Meet the Malsters
Andrew Martahus, Co-founder and Lead Maltster
Life is funny sometimes. I earned my degree in Chemical Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis in May 2014. Upon graduation, I returned to my hometown of Cleveland to look for a job in the traditional chemical industry. In my downtime, I began brewing beer at home, and like many, found it to be fun and rewarding. But I hadn’t yet let go of my student mentality, and I began to dive deep into what makes for really good beer. I studied all four components – yeast, hops, water, and malt – and became intrigued by the malting process and the ways in which barley, wheat, etc. can be tweaked to develop different flavor profiles. I devoured as much information as I could to truly understand the malting process. This was becoming much more than a casual hobby – it was (is) a passion. I staked out space in my parents’ back yard to grow a bit of barley and hops. I also made my own kiln and was sprouting and roasting grains in my parents’ basement. Thankfully, they didn’t seem to mind, because I was treating them to very nice beer.
I had the opportunity to go to Asheville, NC in the fall of 2014, where I was to meet Brent Manning and Brian Simpson, the owners of Riverbend Malt House. They were kind enough to give us a tour of their micro-malting facility. From that day forward, I turned my career focus to starting up a malt house in Cleveland. My dad, Craig, is a corporate attorney and he also saw the potential of serving the ever-growing craft beer market.
From then on, we met with farmers, agronomists, trade associations, flour processers (sprouted grain flour is another component of this venture), craft brewers, and other people in the industry who gave us encouraging feedback, wisdom, and ideas. Brewmaster Andy Tveekrem, of Nano Brew Cleveland, was kind enough to brew a batch of ale based on our malted spelt, which they offered up as “Rust Belt Spelt”. For me, there was no turning back.
To shore up my capabilities, I successfully completed two intensive malting courses. The first, held in Oswego, New York, imparted very useful information about sourcing the right grains and how to make good malt. I followed this with an intensive two-week class at the Malt Academy in Winnipeg, Canada that gave me a tremendous amount of technical and practical information to help me become a full-fledged maltster.
We purchased a building at 61st and Carnegie in Cleveland, and basically spent the summer of 2015 taking the place back to where it was when it was built over 100 years ago. We have worked with fabricating experts to develop custom equipment such as soaking tanks and kilns. We have formed close ties to our grain purveyors from Ohio and elsewhere across the country. It has been so rewarding to come to know people from different facets of this project.
As a chemical engineer, I did not anticipate that my skill set would lead me to start a micro-malt house, working in the maker’s movement with farmers and craft brewers. But I’m so glad it did.
Thank you for your interest and support. We look forward to working with you. Andrew.
Craig Martahus, Co-founder and Maltster
Hello! I'm Craig Martahus, Andrew's father. I immediately mention Andrew because the idea of starting a malt house started with him. In the Fall of 2014, Andrew, my wife, Joani and I visited Riverbend Malt House in Asheville, North Carolina and quickly became interested in exploring the possibilities of starting our own malt house here in Cleveland. Like Andrew, I love to cook and bake (and drink beer) and making malt is in many ways similar to those passions. You need to start with great ingredients and a good recipe, but you also need to make adjustments along the way. My training at Oswego and The Malt Academy reinforced this concept for me.
So at 61 years old, I retired from my long career as a corporate lawyer and am working full time with my son. We have worked very hard to design a malting process and environment that will produce high quality malt. We very much look forward to working directly with brewers and other malt users to help each other develop new and exciting tastes.