biggest millet customers, which are pretty large breweries, still order it from us milled because they don’t want to have to put it through their regular system or however their regular system is set up.
[00:37:07] Jason: As far as suggestions for brewers, if they are going to try to mill these non-traditional grains, reach out to us, and we’ll give you the mill set and talk about it a little bit with you. On our gluten-free mill, we’ve actually had to take our rollers out, take them to a machine shop, and have a special finish put on them so that they’ll do what we need them to do. Traditional grooved rollers or even completely flat rollers are not going to please you.
We can tell people what we’ve done as far as that’s concerned and then also give you mill sets. We’re not milling proso millets at 45,000s. You’re clear down around 15,000–17,000s. Sometimes it helps just to know those numbers so you can set things upright and give it a try, and you don’t end up wasting product.
[00:37:59] GL: That makes sense about the milling. Let’s say that you have a pretty small system like five barrels or something. It sounds like a lot of these you’re talking about are around 10% inclusion rates. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but the way I would go about it is you have your regular mill that your brewery owns, that you use all the time, and then maybe just mill it with a homebrew mill. If you’re going to do 10% of some of these, that way, you can easily adjust it. You don’t really mess up the settings of your main mill. Have you seen people do it that way?
[00:38:28] Jason: Absolutely.
[00:38:29] Josh: Exactly.
[00:38:30] Jason: That makes good sense. If you got a small mill or…
[00:38:34] Josh: One bag, or two bags, or something like that.
[00:38:38] GL: Got you.
[00:38:39] Josh: We have a small homebrew mill that we use in the lab here for some of the extraction and things that we do like that. We actually, occasionally, will mill through that when we’re using it in the lab. That’s how we do it. It’s so easy to adjust. As you said, Grant, that’s ideal. If you only got 50 pounds to mill, or you just order it milled if you know your brew date.
We work with people a lot like that. When we work with them, we’ll say, well, what day are you going to brew? They’ll tell us, and then we’ll mill it and ship it within 48 hours or something like that. If they can get it, they’ll brew with it right away.
[00:39:08] Jason: We’ve even had some experience with those non-traditional grains in the smoker. Right now, we’re smoking two tons at a time, but we can smoke up to eight tons at a time if we need to. We host different wood products for fuel.
[00:39:24] Josh: Smoking has become a big part of our lives, in a very healthy way.
[00:39:30] TT: You guys did some specialty stuff, including the cottonwood that we brought up to a CBA event sometime back. We do have stock of some pretty unique stuff in one of our DC. If any of the listeners out there want to try some, certainly reach out to us.
[00:39:45] Josh: When I was in Europe a few years ago, I heard of a lot of breweries. Smoked malts are such a tradition there. It’s hyper-regional in Germany, of course, in Bamberg. Up in Norway, when I was there, I studied the Stjørdalsøl. It’s a unique Alderwood-smoked beer, 100% smoked malt. When I came back, I was super pumped. I’m excited to tell everybody about smoked beer, and everybody rolled their eyes at me. Rightly so, because some of it is pretty intense.
I’ve noticed more and more of that, actually, in craft breweries, places that we go. We’re doing a collab with our mutual friend up there in Denver next Friday, actually, so that we can release it during CBC week. They do a lot of Saisons up there. We’re going to brew a smoked Saison with those guys because that’s a fun idea. When it’s done right, when there’s a balance to it, it’s good. It’s really a cool thing that way.
[00:40:33] TT: We talked a little bit about generalities, and the alternative grains are higher in protein than the most standard barley malt. What are the total proteins you’re seeing? Grant, I’m throwing just a general question to cover a lot of different types of grains. Lauter performance, we talked a bit about it. Do you have any tips here, assuring, if you will, a smooth runoff for brewers using some of these different grains?
[00:40:57] Jason: Yeah, absolutely. Obviously, if you’re using it as a small percentage of the grain bill on a standard beer, of course, mill sets are important, and protein levels matter, of course. Really on the proso millets, you’re just around 12%. That’s about the top end of standard malting barley protein levels. Here at Colorado Malting, we don’t malt any barley that’s above 13% protein, so 12% is at the high end of the millets.
The buckwheat, we’ve seen go up over 13% a number of times. The sunflowers are, I think 60% or 70% protein like wheat can be. Our tips are always, just pretend you’re making a wheat beer. Watch your mill set close. If you’re going all gluten-free on the beer, then we really need to talk about mash temps because these grains are not the same. I wouldn’t ever suggest somebody using it as an adjunct or as a part of the grain bill, really just mash temps for it.
If you’re trying to make sugar from millet starch or modified millet, and you’re trying to make the conversion from this stuff to feed yeast, then we really have to talk about mash temps. We, of course, have documentation. If somebody orders these grains from us and they tell us that they’re going to make an all-millet beer, a millet buckwheat beer, a millet sunflower beer, or whatever, we’ve got documents that we’ll send over and help out folks with mash temps because it’s a step mash is what it is. I know a lot of guys aren’t set up for step mashes, but you need to be if you’re going to make 100% millet-based beer.
[00:42:31] Josh: I got a crazy story about that. I’m glad you brought it up. One of our biggest customers had a problem with some coagulant after a time in the can. They were brewing all gluten-free IPA, and in that can, it just settled, and it looked crystal clear. They were doing all sorts of filtering, everything they could do to look beautiful to get in the can. A month later, all of a sudden, there’d be some coagulant down in the bottom.
They had some complaints from their customers, and they were really bummed. Jay and I reached out to our buddy Martin Zarnkow who is a professor at Weihenstephan in Freising. Even though, of course, the Reinheitsgebot does limit brewing with millet in Bavaria, he actually stepped out of his traditional world. He’s from Nurnberg, originally, but he did his dissertation in malting proso millet at the University of Ireland. Thankfully, it’s written in English.
I met him at the World Brewing Congress years ago. I called him up and was like, man, if we sent you some of this, could you test this coagulant. At the Technical University of Munich, they tested it for us and sent us back a full report. It was actually grain in origin. We helped that brewery to tailor-make their slurry of enzymes to make sure that that coagulant was going to get broken down in the mash tun, and it took care of that problem. But there was a unique kind of protein issue.
Jason’s comment about the step mash, that’s part of the problem with millet. The DP is low, of course, but the gelatinization temperature of the starch is quite high. When you got to get it nice and warm, you get that starch into gelatin, so it’s available for enzymes to break it down into fermentable sugar. Once you do, you could potentially degrade the enzymes due to the high temperature of the starch necessity. There is a real balance there if you’re trying to make that beer. That’s just the way that it is.
As far as the runoff is concerned, rice hulls are naturally gluten-free. That’s not a bad way, honestly. You can really get lots of stuff in suspension along with those grains if you’re going to do that, but I think the sunflower seeds offer just as much help that way. You might get a little cool protein mouthfeel in it too. That’s just my opinion on that.
[00:44:33] GL: Pro tips right there. That’s stuff that you can’t just read in the normal brewing book. You guys are really paving the way on some of this info. Good to know.
[00:44:41] Josh: Thanks, matey. It has been a crash course with the millet. We have learned a lot of lessons from it. It’s like, you got 7000, 8000 years of barley brewing, and then you got—the first time millet comes in history, I think it was Attila the Hun. Once he tasted the barley beer they were making in Europe; they didn’t drink the millet beer anymore. I figured it out without a lot of data. Build-in, in-house data, let’s put it that way.
[00:45:10] GL: We certainly appreciate having you on the show today and chatting alternative grains. But we wanted to mention that—you guys already did—Colorado Malting make all kinds of specialty malts. I know one of the infamous ones is the Brownie Malt. Can you tell us a bit about that one? It tastes like a chocolate brownie, to my understanding.
[00:45:27] Jason: Yeah, that’s the idea. When it comes out, it has that brownie aromatic and then also in parts like those unique brownies. Brownies are different from just chocolate. Chocolate, it’s got its little roast hint. It’s got that chocolate bite, especially if you get a dark chocolate thing. The brownies are always not that way. They’re always sweet and creamy on the palate with that sweet milk chocolate thing going on. That was inspired by our regular chocolate malt.
Our chocolate malts are traditionally a bit lighter than other people’s chocolate malts. We’re really always going for a milk chocolate malt with ours, not that harsh dark chocolate. That has a lot to do with our roasting. The way we’re barrel roasting here, and the way we step up temperature rather than just blasting it with a coffee roaster as quick as you can get it. Josh and I have a trademark called Old World Roasting that we occasionally utilize with these roasted malts. It’s just the way that we step up the temperature. That inspired the brownie.
The brownie is a sweet chocolate mix, sweeter than your standard chocolate malts or like our milk chocolate malts. It’s just a unique recipe that we came up within the roaster. You’re right; it has been pretty popular by name for sure.
[00:46:43] Josh: It’s got a touch of caramelization that we do. It’s slightly gelatinized and then slightly converted but not completely. Then the caramelization happens in the roaster along with the darkening and roasting of the grain. Consequently, we get that sweet balance with the chocolate flavor. It has been a fun thing, actually. We use it here in the beers, and people seem to love it.
[00:47:06] TT: Great stuff. Off-topic here, but what’s your choice of adult beverages lately? What’s in your beer fridge at the moment?
[00:47:15] Jason: Josh and I, we just are into light lagers.
[00:47:19] Josh: I’m into some lager lately. I got some Centennial IPA, though. It was the SMaSH Beer’s founders, I think. Our little brother lives out in Michigan, so we occasionally hear Michigan talk for beers. He gave me one of these M-43s, which was a hazy IPA. It was some little brewery up in Michigan; I can’t remember the name of the brewery. The beer is called M-43, that’s all I remember, a big can. It was pretty good. I’ve been trying as much craft lager as I can lately. I don’t know if it’s the hot temperatures. Something’s driving my consumption.
[00:47:50] Jason: Probably the forest fire and smoke around here. It’s like when it’s smoky, and then all of a sudden you’re like, well, we’ve been in the smoker with cottonwood malt.
[00:47:58] Josh: Yeah, exactly.
[00:47:59] Jason: It’s like, where’s the lager?
[00:48:00] Josh: Yeah, you’re just ready for a crispy drinkable beer. That’s where I’ve been. That’s true. Although, I’ve been pining for some wheat beer. I recently brewed some […] here because I’ve just been needing some wheat beer too, but that’s it. Maybe it’s just seasonal for us. In the fridge here, we got wheat beer. That’s the one that I’ve just pulled off, actually. What are you drinking? It’s got to be hot down in Texas. We’ve had a hot spell in Southern Colorado; I’ll tell you what.
[00:48:30] TT: My drink is fantastic. Actually, it’s a new release. It’s called water. It is so good right now when it’s 110 degrees.
[00:48:38] Josh: One hundred and ten, ouch. It actually hit 90 degrees in Alamosa. It was a record. We had the craziest hot weather we’ve had lately, hot for us. I know that’s not hot for Texas, but that’s hot for Alamosa, 90 degrees up here.
[00:48:55] TT: For me, I’m saying it’s seasonal. I love the light lagers. It’s refreshing. I can have three or four of them and still be able to go out and mow the yard. Grant’s a little fancier than I am. I see him posting all kinds—he’s opening up like a barrel of aged stuff. He’s got quite the collection.
[00:49:13] GL: Yeah, I’ve been on the lager train as well. I just picked up one here in Houston from Equal Parts Brewing. They made a rice lager, which is a trend now, like a Japanese-style lager beer. They just came out with it last week. It’s called Kaizen, killing it, delicious beer.
[00:49:30] Josh: Cool, that’s rice.
[00:49:32] Jason: Inspired by sake, huh?
[00:49:34] GL: No. More just like Sapporo or Asahi, just your traditional Japanese lagers.
[00:49:39] Josh: That’s actually a pretty cool beer. I’ve had that before.
[00:49:43] TT: I threw a curveball at Grant and mentioned some fun facts. We’ll go to you guys. Fun facts. Give me something that people may or may not know about you or something interesting you can share with the group.
[00:49:54] Josh: I love whiskey. Probably not a bit awkward to anybody.
[00:50:00] TT: I was going to say that’s not quite unique to this audience.
[00:50:03] Josh: Not too unique, probably, but my favorite whiskey is Laphroaig. Laphroaig is an Islay-style peated whiskey, probably one of the most intense peated whiskies in the world. I have a strange addiction to it, not in quantity, but in ice-cold volume. I’ll get two pieces of ice, put 1 ounce or 1½ ounce of Laphroaig in a glass, and then I’ll let it sit for a good 5 minutes before I drink it. I do that pretty much every night, especially lately. I just am addicted to the flavor of that peated malt. They got a unique thing going there.
[00:50:44] Jason: Fun Fact. Tell them about the land that you own.
[00:50:46] Josh: Yeah, I’m a friend of Laphroaig. If you know what that is, they have this really weird group you can be a part of with Laphroaig. You own a 1×1 foot plot in their peat bog once you become a friend. They send you this really funny deed to the property once you become a friend. That’s one thing that people might not know about me. I geek out on peated whiskies, actually.
[00:51:14] Jason: We do a lot of peat smoke here.
[00:51:16] Josh: Yeah, we do. It’s true. Maybe it’s the smell of that peat smoker when we’re stoking the stove or something. I just get that smell, and then I can’t stop thinking about it all day long. I might have a problem.
[00:51:29] GL: Channeling your inner Ron Swanson.
[00:51:34] Josh: That’s one funny fact about me.
[00:51:36] Jason: Fun fact about Jason. I don’t know if people know this, but Jason has ten kids.
[00:51:42] TT: In our prep for this show, Grant and I mentioned with the rest of our podcast crew like, we should bring up how many kids these guys have. It’s crazy.
[00:51:52] Josh: We have a huge family. Collectively, about 17 children. We all live on the family farm, and we all work together.
[00:52:02] Jason: The older boys are getting an education in the malthouse.
[00:52:05] Josh: And the brewery. Even the younger boys and some of the daughters get lots of time.
[00:52:13] TT: You have very patient and understanding wives, I assume. That’s a lot.
[00:52:16] Josh: Man, if you had any idea how amazing they are. We were blessed with amazing wives. I’m very thankful for that.
[00:52:29] TT: I have a hard time managing too, wow.
[00:52:31] Josh: You know what, I tell people that having two was just as hard as having four, not seven but four.
[00:52:38] Jason: I always say, once you get to six, then they herd up and fight in groups.
[00:52:42] Josh: Yeah, that’s true. For me, it was a hockey line. I thought you got to have five on the ice. You got to have a goalie. You got to have somebody sitting back. Seven seemed like a good round there.
[00:52:54] Jason: Those are some fun facts about us.
[00:52:56] TT: That’s awesome. Good stuff.
[00:52:59] Josh: We’re living the dream though, man, seriously. Working together like that, it’s amazing.
[00:53:04] TT: For those listening, if you haven’t had the chance to meet Jason and Josh, and I know, once we were able to start traveling again and get these guys out in the market, they’re truly unique, passionate, the epitome of our industry and what they’re doing. A family-oriented business, some fantastic products that they’re putting out. Obviously, we are just super glad to be able to help get their product out to market in limited areas at this point. I’m really happy that we can help get your product out into the hands of more and more customers.
For those folks that are interested in trying either the malts or their alternative specialty grains, reach out to your Country Malt Group territory manager, and they’d be happy to help you out. As Jason and Josh mentioned before, they are a phone call away, and they’re always willing to talk to folks about brewing with their products and sharing a glimpse of what they do in the history of their family farm, malthouse, and brewery. Really great to have you guys on; I appreciate it. I look forward to seeing you soon.
[00:54:04] Josh: Speaking of that, thank you, Toby. Speaking of that, CBC, that’s going to actually happen.
[00:54:11] TT: Yes, it is. I had heard there are no holds barred. It’s a full go at CBC this year, according to the Brewers Association.
[00:54:17] Josh: Amazing, man. It’s in Denver, to boot.
[00:54:20] TT: That’s right. We will have a crew out there. Guys, I don’t want to put you on the spot, but I’m assuming you all might make the trip.
[00:54:28] Josh: We could all go.
[00:54:29] TT: There we go. Good opportunity for folks listening. If you want to meet the guys, just come on by the Country Malt Group city, have a chance to meet them, and talk a little bit more about the alternative grains and specialty stuff. Thanks again, guys.
For the listeners out there, continue to hit subscribe from wherever you get your podcasts. We’d love to have you as a weekly or biweekly guest when we roll these things out. We’re trying to put out some fantastic information and stuff that might help brewers, distillers, and just generally folks who want to learn more about our wonderful industry.
Stay tuned as well. I think Grant and I are going to try to put together a whirlpool here, which is another segment of what we do, and follow it up with talking to some customers that are enthralled and deep into the alternative grains and brewing with them. Stick around as we hit the whirlpool. We’ll talk a little bit more about that. Cheers.
[00:55:19] Jason: Cheers, guys. Thanks.