W. MI family shines light on malt farming process

Ionia County

SARANAC, Mich. (WOOD) — A family in Saranac wants to shine light on an important ingredient in beer — malt.

The Vierzen’s started Mushroom Head Malt Company on their malt farm a couple years ago with their first harvest in February.

“A lot of people do not realize that malt is the second largest ingredient in beer, second to water,” said Dannielle Vierzen. “We realized there was less than seven percent of the malt in Michigan being supplied by Michigan. We were already growing cereal grains, so it seemed like it was the natural progression of things.”

The cereal grains, wheat and barley are planted in the fields behind the Vierzen’s home in Saranac. Once the grains are harvested, they are taken to the fanning mill to be cleaned. 

After they are cleaned, the grains are taken into the malt house where nearly 1,600 pounds are dumped into a steep tank. 

“As the water gets dirtier and dirtier, it’s cleaning the seed,” said Richard Vierzen. “Once we get to target moisture, we take the seeds out of the steep tank with buckets and it gets cast out onto the floor.”

Once the product has modified and germinated, it is put into the kiln. The kiln is a critical part of creating a tasty product, according to Vierzen.

“We can change our kilning regime and make a pale ale, pale base malt, which is the least kiln very light colors, down to a Munich malt, which is very dark and has more toast almost caramelly type flavors to it,” said Vierzen. 

The Vierzen’s sell their malt to brewers such as the B.o.B Brewery, Thornapple Brewery, East West Brewing, Spartan Brew Pub, Eagle Monk Brewery and Steele Street Brewery.

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