Return of the Malt: Peterson Quality Malt brings locally produced malt back to VermontMay 03, 2021 08:24PM ● By Kristie L. Smith Nikitin
In 2014, professional crafters of adult beverages and homebrewers bought everything Peterson Quality Malt produced…consistently! “It was difficult keeping product available those first years,” says founder Andrew Peterson. This story takes place in a world where local ingredients disappeared, demand was great, and a plague descended, igniting one man’s love of fermented liquids and his quest for a profession.
The Idea Ferments
Not unlike many students in college, Andrew took a liking to the four food groups—hops, malt, yeast, and water. After graduation he “was determined to be part of the craft beer world.” He wanted to make and sell his own recipes from locally sourced ingredients. The stars were slow to align and when his kegs were finally in a row, there were so many stellar breweries in Vermont that he felt like launching another self-sustaining watering hole would be an uphill climb.
Andrew’s a-ha moment was when he noticed what had been a 180-year drought in the Green Mountain state’s malt production. “I would malt and brew with my own grains,” says Andrew. “I realized pretty quickly that malting was a full-time pursuit, and with all the great beers coming out all around my area, maybe I would be best-served to focus on supplying them.”
He started doing research and making sketches in 2011. The journey was not without complications. “There was no roadmap on how to make a craft malt house,” he says. So, he had to build the road first. By August of 2014 his product was on the market. According to Andrew, permits were “the hardest part because nobody at the state knew what a malt house was or how to classify what I was doing.”
Build It and They Will Come
Demand for his product rose quickly. Suddenly, the small malt house in the old hay barn next to his family’s living quarters no longer sufficed. Craft adult beverage producers couldn’t get enough of Peterson Quality Malt. He expanded twice in just a few years and sold out in short order. It was time to move the operation.
In 2018 the new home of his family business was Nordic Farm, a former dairy operation with plenty of space to build a large-scale malt house from the ground up—with room to grow. Now, the malting happens in a 25,000-square-foot corner of a 42,000-square-foot barn that had previously been instrumental in the harvesting and processing of a bovine-made beverage. It sits on 583 acres of land that were ripe for planting grain.
Opening in Time for the Surprise of the Century
The new digs allow Peterson Quality Malt to produce 30-ton batches or about 1,500 tons of malt, while tending to 350 acres of grain per year. “We commissioned the new malt house the same week that the pandemic shutdown began, so 2020 was a very slow year,” Andrew says.
While he didn’t set out to be a farmer, chemist, engineer, artisan, or laborer, that’s exactly what Andrew has become over the years. He also launched a quest as old as the industry of agriculture: to provide local ingredients to brewers, distillers, homebrewers, and even restaurants looking to resurrect some old-world favorites while single-handedly bringing locally sourced malt back to Vermont. “Hopefully, by the middle of 2021 things will be somewhat back to normal for beer production.”