Indiana farm expands to include malting grains

A third-generation farm family has expanded its operation of corn, soybeans, and wheat to include the only craft malthouse in Indiana.

Caleb Michalke, founder of Indiana-based Sugar Creek Malt Company partners with other farmers in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and Kentucky to grow barley that they eventually convert into malt.

“We’ve been growing barley for six years in Indiana and we’ve had good crops three out of the six years,” he says. “So we partner with other farmers and we had seven farmers that grew for us this year.”

Michalke says barley grows well in cool and dry states so it has been a challenge in the Midwest, but winter barley has done well.    

During the malting process, he says everything is done by hand from turning the germinating malt to bagging.  

“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 you get in beer and whiskey,” he says.

In 2015, Sugar Creek Malt Company was one of less than 20 craft malthouses in the world. A craft malthouse is small scale and family-owned and uses local grain. Today, there are closer to 160 across North America.

Because of the limited amount of craft malthouses, the family had to design and build all the equipment from the germination floors and kiln to the germ roaster.

“Everything has been designed by us and we either build it ourselves or find someone to build it for us,” he says. “As the industry continues to grow we hope there will be more business that will help supply our equipment needs.”

Michalke says he’s pleased with the diversity of the malthouse, but would eventually like to partner with brewers and distillers for agritourism opportunities on the farm.  

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