Mike Myers has had a fast-paced career – from working in retail to his first brews as a hobby brewer to his current job as malthouse manager at Root Shoot Malting in Colorado. The foundation for this was laid by his wife, who unsuspectingly gave him his first home brewing system for his birthday and thus initiated the biggest change in their life together. In the podcast, Mike talks about this exciting adventure journey and reports on his creative everyday life as a maltster in the American craft beer scene.
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Markus Raupach: Hello and welcome to another episode of our podcast BierTalk. Today, we have an interesting journey. We go to the United States more or less in the centre of the United States. We go to Colorado, and we meet Mike Myers. He is a maltster, brewer. So we will see many, many things. Farmer maybe also. So we met in Bamberg, and we decided to keep in touch and now we are recording this podcast and I’m looking very much forward to it. But maybe Mike, introduce yourself a little bit to the listeners.
Mike Myers: Sure. My name is Mike Myers. I’m originally from Colorado, I’ve spent my whole life here. Started down my adventures in the brewing world in about 2006, where I started home brewing. That’s kind of where I found some love and interest in some of the fermentation arts. I spent my whole life here in Colorado, like I said, I graduated from Colorado State University. And it was pretty much that move to go to Colorado State University in Fort Collins, where I fell in love with the beer community really. At that time, Odell Brewing Company had just started to expand and New Belgium had started to get really big. And so you had this bustling craft beer scene that was happening in Fort Collins and I just happened to turn of age during that timeframe. So we spent a lot of weekends roaming around Fort Collins and all the new craft breweries that were opening up. And so that’s how we spent a lot of our weekend free time when we weren’t at school and working. So just going around and discovering everything that was new. And then sometime, my wife bought me a homebrew kit for my birthday. And if you ask her, it was probably the worst birthday present ever, because it’s led me down this journey into beer since that moment she gave that to me. It just sparked some inner interest, and fueled some knowledge, thirst for learning how everything is made and the raw materials and sharing experiences with brewing and just being around the like-minded people that are enjoying the process of fermentation. So I did a lot of home brewing for a long time. And then I won a contest to go to Sierra Nevada, out in Chico, California, they opened up a contest for home brewers and it was called the Beer Camp Program. And so they invited I think it was eight or nine of us from across the United States to come out to Chico and actually brew with Sierra Nevada. And so we got to formulate our own recipe and we spent three days out there, they basically just turned us loose in the brewery. And it was at that moment I was, I knew like I did not want to do my corporate job anymore. That was the defining moment. Because I used to work for a grocery store chain which is the chain conglomerate is Kroger which is the largest grocer in the United States. But I worked for a division of those guys. And I was running a grocery store for a living, and once I went out to Sierra Nevada, I knew I didn’t want to do grocery store work any longer. That was it. I had seen the other side.
Markus Raupach: That really sounds great. Was there any beer at the grocery store?
Mike Myers: Early in Colorado we weren’t even able to sell beer on Sundays. It was against the law. So when we were in early days of college, if you wanted to drink beer on Sunday, you would have to drive to Wyoming to get across the state lines to go get beer because it was legal in Wyoming. But at that time, it was just your large brewers, Bud, those guys, the big guys in the grocery stores. There wasn’t anything what It is now. Now it’s a pretty fierce competition inside of that retail market, which they actually just legalized selling wine in grocery stores. It started on the first. So it’s only been going for about six or seven days here in Colorado.
Markus Raupach: Wow. So there’s still some sort of prohibition laws active at the moment?
Mike Myers: Yes, I wouldn’t call them so much prohibition. They’re just controlling where you can buy it. Because you can buy beer, wine and liquor in liquor stores. And now they’re slowly expanding that offering to the grocery stores.
Markus Raupach: So it’s a term of offer and where you can get it. And are you allowed to walk out with a beer in your hand? Or is that also forbidden?
Mike Myers: You are not, by law supposed to be drinking in public. But you can, yes, closed cans are just fine. Which was my favourite thing about being in Germany, especially Munich and walking on the streets and eating and drinking and enjoying the outdoor in the square. That was like one of my favourite things about visiting Munich.
Markus Raupach: So is it also forbidden to drink outside in something like a beer garden, if it’s a restaurant or something like that?
Mike Myers: Not forbidden. I mean, they have those. But you cannot leave the grounds with open containers. So you have to consume everything inside of that, the logistical area.
Markus Raupach: That’s very interesting. Maybe that’s a point where we can go into your earlier days, so when you grew up in Colorado, with more restrictive laws and things. How do you get in contact with alcohol and what, do you remember your first beer?
Mike Myers: My dad, when I was a kid, he used to drink Michelob and they had this really interesting hourglass bottle. And I definitely was too young to be consuming, but he would give me sips of it every once in a while. And that would, that was, I guess, my first intro into beer in general was just seeing the hourglass bottles. I just see him vividly in my mind from my childhood. But it wasn’t until I think high school, secondary school where your friends are out in the prairies drinking beer. That was probably my first introduction into it. And it was always the whatever was cheap and whatever didn’t taste very good. I would say my palate is quite refined.
Markus Raupach: Okay. And when your wife bought you the homebrewing system, did you have experience before brewing with friends or something like that?
Mike Myers: No, not at all. As part of my grocery store journey through work, I used to manage the bakery department. So we had a lot of pastries, making a lot of breads that we were making. And there’s some art form to making loaves of bread and those pastries and making them beautiful. And I’ve always just enjoyed that process. And there was, there’s actually a kid that used to work for me and he had brewed a little bit of beer. And he brought some in for me one day, and he said, I bet you would really like this. And then I told my wife about it, she’s bought it for me for my birthday. But just always the presentation piece of creating foods, and that you’re always eating and drinking with your eyes first. So being able to present something beautiful, even if it’s pastries, I’ve always just enjoyed that process.
Markus Raupach: Yes, and of course, if it’s made by yourself, then it’s even much more interesting, even maybe you always think it’s a good product because you made it. So there’s a different habit on that. So that’s really great. And so then you started brewing and where did you have the first recipes? Was there something like an explanation with the brewing system?
Mike Myers: There was a really great local homebrew store in Fort Collins. The guy who runs it actually runs his own brewery now and they’ve since closed that homebrew store. But the brewery that he operates is called Equinox Brewing and it’s in Fort Collins and they make lovely beer. And the gentleman that owned it, he actually worked at like Alaska Brewing company and he’s been all over the world just kind of brewing his beer. But he’s landed in Fort Collins and he opened that homebrew supply store. And so I used to spend a lot of weekends in there, going in there finding stuff in books and just reading what I could. Mostly like Charlie Papazian’s book on the Joy of Home Brewing. My copy of that has been dog-eared and highlighted and read multiple times just trying to learn about the different processes and the different ingredients and what yeast contributes. And that that book is 20-some years old at least.
Markus Raupach: Yes, but it’s like a bible. So really.
Mike Myers: It is. I mean, it truly is. I own two copies of it. That’s how impactful of a book that was
Markus Raupach: And did you wife ever regret giving you the homebrewing system?
Mike Myers: I’m sure.
Markus Raupach: So now she has to try every batch you brew.
Mike Myers: Exactly. She tries everything and I make her drink beer that she doesn’t like and …
Markus Raupach: Okay.
Mike Myers: Although I get to take her on lots of adventures through beer, so.
Markus Raupach: So I know it has always both sides. So and then you have been to the beer camp at Sierra Nevada. And how did you then make your way to Root Shoot Malting? How did that go?
Mike Myers: Well, it was probably about that time after visiting the beer camp at Sierra Nevada, I started looking around at finding a new career in beer. And so I spent a lot of time trying to get a job as a brewer or in a brewery and trying to leave my than corporate job at the grocery store. And I could just not ever land inside of a brewery and it was because I never had any practical experience. And so I was always passed over. And so, during this timeframe, I had pretty much honed my skills as a homebrewer to the point where I was winning a lot of homebrew competition medals. I was picked for the Great American Beer Fest for the pro-am. I think I’ve had about six selections to be, to have my beer on tap in the pro-am section at the Great American Beer Fest, up for a Beer Fest medal. So I’ve honed my skills over those years to be able to produce world-class beer in my basement. So I mean, I had all this really interesting, like just thirst for knowledge on how to make it, how to process it, what steps I needed to take, my equipment. I just had all those things in place. But what I didn’t have was any practical experience inside operating a brewery. So I was never granted an opportunity to do that inside of a working brewery. I did a lot of collaboration brews as a homebrewer. And then once Todd was getting going, they were starting to build Root Shoot, and I’ve known Todd for almost 30 years of my life. And so he was reaching out to me to connect him as soon as they were starting to get going. And so I was using my homebrewing resources to connect the malting company with the brewers that I knew. And so that’s kind of where the relationship began. So from their very first batch, I was just a cheerleader for what they were doing. And I just continued being that cheerleader because I fell in love with what they were doing and what they were building and the idea of what was going on at Root Shoot. And so I just helped them along, I would go to beer events, I would wear their T-shirt, I would pass out cards. Just as an unpaid person that just wanted to see them succeed. And so finally Todd got the malting company up and running and it took a couple years. And they needed some help operating their facility and just day-to-day operations. And so I got into talks with him about what it would take to get me out of my corporate job and what I needed from them. And we finally came to an agreement and that was when I pulled the trigger and I left my corporate job to come take this giant leap of faith to come run this malting company, this craft malting company that had just started. So and I just had my five-year anniversary with Root Shoot just the other day. So I’ve been running the malting operations in the malting facility for Root Shoot for five years now.
Markus Raupach: Wow, that’s a big story. And is it easy to go from homebrewing, even if it’s in a very good and high skilled shape into malting? Because it’s a little bit different, or isn’t it? Did you get what’s easy?
Mike Myers: It’s a whole different world. But when I first joined Root Shoot, I thought I knew something about malt. And it turns out I really didn’t know shit. So, but I continued to read and consume anything I could on malting and just learn and watch videos. And then I went to the University of Montana for their, they had a week-long course on the production of craft malting. And then I went to North Dakota State University and attended their barley-to-beer program. So I have some, over the years, I’ve been able to gather some educational background to accompany just my operational, firsthand experience running the malting facility. But I would say that anything with like creating something that’s very consistent, there’s a lot of process-driven things. And so, coming from the grocery store, which is a very process-driven operation, I was able to translate all those things that we did in the grocery store into running this malting facility. So truly repetition and understanding the processes and what changing certain parameters changes the final product. I’ve just translated all that knowledge from the grocery store into running that malting operation with extreme consistency. And that has helped us grow as a company, because we’re producing a very consistent product, end product.
Markus Raupach: Yes. And just to round it up a little bit for the listeners, Root Shoot Malting is a farm and a malting, so both. And so that’s also a very important part. So you grow your own grains, and then you malt them. So I think it’s quite unique, or they were one of the first ones to use such micro malting systems. So did they have a farm before? Or did they start the whole thing in 2016?
Mike Myers: Sure. I’ll just back up a little bit. So the family, the Olander family has been farming in northern Colorado for five generations. So during those five generations, they farmed a lot of different things, and we’ve had a lot of land. Over those five generations, we’ve lost some of the land and we’ve pretty much reduced what we’re growing. So we’ve grown things as popcorn. We grew hemp one year. We grow barley, we grow wheat, alfalfa, oats, rye. I mean, we have quite a few different things that we’re growing. And corn, we grow a lot of corn, silage corn and distilling corn. So the generation of the company is that Todd and his dad went to a tour at New Belgium Brewing Company. This was a long time ago. And they were asking the brewers where they got their barley from. And the brewers told them that they were bringing it in from Europe. And that didn’t quite connect because they were growing barley 15 minutes away from New Belgium. So there was, why would New Belgium purchase malting barley from halfway across the world when it’s growing, high-quality barley right down the street from them.
Markus Raupach: Yes.
Mike Myers: So that’s where the genesis of Root Shoot came along. And so we’ve basically transitioned our farm out of like commodity farming into very small grain specific to our malt house. So right now we currently have 1500 acres that we’re operating on where we’re growing barley, rye, wheat, oats, and corn. Now, we’ve pretty much just eliminated all other things out of our farm, just to be able to provide the brewing and distilling with what they need from our farm. So we have complete vertical integration of our operation, meaning that we are the farmer, we are the malting company and then we are the distribution piece on our products. And that puts us in a really, really small threshold of people that are doing that across the world. Now there are lots of farmers selling barley out, which is fine. There are some maltsters that are just buying barley. But us being able to control that entire process from the day we put the seed in the ground to the time we harvest to the malting, and then by the time it reaches a brewer’s hand, it’s only been through about three people by the time it goes from field to the brewery. So we’re shortening that transition time for everyone. So it’s helped us with a lot of internal growth of our operation.
Markus Raupach: And when they decided to go into malting, I think that’s also not so easy. If you are a farmer and say, okay, we want to do malt, you can’t go into a grocery store and say I want a maltery. So did you know how they did that and how they came along with the German system?
Mike Myers: Yes, so the family spent out of those five generations of farming, they spent about 30-plus years growing barley specifically for Anheuser Busch and Coors. So we had 30 years of barley growing experience and the initial thought was, well let’s open a malting company. I mean, how hard could it be? Turns out was really hard. But I mean, we had 30-plus years of growing barley, high-quality barley experience. And so we started, Todd started looking around at malting equipment. And there’s a lot of different ways that you can do malting. You can do floor malting. I mean, it’s just endless the way that you can do it. And I just got done reading, I forget his name, Lars, he just wrote a book on his beers in maybe Norway? No. Anyways, he was talking about the malting process on these farms. And they just used to throw barley in a burlap sack and then throw it into the creek. And then they would pull it out about three days later, and then let it sprout in their barn. So I mean, like malting is not, it doesn’t have to be super complex. It’s a very simple process. But anyways, when we started looking around, we started talking to the different breweries in the area. And all of them said that they would be interested in buying malted barley if it was grown and processed locally. But the one thing that they told us was that it had to be consistent. And that kind of stuck, resonated, that they’re looking to produce very consistent beer. So they need their raw materials to also be very consistent. So that just resonated when we started looking for malting equipment. And that led us down the road to purchase Casper Schultz malting system. Because it gave us the absolute most control over every single process. Every single, all the airflow, the temperatures, we just were able to control everything using their system. And so farmers with no experience in malting, we relied on that Casper Schultz system to pretty much guide us on how to produce high-quality consistent malt.
Markus Raupach: And that worked.
Mike Myers: And it would, it has worked very well for us. So we originally purchased just the 10-ton malting drum and the steep tank. And right now we’re operating on three 10-ton malting drums. But originally, we just purchased the one. And then we operated on that for a few years until we pretty much ran into capacity issues. And then we purchased the second one, installed it, ran it for a couple of years and then we purchased the third one. And then we’ve been operating on it for about a year now.
Markus Raupach: Wow. And you just have been to Bemberg and visited Casper Schultz factory and some of the breweries here. So how was the visit? How did you enjoy Bamberg and the local sites here?
Mike Myers: I’ll tell you, I’ve never been to Europe, never been to Germany. And what an amazing adventure that was. We, as a group, we visited and did so many different things in our eight-day stay through the country and they all involved beer and the production of beer. And we visited Casper Schultz, and Bamberg, of course, was my favourite, Munich, going to all the different breweries there. The Hallertauer growing region for hops. I mean, we visited a couple of distilleries. It truly was a pretty spectacular visit. And the beer, the culture, the beer culture is so different there than it is here in the United States. It’s just, I don’t think sometimes we know how good it is when we’re in it as people. Living in Fort Collins in the mecca of beer, I’m very spoiled here. And I don’t really understand that until I leave and go to different parts of the country where the beer is not so good. But being in Bamberg and Munich and these beautiful beers and Weihenstephan has been brewing for a thousand years. That just doesn’t, it almost becomes just second nature. You don’t understand how special it is until you remove yourself from it.
Markus Raupach: So what would you say was the most spectacular thing for you, yourself?
Mike Myers: The time we spent at Schlenkerla was pretty amazing. We got to go into the beer caves and we got to spend time with the brewer. And he showed us his smoked malt system and drinking the beer straight out of the fermenter. And then eating dinner at their location of the city. The city is so beautiful. The cobblestone streets, I mean, just all these intricate things that play into it. But spending the time. I think I spent three nights I ended at the Schlenkerla Brewery when we were in Bamberg, just because I couldn’t get enough of it. And then when we flew back to the United States, I went to the liquor store and then got some of their Rauchbier and drank it the next day. I just couldn’t get enough.
Markus Raupach: Right. So you brought some ideas to the States, to Root Shoot maltings like making smoked malt or like growing hops or some of these ideas?
Mike Myers: Yes. I mean, we got to spend a lot of time talking to a lot of different brewers and what they were looking for. And we were also looking to expand our operation to produce some smoked malts, which we talk about quite often on how to diversify our offerings. And we want to make a very unique experience using, for the brewers, using our malt. So what more unique of an experience to have if you can come smoked malts at the malting company, and then take that smoked malt to the brewery, make the smoked beer and, it’s just this very intricate process. And inviting the breweries in to come actually participate in that. It just gives this level of ownership into that process to where, like, we talked earlier about being able to make something and then present it and how wonderful it is.
Markus Raupach: That really sounds great. And especially if you maybe find a way to do it more in the original way. So because if you buy normal industrial smoke malt, it’s finished malt which is then put into a smoking chamber. So it’s a different way of smoking than you do it in the original way, which Schlenkerla does, where you have the whole process in the smoky surroundings. So it’s a very different taste and a very different harmony in the beer. So if you should be able to make that in the States, I think that would be great.
Mike Myers: I mean, we’re always looking to differentiate ourselves a little bit. So one way is through that smoking process. Small batch. We talk about maybe burning whiskey barrels.
Markus Raupach: Oh yes.
Mike Myers: I mean, just your options are endless.
Markus Raupach: And you have different woods in the States. So you can really have a lot of interesting experiences. So sounds great. Did you ever consider brewing at Root Shoot Malting? Or do you still homebrew?
Mike Myers: I still homebrew. It’s been a little bit. Now that we’re, we’ve gotten a little bigger of a company, there’s definitely less free time to do that. But we do rely on that homebrewing side and some of the homebrew community and even the homebrew club in our area is pretty, I’m heavily involved in it. When we make something new, I always am kicking out some bags to the local brewers that I know that make some high-quality beer to get their feedback before we start releasing things. So we’re definitely still entrenched in that homebrew side. And even though I’m not a professional brewer, I get to execute a lot of my ideas of our malt on the professional side by working through a couple of our trusted accounts and having conversations about them on how I think they should make beer with our malt. So it’s kind of, I’m not so much homebrewing anymore, but more executing those ideas on the professional scale.
Markus Raupach: So you’re consulting your customers, let’s say.
Mike Myers: Yes, I mean, pretty much.
Markus Raupach: Wow.
Mike Myers: So we change ideas all the time on what direction that we want to go as a company. We have some good ideas and sometimes we’ve thought about opening a brewery on-site, or having some sort of agritourism, a piece of our business. But I think the truth of the matter is, a distilling operation is probably more likely than a brewery.
Markus Raupach: It’s easier and quicker.
Mike Myers: Yes. And the only bad thing about a distillery, you just have to have a large initial investment in it. And that’s where it becomes a little tricky. But we did eyeball the Kaspar Schulz distilling equipment while we were out in Bamberg.
Markus Raupach: And it’s beautiful also.
Mike Myers: It is. It is very beautiful.
Markus Raupach: Maybe a few words on Root Shoot Malting if you think on farming and malting. What would you say is the more important part of it?
Mike Myers: Oh man, I think there, truthfully, it all starts at the farm. That’s where tending to the fields and making sure the right biodiversity in the soil is there and that you’re harvesting at the right times, and that your moisture content is where it needs to be and your protein content is at an acceptable level. I mean, everything truthfully starts out in the fields. You can make, you have to have good barley to make good malt, which then translates to good beer. And that’s where it all starts. So I mean, Todd on the farm side is doing an amazing job creating some very beautiful barley for us to then malt and then in turn, we’re giving it to the brewers. That’s high-quality barley, high-quality malt, and then they’re making high-quality beer with it.
Markus Raupach: In general, what grains do you grow at the farm?
Mike Myers: So we’ve grown a lot of different varieties of barley over the years. But we have whittled it down to a barley variety called Genie. And this Genie is from a company called Lima Grain and it’s a European company, seed company. They provide us the seed, we grow it, and it has done very well for us. Which we are the masters in a couple of different areas. So to be able to rely on one grain means that it has to grow well out in the field, it has to have good yield, it has to produce the right amount of protein, and then it also has to malt well. And then translate that and then it has to brew well. So we’ve worked through a couple of different varieties that maybe had just maybe some undesirables and we’ve whittled it down to the Genie variety of barley and that’s what we’re growing and that’s what we’re malting as of now.
Markus Raupach: Is it a summer or a winter variety?
Mike Myers: It’s a summer. So we’re actually getting ready to plant here in the next couple of weeks as soon as the ground thaws. And then we generally harvest it in July or August and that is all weather dependent.
Markus Raupach: What would you say is the difference between if you have this two-row and the six-row barley, if you see from a brewer’s and from a farmer’s perspective? Where are the main differences?
Mike Myers: Basically your protein levels are the main difference. Six-row barley has kind of fallen out of favour in the United States at least, and maybe in some of the other growing regions around the world. But two row is the preferred style for brewers. It gives a plumper kernel. It’s more uniform in growth. You get more extract out of it. Lower protein. Your six-row barley is higher in protein, and it’s favoured for your, like cattle feed and some different food processing. So I think in America’s brewing history, there’s a lot of six-row usage in the early days with a lot of adjunct corn brewing. And we’ve since moved away from that just because the kernels are small, and then the protein levels are a little elevated. So it’s more suited for feed, really.
Markus Raupach: That’s something I also read about that. That was more or less also the reason of the adjunct brewing to have the six-row barley in the beginning. We now have the climate change. Do you feel something with that on the farm? Do you have changes in the fields in the rain and everything?
Mike Myers: Yes. I mean, a great example would be last year in Colorado, it was so hot and so dry that our farm harvested barley, the earliest it has ever harvested barley. We just had no rain from pretty much April to August. And this year, it has done nothing but snow all winter, which is a little abnormal, but we’ve had snow cover on the ground for the longest that they have in some recorded times.
Markus Raupach: Crazy. And what do you do if you don’t have rainfall for six months? Do you water the grains or what are you doing?
Mike Myers: So we’re lucky. In Colorado, there’s some, they have, there basically a water system that gets water to the farms. It’s a ditch system. So we’re close enough to the source that, and we’ve been farming long enough that we have access to some of that water. So the water companies who dictate when the water comes, when they send it, we use it. And we also do some pivot farming techniques, meaning that we’re able to water during the summer as long as we have water from the ditch system. And once they turn that water off on the ditch system, that is it. So you’re hoping for some rains to help along the barley during that hot dry June/July time. But you’re definitely living the life of a farmer watching the skies.
Markus Raupach: In terms of the grains here in Germany, we only malt barley and wheat and maybe rye. But you also are malting corn?
Mike Myers: No malting corn. There are some people that are doing that around us, some of the other malting companies. But we have not malted any corn. And the reason being is we don’t want to introduce corn into our process, because we have a hard time getting it out. So a long time ago, we tried putting some corn through our packaging line and it got stuck in there, and it came out for months like just little pieces of corn. So we’ve just decided that we do not want to deal with that ever. So we just basically treat corn as a cross-contaminant in the malting facility. But there are some people making some corn, malted corn around us and we’re also sending some of our corn from our farm to another distillery and they’re malting it, and then making it into single malt bourbon pretty much.
Markus Raupach: Okay. And what grain varieties and what malt varieties do you offer?
Mike Myers: So this year we’re growing a variety of rye called Guardian. It’s new to us. Last year we grew a variety called Bono. And we’re switching over to this Guardian variety because some of the characteristics of it are a little more spicy than the Bono that we were growing. So we’re pretty excited to get that into the ground and then to be able to offer that next year. We have some very interested distillers. We have a distillery in Texas that is making some whiskies with different varieties of rye. So every year they’re sourcing one variety, distilling it and putting it away. And they’re just trying to showcase the different expressions from all the different ryes in their portfolio. So anyways, we have this Guardian rye. We grow some Monida oats. And we have just non-GMO regular corn for the distillers and then the Genie barley. Then we also grow, it’s called Huffman white wheat, and it’s just a variety of white wheat. And the more interesting one we have is we have a variety of wheat called Oland wheat. It’s actually called Olandsvete and it’s from Sweden. So there’s kind of a story behind the wheat. So the Oland family, so Todd Olander, they can trace their family roots to Sweden to the Isle of Oland is where they’re from. And so there’s this wheat that grows there that’s called Olandsvete. So we brought some in from Sweden, we planted a little bit, and then we harvested it, and we then replanted it the next year, so we can actually get some acreage off of it. So we’ve grown it up over the last couple years. But it’s, there’s a very loose story between the Oland wheat and the Olander family, but it’s a very …
Markus Raupach: That’s a fantastic story. Yes, great.
Mike Myers: It’s a great story. But nobody in the United States is growing it or malting it. And this Oland, Olandsvete wheat is prized for its breadmaking ability in Sweden. So it’s got really high protein, it’s got some really interesting characteristics to it. So we find some very fruity notes when we malt it, and it gets translated into beer. It’s interesting stuff.
Markus Raupach: And what malt varieties do you do like pale malt and chocolate malt and something like that?
Mike Myers: We have about 13 different varieties of malted barley that we’re making. So we’re making a distillers malt, a pale, a pilsner, an English style, light Munich, Munich 10. We make a couple of different varieties of wheat. Just adding some colour and some heat onto the wheat gives it a little bit different characteristic. So we’re taking that one base variety of barley, and then we’re turning it into about 13 different end products. And what we’re doing is we’re just basically changing time, temperature and moisture of those grains inside of the kiln, and we can, it comes out with a different product.
Markus Raupach: Sounds like a little playground. So you can really experiment and adjust every parameter. That sounds really great.
Mike Myers: It is. We don’t have a pilot system. So our pilot system is about 16,000 pounds. We have to make sure we know what we want when we do it.
Markus Raupach: Okay. That’s also interesting. Let’s talk a little bit about your customers. So where are they based? Are they more or less Colorado customers, or all over the states or even farther?
Mike Myers: We have about 130 breweries that we work with just in the state of Colorado. And there’s a handful outside of the state of Colorado. And then for distilleries, we have about a dozen that we work with and most of those are in the state of Colorado too. Now our company has not found the need to look outside of Colorado due to its concentration of breweries and distilleries, where we’re able to make and sell just as much as we can within our own state. Now, we do have some folks that buy some stuff. We have a brewery in Alabama, we’ve sent some stuff to Montana, we send some corn out to California. What becomes an issue is logistics becomes an issue on the price of moving grains around. So it works in our favour that we have so many breweries here in the state of Colorado that we can just, in our own backyard, there’s 50 breweries. So within ten minutes of our malting facility, we can go to 50 different places. So it’s really, our location has also helped fuel some growth for us.
Markus Raupach: That sounds great. And how would you describe the actual beer scene in Colorado? You say there are a lot of breweries. Does this also mean a lot of different beers and beer ideas and innovations? Or what can we expect if we come to Colorado and try beers?
Mike Myers: I think there are so many different breweries, and they’re all trying to fill their own niche market. So some breweries are only producing lager beer and then some breweries are only producing Belgian-style beers or very German-focused breweries. So it just kind of, it depends on what you’re looking for because you can find any style and you can find a brewery that’s producing those style adjacent things or very specific smoked beers. Or you really, you could throw a rock and hit a brewery and there’s just lots of different ideas. And with a lot of competition, a lot of folks are looking at differentiation. So when there’s one street with four breweries on it, what makes me different from the guy right down the street? And so we have a lot of breweries that are looking at their raw materials as their first point of differentiation, whether they’re buying just a mass market commodity grains, or whether they’re sourcing from one of the local maltsters to create some difference in their portfolio. So truly in the city of Denver, it’s pretty expansive. If you have a style that you’re looking for that you want to drink, it’s not hard to find a brewery making that.
Markus Raupach: Okay, that sounds really, really great. And when we are talking about the cities of Denver, and Fort Collins, is there something else in Colorado which is worth visiting?
Mike Myers: The city of Loveland, the city of Greeley. I mean, just the entire front range from basically Denver north which includes Boulder, there are beautiful breweries in almost every city where they’re not only beautiful breweries, but they’re also making very beautiful beer. And you have Anheuser Busch and Coors. So you have these mega breweries that are producing very consistent, beautiful beer with beautiful facilities, and then Odell. And I mean, it truly is a brewer’s playground here in Colorado.
Markus Raupach: Okay, now you’ve made me really thinking of coming as soon as possible. So thanks a lot. That was a great insight into your history and the history and the story of Root Shoot Maltings. So thank you for your time, for the information, for the talk and hope you have a nice day now and I’m really looking forward that we meet again, maybe in Bamberg, maybe in Colorado.
Mike Myers: You come here and I’ll show you around.
Markus Raupach: Perfect. Sounds great. Thanks. Bye.
BierTalk – der Podcast rund ums Bier. Alle Folgen unter www.biertalk.de