2023 Craft Malt Conference – Keynote Speaker

Dr. Rob Arnold is the President of Advanced Spirits. He is a native of Louisville, Kentucky, and the fifth generation in his family to work in the beverage alcohol industry. Prior to leading Advanced Spirits, he was the master distiller of Firestone & Robertson (makers of TX Whiskey) from 2011-2021. Whiskeys distilled and blended by Rob have earned top honors at multiple competitions, including multiple Best of Class awards at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Some of his other accomplishments include the first wild yeast isolation for whiskey since 1933, the breeding/selection of corn varieties tailored for whiskey, and the co-development of proprietary toasting recipes for oak barrels. He has played key roles in the process design, build-out, and start-up for both pot and column still operations. In 2019, he published a scientific research paper showing for the first time that terroir does indeed impact the flavor of whiskey. He has presented his research at a wide range of conferences, including the Worldwide Distilled Spirits Conference and the University of Kentucky James B. Beam Institute Industry Conference. Rob is also the author of two popular science books: Shots of Knowledge: The Science of Whiskey and The Terroir of Whiskey.

Rob holds a BSc in microbiology from the University of Tennessee, an MSc in biochemistry from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and a Ph.D. in plant genetics from Texas A&M University. He lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife and son.

Read more about Dr. Arnold’s story on the Guild news page.

Session Presenters

Joel Alex began his craft malt journey in 2012 when the idea for a Maine craft malthouse was planted by a craft brewer. Coming from a background in community organizing and sustainable development, Joel quickly assembled the vision and plan for Blue Ox Malthouse, a floor maltings that would connect Maine farmers with the exciting development of craft beer. Over the next several years he worked tirelessly to gain the skills and knowledge to bring his vision to reality while “floor malting” in commercial kitchens and on pilot systems throughout 2014 and much of 2015. In 2015 Blue Ox Malthouse opened its doors at its current facility in Lisbon Falls, Maine. At the time it was North America’s largest floor maltings. In the past seven years, the company has grown–supporting well over a hundred craft brewers, over a dozen Maine and regional farms, and now a team of eight employees. Joel and his team remain committed to providing high-quality floor malts to the craft beverage industries of our region. When not malting, Joel works on his house, plays music when possible, and studies Kung Fu.

Joshua Buck is a co-founder and owner of the Maine Malt House. He joined the family farm after graduating from Northern Maine Community College in 2011 with a degree in construction. In 2015, he and his brothers started the Maine Malt House as a way to add value to their farming operation. Joshua is the malt house project manager, taking all new projects from ideation to completion. Joshua lives on a farm in Mapleton with his wife, Kayla, and daughters, Eve and Ava.

Rob Caldwell is an anchor and reporter for the NBC television stations in Maine, WCSH in Portland, and WLBZ in Bangor. He has done thousands of interviews and stories in his 41-year career and his stories have received honors that include regional Emmys and a national Edward R. Murrow award. Since 2003 he has been the co-anchor of “207,” a news magazine that airs weeknights at 7:00. In 2015 he was inducted into the Maine Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. When Rob started his career, the number of breweries in Maine was zero. Now there are about 165. He covered the start of the first one, the Geary Brewing Company. For what it’s worth, the first beer Rob ever drank was a Schlitz. Since then his tastes have evolved.

Jason K. Cody is 41 years old and lives South of Alamosa, Colorado on the family farm and homestead. He works with his Dad, Fudd (aka The Godfather of craft malt) farming 300 acres, malting and brewing alongside his brother Joshua. He is happily married to his wife Patricia of 21 years and has 10 children. He currently serves as Colorado Malting Company’s corporate president and CEO and has for the last 14 years. Jason is also an owner and manager of The Colorado Farm Brewery located on the same property. Jason has malted over 4,000 batches of malted barley, wheat, or rye since he began studying malt in 2006. He has also created over 300 malt recipes and pioneered craft malt as a commercial industry throughout the globe. Together with New Belgium and the Colo. Dept. of Ag, Jason also helped pioneer gluten-free malting in the United States and is a founding member of the Craft Maltsters Guild. He, along with his brother & dad, boast that they created the first 100% estate brewery in the country. The Colorado Farm Brewery, on the Cody family farm. He holds a certification in Farm Business Management from Trinidad State Junior College, a Bachelor of Science from Liberty University, Lynchburg VA, and a Master of Divinity Degree from Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN.

Vince Coonce brewed his first batch of beer in 1982. Fascinated with everything beer, he pursued a brewing-focused graduate program at Oregon State University, obtaining dual Master’s degrees in Chemical Engineering and Food Science. Vince has worked for over 30 years in the malting and brewing fields, holding positions with Cargill Malt, Great Western Malting, Briess Malt, and MillerCoors. His adventures have taken him all around North America and Europe. In malting, he has been a quality manager, pilot maltster, production maltster, plant operations manager, process engineer, and plant manager, and Malt Research and Development manager. He has made malt bound by every conceivable worldwide malt analytical specification, developed process automation systems to improve quality and save energy, designed and piloted malt plant wastewater treatment processes, and collaborated with researchers at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven while living in Belgium.  In brewing, he managed brewing operations, became an ASQ Certified Reliability Engineer as a Brewing Reliability Engineer, and worked many years as the MillerCoors Milwaukee Brewery’s Technical Brewer.  Today, Vince consults for the malting and brewing industry, specializing in quality, capacity, and efficiency improvement, pilot malting, new product development, and plant design. Vince spent many years on the Master Brewers Technical Committee and is an active MBAA volunteer; he is currently a member of the ASBC, MBAA, IBD, and Craft Maltsters Guild.

Heather Darby is an Agronomic and Soils Specialist for the University of Vermont Extension. Being raised on a dairy farm in Northwest Vermont has also allowed her to play an active role in all aspects of farming as well as gain knowledge of the land and create an awareness of the hard work and dedication required to operate a farm. These practical experiences complemented by her education have focused her attention on sustainable and regenerative agriculture and the promotion of environmental stewardship of the land. Darby’s outreach and research programs focus on delivering practical on-farm education in the areas of soil health, nutrient management, organic grain and forage production, and oilseed production. Heather also operates a diversified certified organic farm with her husband, Ron Hermann.

Mary Faulkner serves as Chief Impact Officer of In Her Presence. Her background in sales training development, combined with a B.A. in French and ELL-certified teaching experience, has prepared her well for a role that requires linguistic, education, and business acumen. Mary has lived on three continents and loves to travel but is happy to call Maine home. She lives in Cape Elizabeth with her husband and children.

Michael Fava is the Director of Operations for Sacred Profane Brewery in Biddeford, ME. Michael has operated breweries in Philadelphia and Maine for 15 years. He is a highly respected member of the global beer community specializing in lagers, farmhouse ales, mixed fermentation, and barrel aging. His background in engineering and business has led to multiple brewery commissions and designing custom brewing equipment. He has a passion for sustainability, agriculture, and a particular affection for historic and traditional techniques.

Katie Fromuth is the Technical Brewing Projects Coordinator for the Brewers Association. Prior to this role, she held the position of Quality Lab Director in the Fermentation Science and Technology program at Colorado State University and as Quality Lab Manager at Oskar Blues Brewery, Longmont. She received her BS in Environmental Health (2012) and MS in Horticulture with a concentration in agricultural chemistry (2022). She received a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, completed the Advanced Class in Craft Malt Production, and served as an instructor for the American Society of Brewing Chemists’ Deep Dive into Quality course. She’s passionate about communicating the science and art of brewing, malting, and fermentation to spark in others a curiosity and joy towards this fantastic world.

After completing an Honours degree in Industrial Biology and a Ph.D. in plant biochemistry, Dave Griggs joined Pauls Malt as Senior Research Scientist in the autumn of 1990. Over the intervening years, Pauls Malt evolved into Greencore Malt and subsequently Boortmalt which led to roles covering most aspects of the malting business from raw material through operations to brewer and distiller end-use.  He has had the opportunity to travel extensively to global customer locations and spent some time working in overseas malting plants in the early 2000s.  He joined Crisp Malt in 2013 as Technical Director.  Key responsibilities are many and varied, but encompass liaison with plant breeders concerning new variety testing, technical malting projects, barley and malt quality control and quality assurance, customer technical support, and increasingly, passing his knowledge and experience onto the next generation of maltsters.  Dave is an Institute of Brewing & Distilling Diploma Brewer, a Maltsters Association of Great Britain Master Maltster, has chaired the UK Malting Barley Committee, is a Malting Diploma examiner and is the author of numerous technical malting articles.

For nearly 20 years John Holl has been covering the beer industry as a reporter and editor. He is once again the editor of All About Beer. On-air he hosts the Drink Beer, Think Beer podcast, and co-hosts Steal This Beer and the BYO Nano Podcast. John reviews beers for Wine Enthusiast Magazine and his work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and NPR. He is the author of several books including the recently published The Craft Brewery Cookbook.

Becky Harris is a Chemical Engineer and Chief Distiller at Catoctin Creek Distillery. In 2009, she and her husband, Scott Harris, combined their engineering and business backgrounds to build a distillery focused on creating the finest Virginia Rye Whisky from grain to glass. Her passion is creating award-winning rye whisky, unique gin expressions, and locally sourced brandies of the highest quality, with an emphasis on local and organic sourcing of grain, fruit, and herbs. Catoctin Creek has been featured in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wine Enthusiast, and Whisky Advocate. The Daily Beast, Forbes, and Men’s Journal have highlighted the distillery as an example of great American craft distilleries making whisky from scratch. Becky has been featured in Food and Wine as one of “6 Women in Whiskey to Watch,” and serves as President of the American Craft Spirits Association, the only 501c trade association for craft distilleries.

Steve Hawley was part of the original team in 2010 that built the Westland Distillery brand and business from the ground up. He began his career in the advertising industry focused largely on beverage brands including Constellation Brands, E&J Gallo, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Starbucks, and Pepsi to name a few. After years of helping others realize their visions, Steve wanted to build his own in the world of whiskey he has such a great passion for. With Westland, he’s not only given birth to a widely respected brand but also an entirely new category of whiskey in American Single Malt. In his role as a founder and President of the American Single Malt Whiskey Commission, he is working to establish and protect the category across the globe.

Emily Hutto is a Colorado-based beer journalist-turned-craft beverage publicist. After years of freelance writing and authoring the book Colorado’s Top Brewers, she founded RadCraft in 2012 to serve the communications needs of maltsters, brewers, and distillers. Learn more at www.radcraftbeer.com.


Carla Lauter is a freelance beer writer covering the industry since debuting her original blog, “The Beer Babe” in 2007. Since then she’s been published in national beer journals and worked as a regular columnist for Maine Today, The Press Herald, and The Bollard – all out of Portland Maine. You can find her current writing in Beer & Weed Magazine, a monthly publication spotlighting the beer and cannabis industry in Maine and beyond. Throughout her beer writing career, Carla has also been a vocal advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the craft beer space. 

Dr. Yueshu Li is the Director of Malting and Brewing Operations at the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre (CMBTC). He joined CMBTC in 2000 and has over 30 years of experience in the malting industry in Canada, the United States, and China as a Research Scientist, R&D Project Manager, Director of Technical Services, and General Manager. Yueshu holds a Ph.D. in plant physiology and ecology from the University of Saskatchewan. He oversees the daily operations of the CMBTC’s malt plant and brewery working to optimize the performance of new varieties and new crop Canadian malting barley, providing technical support to members and customers, participating in market development initiatives, overseeing Malt Academy programs, and leading all research initiatives at the Centre. During his career, Yueshu has been involved in applied research projects, new product development, setting up QC and R&D labs, malting system design and malthouse expansion and operations as well as marketing. Yueshu is a member of the American Society of Brewing Chemists, a member of the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, and a member of the American Society of Cereal Chemists. He currently serves on the Prairie Grain Recommendation Committee, Wester Grain Research Foundation, and the Technical Committee of Brewing and Malting Barley Research Institute (BMBRI).

Andrew Meissner is the Chief Marketing Officer for Virginia Distillery Co., the largest independently owned producer of American Single Malt whisky. Andrew started his career working in the E&J Gallo Winery’s sales leadership program where he held various sales & marketing roles before becoming a Brand Director for Whyte & Mackay, a single malt Scotch producer whose portfolio includes The Dalmore and Jura. He received his MBA from NYU Stern, specializing in Luxury Marketing and Strategy, and is based in New York City where he lives with his wife and son.

Claudette Ndayininahaze has extensive experience as a culture broker in intercultural communication in both for-profit and non-profit sectors. As Executive Director of In Her Presence, she sits on multiple boards in Portland and is deeply connected to community-based initiatives across the city. As a community leader who has herself gone through the immigration process, she has a unique ability to anticipate challenges New Mainers face and utilizes her professional expertise to empower people and communities. A highly proficient negotiator, both intuitive and resourceful, she collaborates with executive leadership in businesses and to develop organizational capacity and culture to promote opportunities for New Mainer success.

Born in Minnesota and raised in Iowa, Murphy Quint began his career distilling spirits at age 16; helping the family open Cedar Ridge, launch award-winning Iowa products and set out to build a legacy of whiskey to the Midwest. Today, as Head Distiller and Director of Operations at Cedar Ridge Distillery, Quint oversees all whiskey operations and is responsible for blending every batch of spirits on the brand’s 75-acre property in Swisher, Iowa. During his tenure at Cedar Ridge Distillery, Quint has helped the brand overcome industry mainstays to become the number-one-selling bourbon in Iowa. In addition to his tenure at Cedar Ridge, Quint spent time mastering his craft at Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey from 2011–2014. He mentored under Master Distiller Rob Dietrich honing his production skills and learning the ropes of distillery management.

Justin Slotnick got his start as a homebrewer in 2006 while a student at George Washington University. After moving back to his home state of Massachusetts, he began volunteering at Trillium Brewing, helping with everything from cleaning out the building to brewing pilot batches. When Trillium opened a year later in 2013, he was employee #3, primarily responsible for cellar work and retail sales. In 2016, Justin traveled south to South Carolina to help build out Charles Towne Fermentory and spent four years as Assistant Brewer, Retail Manager, and Trivia Host. Looking to move back to New England and jump head first into the world of lager brewing, Justin took the job of Production Manager/Brewer at Schilling Beer Co. in Littleton, NH in January 2021. He lives in Littleton with his partner, Julie, and their dog, Hazelnut.

Twila Soles is Maltstress and CEO of Grouse Malt House. Twila earned an undergraduate degree in Nutrition from Miami University and a Master’s degree in Food Science & Food Safety from Colorado State University. For graduate studies, she focused on malting and brewing science and bioactive and probiotic compounds. A passion for craft beer and a gluten intolerance challenged her to experiment malting and brewing with gluten-free grains as a student. She founded Grouse Malt House in 2013, a craft malting company dedicated to supplying gluten-free ingredients to the craft brewing industry. Twila is also a Founding Board Member of the North American Craft Maltster’s Guild.

Kevin Brent Smith is the Director of Distilling & Brewing for the newly-formed Company Distillery in Townsend, TN. Currently, Company Distilling has two production facilities which are located in Thompson Station, TN, and Townsend, TN.  Process designs have been completed for a third facility, a one million-proof gallon distillery set to open in 2024 in Alcoa, TN. Prior to Company Distilling, Kevin worked for 22 years at Brown-Forman/Jack Daniels Distillery in various roles (Distillery Technical Manager, Distillery Quality Manager, and Microbiologist.) Primary responsibilities at Jack Daniels included management and optimization of fermentation and distillation processes, maintenance of production yeast and lactic cultures, and optimization of yield and new whiskey organoleptic character.  Kevin’s career experience also includes four years working in the fuel ethanol industry, first working for Commonwealth Agri-Energy as Plant Manager/Lab Manager in Hopkinsville, KY. He also worked for Lallemand Ethanol Technology serving the larger Fuel Ethanol Industry as Technical Manager. Kevin holds a Master of Science Degree in Environmental Biology with an emphasis in Microbiological studies from the University of Louisville. Additionally, he has authored a chapter on “Yeasting Practices in the Production of American Whiskies” in the sixth edition of The Alcohol Textbook.

Since 2009, Andrea Stanley has been on a mission to bring the malthouse back. Along with her husband, she runs Valley Malt where local grains are turned into local malt for brewers and distillers in the Northeast. Valley Malt is focused on sustainability and continues to malt using renewable energy and compostable packaging. Andrea has supported the founding of the Northeast Grainshed Alliance (2019) and the Craft Maltster’s Guild (2013), and served on the Brewers Association’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee (2017-2021). In 2016, Andrea was honored by Food and Wine and Forbes Magazine as one of the 20 Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink and with The Soles of Malt Award for the selfless stewardship of Craft Malt. When letting loose, Andrea can be found cultivating a semi-professional arm wrestling career as The Grain Reaper or hanging out with her 3 teens and animals in Hadley, MA. 

Mark Sorrells is Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics in the Plant Breeding and Genetics Section at Cornell University. He earned his Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics in 1978 at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He joined the Department of Plant Breeding and Biometry in 1978 and has been a full professor of plant breeding since 1991. Sorrells has authored or co-authored more than 350 peer-reviewed publications. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Crop Science Society of America. He has received the Crop Science Society of America Outstanding Research Award and the Cornell College of Agriculture Outstanding Accomplishments in Applied Research award. He specializes in plant breeding methodologies and strategies and develops new varieties of wheat, oats, and barley. Recent research topics include genomic selection, hyperspectral imaging to predict wheat grain yield, and intergenomic gene interactions in wheat.

Sean Towers is a co-founder, owner, and operations lead of The Seed: A Living Beer Project in Atlantic City, NJ. Sean has operated breweries, at various scales, in New Jersey over the past 10 years while simultaneously managing a university-based bivalve-shellfish aquaculture research lab. With a background in microbiology and marine biology, through his decade-plus of brewery, aquaculture, and environmental experience, Sean has continued to expand upon a life-long reverence for the natural world. Both his current brewery and aquaculture work allow him to explore his passions for local ingredients, the growers behind such ingredients, embracing seasonality, and preservation.