Many farmers are looking for ways to diversify their operations to bring in more revenue. One Indiana farm family has found an interesting way to do just that.
Caleb Michalke owns Sugar Creek Malt Company in Lebanon, Indiana.
“We started back in 2015 and we make craft malt for the craft brewing and craft distilling industries. So, we take grain from the field and we germinate it and toast it at different levels to make all the different colors and flavors that you get in beer and whiskey.”
Michalke’s family farm expanded their operation from corn, soybeans, and wheat to also include barley, a crop that is much easier grown in states like Idaho, Montana, or Wyoming. Michalke says this is their 6th year growing barley and they’ve had good crops 3 out of those 6 years.
“We grow winter barley. We started to try to grow spring barley and it just was way too hot, way too humid, for that barley to grow. So, we started doing winter barley here and it does a lot better. We still have years that we lose most of our crop, but we have a lot better shot at least of it getting out because it’s actually harvested in the middle of June, second week or third week of June is when we harvest it. It’s usually, hopefully, still pretty cool and not too humid and wet for it at that point.”
When they started back in 2015, Michalke says they were one of around 20 craft malthouses in North America. So, finding equipment has been a challenge.
“We’ve really had to kind of design and build all of our own equipment. From the germination floors to the kiln to our drum roaster for our roasted malts, the design has been made by myself and my dad and we’ve either built it ourselves or found somebody else that can build it for us.”
As for this year’s harvest, Michalke was happy to say it was a great year for high quality malting barley in Indiana.