Wagner looks to break ground in 2019 on 20,000 square foot facility on Crookston

    If things continue to fall into place, Crookston malt house Vertical Malt will break ground in mid to late 2019 on a new 20,000 square foot facility on Crookston’s south end, and a year or so later move out of their current multi-bay operation at Valley Technology Park and into their new, much larger home. If all of that happens, Adam Wagner told the CHEDA Board of Directors Tuesday, within three years or so he and his partner and dad, Tim Wagner of Fisher, would have eight to 10 professional staff on board to help them run the business.

    Vertical Malt, with Adam as president and Tim as vice president, has been on almost a continuous growth trajectory since bringing their project based on the Wagner family farm near Fisher into a single VTP bay a couple years ago.

    Adam Wagner said Tuesday it’s time to make a bolder, bigger move. He’s been working with CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth and an advisory committee for several months, and the planning group has since been narrowed as the expansion plan has come more into focus. Wagner said Vertical Malt’s unique approach, from controlling the barley from the soil to the beer or other spirits, is possibly behind its growing popularity.

    “We grow and malt our barley and sell it to craft brewers and craft distillers,” Wagner explained. “Farm to table is our deal, the ingredient stream that we control is, I think, what is our competitive advantage over larger malt houses.”

    With digital concept drawings of the new facility projected on the wall behind him in the VTP conference room, Wagner said the new facility would be built on five to seven acres and feature a 25-ton per-week malting system. The new, larger equipment would be utilized primarily to malt more “general” types of barley, he explained, while his current equipment at VTP that would move to the new facility as well would malt more specialty types. The new facility would be built with continued, future expansion in mind, he added. The assumed budget at this point is $3 million, but Wagner said that could still go up or down. “The financials are looking promising so far,” he added.

    “We’re trying to narrow our focus now,” he said. “We’re meeting with fabricators later today, and we’re working with a malting consultant in Canada.”

    Ideally, construction would be underway by this time next year.

    Vertical Malt received some financing from CHEDA last year when it expanded across the hall at VTP into another large bay. “Thanks to CHEDA; you came through in a pretty big way for us to finish our bay expansion,” Wagner said.

    Their customer base continues to grow, and is a who’s-who of sorts of area craft brewers, including Rhombus Guys and Half-Brothers Brewery in Grand Forks, Bemidji Brewing Company, and Revelation Ale Works and Far North Spirits, both in Hallock. Junkyard Brewing in Moorhead is also a customer.

    “We have a handful of others across Minnesota, but those guys really local to us are really our core group,” Wagner said. “They will also become our advocates when we reach out to new brewers and we need some networking help from the brewers in the business.”

    Learn more at verticalmalt.com.