Vertical Malt is a craft malting company located in the Red River Valley in Crookston Minnesota.
A little history, Vertical Malt was born out of a family farming operation near Fisher Minnesota. The original farmstead was established in the late 19th century by Julius Wagner. The progeny Of Julius has kept the farming tradition alive for five generations, a tradition that persists to this day. Cereal grains like wheat and barley have long been a staple crop grown on the farm.
A shout-out to Lloyd & Harriet Wagner (Lloyd celebrated his 100th birthday in 2017) who still live and thrive on the original Wagner farmstead. Lloyd (himself already a 3rd generation farmer) continues to remain close to the family farming operation which his sons, Tim and Joel Wagner, operate.
Throughout the 20th Century the farming industry in the Red River Valley modernized into the agricultural powerhouse that it is today boasting some of the most fertile land in the United States. Dry-land farming techniques and excellent climate produces world-class cereal grains like barley, wheat, and rye. These crops are grown responsibly in rotation with other crops such as soybeans, edible beans, corn, and sugar beets.
By the mid 2000’s Tim Wagner and his son Adam Wagner began contemplating producing malt grown on the family farm for use in their own homebrewing adventures. By 2010 they had built various malting equipment prototypes using old parts from the farm. As the malting equipment developed the pair began to consider commercial sale of the malt to local breweries and homebrewers. This ultimately led them to pursue a more highly controlled environment for producing higher quality and more homogeneous malts and after another three years of development they were able to bring their pilot malting operation online in Crookston Minnesota. With a 200 lb. output per batch capacity, the pilot plant was off and running.
The design for the pilot system is on late 19th century decked malting drums which were used widely throughout much of the early 20th century. Combine precision sensors and with modern automation technology the system was used as a proof of concept device in an effort to scale up malting operations. For the following year and a half, the pilot system was extensively utilized and with several local breweries purchasing every kernel of malt that was produced. The pilot plant taught some valuable lessons and work began on designing and building larger equipment. By early 2017 the first 2-ton malting drum was completed. Regular weekly batches were being produced by March of 2017 and more than just local brewers were finally able to get their hands on Vertical Malt.
With a 2-ton malting drum online, work began on a 2nd 2-ton malting drum to expand capacity and improve efficiency. Fabrication on the 2nd system started by late summer of 2017 and is the unit is expected to be online in early 2018.
Looking forward, Vertical Malt is developing local flavor with various malt products. We’re always looking for interesting flavors in malt and bringing more options to brewers and distillers.
Adam Wagner is the president of Vertical Malt and son of Tim Wagner. Adam presides over all aspects of the day-to-day operations of the business and keeps things moving from grain to grist.
Tim Wagner is the vice-president of Vertical Malt and son of Lloyd Wagner. Tim is responsible for growing operations at Lloyd Wagner & Sons (the family farm) and has nearly 45 years of grower experience.