By Meghan Howes, Contributing Writer for RadCraft

Katie Fromuth, Director of Colorado State University’s Malt Quality Testing Lab

Based in Ft. Collins, on the Colorado State University campus, the Fermentation Science and Tech Program – part of the school of Food Science and Human Nutrition — includes a state-of-the-art malt quality lab, where Katie Fromuth serves as lab manager. 

Fromuth spends most of her time accepting and processing barley and malt, running products through a rigorous two-day testing regimen. Formed in 2013, the CSU program added the malt lab, which opened in April of 2021. Given that the lab is so new, when she’s not processing all of the samples that land on her bench, Fromuth is actively engaged in business development and supply chain relationship building. 

“We’re testing primarily in Colorado,” said Fromuth, “but I am…branching out and targeting the southern/western areas of the U.S.” She’s been looking at the viability of growing barley in the southern U.S., particularly Kentucky, North Carolina, Missouri, and even Florida. 

The buzzword in the wine world – terroir – took its own sweet time to emerge in craft beer, but it has officially arrived. Fromuth is well aware of how regionality is king in the craft beverage space, with increased attention given to grains grown as close to a maltster as possible.  

“Every region will have environmental variations based on the agronomics,” says Fromuth, “and maltsters have their pick of raw materials. There are so many levers and dials that a maltster can work with. Different areas require different approaches.” In the south, for instance, farmers deal with more pests, so pest management is critical for the success of a crop.  

Students in the four-year program can access two working brewhouses: a PTB certified, 10BBL brewpub (the Ramskeller Pub & Grub, located on campus), and two 50L research and teaching breweries. “The scope of the program is all-encompassing – we teach food and beverage fermentation, but most students enter the beverage space as opposed to food.” 

Understanding the life cycle of barley and how malt is produced is critical for anyone who wants to brew professionally. “The maltster is the central figure in the whole ‘field to foam’ cycle,” says Fromuth. “We teach the whole supply chain, and more and more, the farmer is also the maltster.”

This is true for two formidable operations in Colorado, Root Shoot Malting out of Loveland and Colorado Malting Company near Alamosa. “Today’s brewers are having close conversations with their maltsters, hop growers, and yeast propagators,” explains Fromuth. “At CSU we have strong beer education and expertise…” to help guide these conversations, ensuring that the resulting actions bear fruit for everyone involved. 

Learn more about the CSU Malt Quality Testing Lab on their website.