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Takeaways From Craft Malt Con (Online) 2021

Takeaways From Craft Malt Con (Online) 2021
Jereme Zimmerman

The fourth annual Craft Malt Conference was held February 10-12, 2021 as Craft Malt Con Online. Originally scheduled to be held in Portland, ME, it went fully virtual this year due to COVID-19. Although members of the tightly knit craft malt community missed the opportunity to gather in-person, this format opened up the opportunity for a wider audience to participate.

“We’re excited about the potential this exciting new format offers,” said Executive Director of the Craft Maltsters Guild Jesse Bussard. “Adapting our conference to a virtual experience makes craft malt education more accessible than ever!”

The Craft Malt Con Online wasn’t just for those who work in the industry. Anyone with an interest in beer, agriculture and quality food and drink could benefit from the knowledge gained from attending. Speakers from the craft malt, beer and spirits industries who presented included Richard Simpson of Simpsons Malt (who spoke from the UK), Bart Watson of the Brewers Association, Becky Harris of Catoctin Creek Distillery and Candice Madison of The Crown: Royal Coffee Lab & Tasting Room.

Learning From the Best

Attendees also had the opportunity to learn about the beginnings of the craft beer industry from keynote speaker and craft beer legend Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. Grossman shared stories about the earliest days of homebrewing and craft beer in the United States and the monumental hurdles that had to be overcome for craft beer to reach the status it enjoys today.


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There were also opportunities to hang out and mingle via evening Virtual Happy Hour Breakout Rooms, each focused on a specific interest. Although attendees could participate in any hangout they wanted, the “rooms” had themes such as Women in Craft Malt, Craft Malting Startups, Floor Malting Musings and Malt in the Media (with writers Kate Bernot and Gabe Toth). Other opportunities presented to participants were virtual malthouse tours and a virtual trade show, live Q&A sessions and video demos of new products.

Virtual Love

The upbeat attitude and professionalism of attendees, particularly in the Breakout Rooms and chat windows, demonstrated that the challenges of 2020-21 weren’t going to prevent those with a passion for craft malt from continuing to spread the word. A prevailing attitude was that craft malt, beer and spirits are about more than just selling a commodity. Rather, as with the early days of the craft beer industry, the emphasis is on producing a quality product with a deep connection to the land and a respect for the forebears of an ancient practice.


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“I’m blown away by how well it all went,” said Jesse Bussard, Executive Director of the Craft Maltsters Guild. “It’s not that I didn’t expect it to go well, but the community response was just amazing and so inspiring,” Bussard continued. “I’ve received so much positive feedback from attendees, speakers, and sponsors. I know virtual conferences have their drawbacks, but this year’s online format allowed us to do something truly exceptional – make craft malt education more accessible than ever before. In turn, this gave us the ability to bring together a more geographically-diverse audience. This year’s attendees hailed from 6 continents and 15 countries making the 2021 conference truly a global craft malt community gathering.”

The 2021 Malt Cup Awards

The Craft Malt Con Online closed with an awards ceremony, officiated by Brent Manning of Riverbend Malt House in Asheville, NC. Manning kept the positive spirit of the event alive by wearing a tuxedo to the awards ceremon, and often spoke in front of a virtual grain field.


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The winners of the 2021 Malt Cup Awards are:

Pilsen Malt Category

Gold – Gold Rush Malt in Baker City, OR
Silver – Malteria Italiana Artigianale in Gualdo Cattaneo, Italy
Bronze – Admiral Maltings in Alameda, CA

Pale Malt Category

Gold – Gold Rush Malt in Baker City, OR (Double Gold!)
Silver – Troubadour Maltings in Fort Collins, CO
Bronze – Root Shoot Malting in Loveland, CO

Soles of Malt Award

An award that honors “individuals who stand out for their leadership, selflessness and philanthropic stewardship of craft malt,” the Soles of Malt Award is named in memory of William Soles, co-founder of Grouse Malt House. This year’s winner was Paul Schwarz, professor of Malting Barley Quality in the Department of Plant Sciences at North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND.

Image contributed by the Craft Maltsters Guild

Congratulations to the winners! Here’s to hoping they can celebrate next year in person.

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