Virginia invests in malting operation

AFP Correspondent

Lucketts, Va. (Dec. 22, 2015) — Winter cover cropping won’t be the only reason for farmers to plant more barley, wheat and rye in the coming years, if a new Virginia malting operation helps foster more demand for the locally grown grains.
A Michigan-based company, Pilot Malt House, will open a location in Loudoun County in the coming year with commitments to purchase 2 million pounds of Virginia-grown barley, wheat and rye in the next three years.
“This is helping Virginia growers, giving more opportunity to our producers to expand their operations,” Todd Haymore, Virginia’s secretary of agriculture and forestry, said at an event announcing the new facility this month.
Pilot Malt House will use fermentation to turn homegrown barley and other grains into an important ingredient for the state’s burgeoning beer industry, which includes more than two-dozen craft breweries.
The company will invest nearly $1 million to construct and operate the facility located at Black Hops Farm.
And the state worked hard to recruit them to the site where Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office has now invested in both the hops-growing and barley-malting operations that could help brewers source ingredients closer to home.
The governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund approved a grant of nearly $20,000 to get Pilot Malt House’s operation off the ground.
State officials met the malters at the 2015 Craft Brewers Convention in Portland in April — Haymore says Virginia was the only state with its own booth — where conversations started about bringing them into the state.
Currently, Copper Fox Distillery in Virginia’s Rappahannock County is the only facility in the state where barley is malted for products, in this case, distilled beverages such as whiskey. Matthew Hagerman, founder of Lost Rhino Brewing Co. in Loudoun County, said he currently buys some local malted barley from Copper Fox for a specialty beer, and that he looks forward to working with a larger supply for his brews.
One of his beers, called Native Sun, that uses only Virginia ingredients, including the hops, malt and even the yeast that’s extracted by a local biochemist.
For now, Hagerman and other brewers will continue to supplement their malt supplies from sources mostly out West, because “we make more beer than they have malt.”
Pilot Malt House’s Michael Schimmel said a farmer his company is contracting with already has planted an additional 120 acres of barley to supply the new facility.
Sec. Haymore sees the craft beverage sector, to include the state’s 270 wineries, as one of the fastest growing sectors of the local agriculture economy.
“Those craft beverage manufacturers are contributing over $1 billion to our economy in the Commonwealth and over 10,000 jobs,” he told the audience gathered in a new building at Black Hops Farm in Lucketts.
He recalled giving a similar speech at the facility a year ago, when its floors were still dirt and the state announced a $40,000 investment in the farm’s hops drying and pelletizing facility.
Soon, more brewers will be able to offer Virginia-grown products from their taps.
“Pilot Malt House will close the missing link in Loudoun’s farm brewery industry,” Buddy Rizer, Loudoun County Economic Development Director, said in a press release. “We will now have the ability to malt locally-grown grain right here in our county.”