Members of the U.S. Grains Council craft brewing team from China are traveling through the United States, stopping at different malt industry businesses to potentially bring those products back to China.

On Monday, Oct. 7, they toured Maltwerks, a premium malt ingredient company in Detroit Lakes.

“The (U.S. Grains Council and Barley Council) reached out to us,” Randy Peterson, owner of Maltwerks, said about how the local business got involved.

Maltwerks started in 2017, eventually selling their malt mixes and other products to over 60 clients in Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Their ingredients give several Midwest craft beers their unique and tasty flavors.

Two groups from Mexico have toured Maltwerks, Peterson said, but this was their first group from China.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

This group was made up of members of the grains and barley councils, but most were managers, directors or leaders in different breweries across China. When they arrived, Peterson welcomed them with a brief introduction to Maltwerks and a guided tour by Kaj Peterson, his son and the lead maltster, and plant manager Cody Jyrkas.

“We just try to give (brewers/breweries) the freshest product,” Jyrkas said, emphasizing that Maltwerks is focused on quality over quantity right now.

“We’re trying to be consistent so you guys can be consistent on what you brew,” Randy Peterson added.

The team from China was offered the completed, uncrushed barley mix to taste. Jyrkas believed the mix was being made for a pale ale. They were also able to smell and taste some of Maltwerks’ citrus products.

Members of the U.S. Grains Council craft brewing team from China took turns smelling and even tasting small samples of these different zests. (Desiree Bauer / Tribune)
Members of the U.S. Grains Council craft brewing team from China took turns smelling and even tasting small samples of these different zests. (Desiree Bauer / Tribune)

“We’ve got a lot of success from our citrus line,” Peterson said.

He explained that for their line, they dry the citrus products in their own juice, which Randy said gives the products a better flavor.

“The extraction rate is double, if not triple than what’s out there,” he said.

His citrus line also offers a natural and certified organic option, the latter being very uncommon and outselling Maltwerks’ natural option, Peterson said.

“We’re the one-stop-shop,” Jyrkas said about Maltwerks. Peterson agreed.

“We’re offering the market a whole different flavor by the malts we’re doing,” Peterson said.

When the Maltwerks tour was completed, the team was invited to taste multiple different brews and liquors that use any of their products. As samples were poured, Peterson gave them more information about Maltwerks and why they should start using their products in China.

He told the team members about how two of his clients -- Bobbing Bobber Brewing Co. in Hutchinson and Ursa Minor Brewing from Duluth -- just won the gold and bronze awards, respectively, at the Great American Beer Fest in Denver.

Maltwerks will also be expanding, malting wheat and rye in the future. Right now they just do barley, which is the most common. Peterson also said that they will include more “specialty malts as time evolves.”

Peterson credits 12 Maltwerks employees for the success they’ve seen in just two years, saying that “we’ve got a great team.”

The U.S. Grains Council craft brewing team from China will continue touring small and large malt industry businesses in the U.S., and Peterson is hopeful that Maltwerks will have left an impression on the team, leading to their products being sold in China.

The malting process

  • Step 1: Their local, Minnesota- and North Dakota- based raw barley is sorted and cleaned and submerged in water for 40 to 48 hours. When kernels start to show "chit," the barley is ready for step 2 -- germination

When Maltwerks starts their malting process, the grains look like they would off of a farm. (Desiree Bauer / Tribune)
When Maltwerks starts their malting process, the grains look like they would off of a farm. (Desiree Bauer / Tribune)

  • Step 2: The barley, usually three tons worth, is poured into the germination machine. It stays there for about four days, growing the roots by controlled temperature, humidified air and constant turning. The process is stopped when roots reach a certain length and a certain smell arises.

Maltwerks plant manager Cody Jyrkas used a shovel to bring the seeds up to each viewer. (Desiree Bauer / Tribune)
Maltwerks plant manager Cody Jyrkas used a shovel to bring the seeds up to each viewer. (Desiree Bauer / Tribune)

  • Step 3: Kilning stops the germination process, making sure that all of the starch reserves and things needed for brewers are kept in the barley kernel. Excess parts of the kernels are also cleaned off, which creates "chaff" that is sold to local farmers as feed.
  • Step 4: The products are tested at Montana State University to help maintain consistency and see if any changes need to be made. Jyrkas said that this step is "mainly just for us to find out what we need to do with it."
  • Step 5: Once tested and determined ready for brewers, the products are bagged in Maltwerks' labeled bags and sent to clients.

More on Maltwerks

The Maltwerks "Malthouse" is at 1448 Cormorant Ave. in Detroit Lakes.

Maltwerks also offers home brewing kits on-site for local at-home brewers.