The craft malting industry began in the mid-2000s when the first few small, local, independent malthouses opened in the United States and Canada. By the early 2010s, more craft malthouses were coming online spurred on by the unprecedented growth the craft beer industry was experiencing from eager beer drinkers’ desire to explore new and exciting styles and flavors. The local food movement, driven by farmers’ markets and farm-to-table dining, was also taking a more prominent role in the conscience of the American consumer. The intersection of these two camps set the stage for a deeper exploration of malt – the soul of beer.
A truly grassroots movement, the first craft maltsters who spearheaded the industry’s early days found themselves fielding calls from fellow start-ups from around the nation and the globe. The idea of forming a guild was developed as a way to further the craft and disseminate information around techniques and best practices. This approach follows in the footsteps of other grain-focused organizations like the North American Millers Association which was founded in 1902.
The North American Craft Maltsters Guild was officially established on July 24, 2013. Around this time, craft malthouses were popping up around the United States and interest was increasing among craft brewers. The founding board members decided to submit a proposal for a sensory presentation at the 2014 Craft Brewers Conference in Denver, CO. This presentation would become our formal introduction to a nationwide audience.
A significant number of new malthouses opened between 2014 and 2018, helping to grow the Guild’s membership. During this period, we expanded our educational offerings on the website and in person. Massachusetts-based Valley Malt’s Farmer Brewer Winter Weekend event served as the first formal professional gathering of maltsters, brewers, farmers, and academics in 2013. These events would serve as a springboard and template for the Craft Malt Conference that our organization now hosts annually.
We welcomed our first full-time Executive Director, Jennifer Blair, in 2018 to help manage our rapidly growing membership base and execute the inaugural Craft Malt Conference. Our current Executive Director, Jesse Bussard, manages a membership base of over 500 individuals, as well as oversees the Guild’s many programs, events, and workshops.
In 2019, we launched our Craft Malt Certified Seal Program to recognize breweries and distilleries who support our industry. To date, approximately 150 brewery and distillery members are participating in the program which continues to help fuel awareness about craft malt across the country.