2018 Beer Issue | Cover Story | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

August 08, 2018 News » Cover Story

Pin It

Page 6 of 10

  • Mike Riedel

Fertile Ground
Solstice Malting Co. puts the "craft" in craft beer.

By Mike Riedel

Consumers like things local. No matter if it's bread, cheese or sausage—if they can get their paws on that homegrown goodness, their tables and tummies will be in territorial bliss. Beer is no exception. Right now, craft beer is huge; people can't get enough of brews made right in their own neighborhoods, and that behavior has fueled a local-beer renaissance never before seen in our little corner of the universe. One local guy has found a way to make those civic-minded suds even more provincial by malting the grains right here in the 801. James Weed, owner and head maltster of Solstice Malting Co., hopes his Old World methods will enhance the local beer scene.

A finance guy by trade, Weed, pictured, enjoyed success as a stockbroker and investment advisor. Still, he yearned for something more. "My wife said that I needed a hobby, so I found home brewing," he reminisces.

As often happens with perfectionists, that first dip soon became the tip of the iceberg. "Eventually, I began growing my own hops and even started malting my own barley," Weed notes. Trust me, as someone who has tried this in my own kitchen, malting is a huge pain in the ass. "I wanted to look into more efficient ways of malting my grains," Weed says. "Then I came across the North American Malting Guild and I found a few companies that supported making malt on a local level." Weed then decided that malting was his game and Utah was fertile ground to begin.

It was no small feat. As far as I can surmise, there has only been one malting plant in the state's entire history: the Becker Brewing and Malting Co. For 75 years, Becker operated along the banks of the Ogden River, weathering Prohibition and two world wars. Sadly, production costs and competition from larger breweries forced the once-bustling operation to shut its doors. "Nobody in Utah has ever tried this after they closed," Weed says. "I spoke with members of the Becker family and they said the malting part of their business shut down around 1953. I want to bring the malting industry back to Utah."

But what is malting? Essentially, it's the process of germinating and drying the grain. In the germination process, starches in the grains begin to convert to sugars (this is where the fermentables in beer come from). "The trick is to stunt that process by kiln drying," Weed says. "Different flavors can be achieved by changing the drying/toasting schedule, and that's how it's basically done." Weed takes that old-school process a step further by "floor malting" the grains. "I basically spread the wet grains out in a large climate-controlled room and allow the germination process to take hold until it's done," he explains. "It's the same way breweries and distilleries have been malting grains for centuries."

Solstice Malting Co. churns out about four tons of malt a week. "That may sound like a lot," Weed warns, "but compared to the big guys? They'll do more in one batch than I'll do in an entire year."

That's fine by us. We like our batches small and our comfort food and drinks homegrown. For now, Weed is producing base malts for local breweries. As revenue builds, he'll look into buying a roasting machine that'll be able to produce malts that will flavor darker and more rounded beer styles. If you'd like to sample some of the most locally made beers around, look to Squatters, Proper and Strap Tank breweries (to name a few). Their small-batch beers currently feature Weed's homespun malts, thus solidifying the craft in Utah craft beer.

Pin It


Katharine Biele

Katharine Biele

A City Weekly contributor since 1992, Biele is the informed voice behind our Hits & Misses and Citizen Revolt columns. When not writing, you can catch her working to empower voters and defend democracy alongside the League of Women Voters.
Enrique Limón

Enrique Limón

Editor at Salt Lake City Weekly. Lover of sour candies.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Latest in Cover Story

  • Telling It Like It Is

    The struggle for social justice presses onward Week III of Black Voices Matter
    • Jul 8, 2020
  • What's Next, America?

    Psychic readings on the occasion of the nation's birthday
    • Jul 1, 2020
  • Please Change the world

    Those fighting for racial equality want you to stick around and make some noise. Week 2 of Black Voices Matter
    • Jun 24, 2020
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • China Girl

    A DNA test connected a Utah teenager to her mother—and to a story that was almost too tragic to bear.
    • Mar 4, 2020
  • LDS Confessions

    A new Facebook page has been getting a lot of attention by people who want to share their often-horrific church stories.
    • Nov 21, 2018

© 2020 Salt Lake City Weekly

Website powered by Foundation