Updated: October 02, 2019 06:23 PM
Created: October 02, 2019 04:30 PM
BLOOMFIELD, N.Y. (WHEC) — We've been telling you about the explosive growth of the craft beer movement in New York. That growth has created lots of new businesses to support the industry.
Among them is a Bloomfield company that is in the middle of the supply chain, providing the malts that give beer its color, body, and flavor.
That company’s identity is inspired by what may be one of nature's greatest displays: birds flying in harmony in a swirling, ever-changing pattern. There's a name for it: murmuration.
Judd Hallett and Emily Hill have found a harmony of their own, working together to build a small business from scratch called Murmuration Malts.
"We've never been set up to make the most malt. We just try to make the best malt," said Hallett during a recent visit to their business.
Judd was working for the automotive service industry, and Emily was at home with their two children when they decided to take a chance on a new career path.
"So far our best plan was not having a plan, and I think by not having a plan 'B' we'll make plan 'A' work," said Hallett.
Judd took some advance courses in malting. They restored a run-down old service station in Bloomfield, bought some re-purposed tanks, ordered some grain, and away they went.
"We're fortunate to live in Rochester. There seems to be an unquenchable thirst [there] for craft beer especially. So that made it definitely more attractive," said Hallett.
But what is malt?
"Basically, malt is any grain that's been modified," explained Hallett. "So in that process the proteins and starches are broken down. We break those chains down and we make the sugars available."
Most any grain can be malted, but barley is the most popular. The process starts by hydrating the grain. The barley is submerged in water two or three times, allowing it to absorb moisture and begin to sprout rootlets. It's then moved to another tank where the grain will begin to germinate and has to be constantly turned while it dries. After a few more days, the barley is run through a machine to remove the roots and then it is dried and roasted.
"We can also roast it farther up, which will then create more of a porter or stout, so your beer will only be as light as your malt is," said Hill.
Hallett and Hill have managed to double their business each year. They now have about a dozen brewery customers, mostly in Rochester and the Finger Lakes.
"We malt a little more, work a little longer hours, and we've been selling out pretty much on a weekly basis of the base malt," said Hallett.
Despite the growing pains and the long hours, they work together in synchronized fashion, adapting much like the birds for which their business is named.
Brett Davidsen: “What have you learned about starting your own business?”
Emily Hill: "It's an endless learning journey, I think."
Judd Hallett: "I think the biggest thing we learned was listening to people. And it's as much about the relationship as it is the product."
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