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Malty National Set to Conquer the World – Not!

malty-logo“This is an industry dominated by large corporations pretending to be small and local. We are a tiny little brewery pretending to be a large corporation.”

You gotta love that kind of irreverent attitude.

Those are the words of Kelsey Beach, one of the two founders of Malty National Brewing Corporation, Regina’s newest craft brewery.The other partner is Adam Smith who, given the name of the brewery, has a deliciously ironic name.

Malty National opened its doors in April 2016 with a fairly low key launch, mostly focused on attracting thirsty Regina beer fans. It took me a while to finally hook up with the Malty National boys but Beach and I were able to connect last week and talk about their vision for their brewery.

Let’s start with the name, because it kind of reflects their approach to opening and operating a brewery. “It was a bad joke originally by Adam’s wife,” says Beach. “We all laughed at how terrible it was.” But the name hung around for a while and eventually re-surfaced. “Our original plan was to use crowdfunding, allowing people to actually buy shares of the company,” a departure from the usual get-a-growler-a-month kind of arrangement. “With the number of people we wanted to involve legally we had to become a corporation”. That is when the name became more than a joke. If they were going to have to be a corporation, why not do something with it?

“We even asked for an evil corporate logo,” going for a tentacled factory image.

As it played out the crowdfunding never took shape. “It was way too slow to get started.” In the end they self-financed with the help of family and friends, but the corporation model, and the clever, ironic name were entrenched.

Before becoming the corporate bigwigs they are today, both were average working Joes. “I had a boring desk job in a cubicle farm and Adam was a massage therapist with his own practice.” They had been avid homebrewers for about a decade, “making decent beer for about five years, crappy beer for five before that.” The idea of opening their own brewery has been floating for four or five years.

“It was one of those ideas that begins as a hair-brained scheme at first but eventually comes together. While brewing we would talk and daydream. We feel lucky that our hobby happens to be a booming industry,” observes Beach.

They did the math and decided there was space for what they wanted to do. “We felt there was room in the market,” he says. “There is lots of room to grow in Regina – the demand is there.”

They wanted to be local and rooted in community, so they selected a small space in the central neighbourhood of Heritage. “It traditionally had a bad reputation, but is picking itself up. It is a great neighbourhood, lots of heritage homes, lots of foot traffic.” In fact they share the small commercial space with two other co-tenants, 33 1/3 Coffee Roasters (an artisanal coffee roaster) and T+A Vinyl and Fashion (which sells vintage records and clothing).

As it works out, it was the ideal community for them to establish their vision for a brewery. “We have happened to be very lucky to line-up with a market segment that likes our kind of beer.”

And what is that beer? “I guess you could say we are a hop forward brewery,” observes Beach. “We have always said we weren’t going to guess what market wants. We were just going to continue to brew what we did when we were homebrewers.” Beach predicts 80% of their brews have been hoppy, often simiilar base beer with different hop varieties. The remaining beer have been a mixture of stouts, dark ales and some “experimenting” with kettle souring.

For the moment Malty National is not offering a flagship, or even permanent beer. They have brewed 36 beer since opening and 31 have been different beer. “We are still very much learning our craft, we have lots to learn. Offering a flagship at this point would mean it would continue to change and evolve, so why do it?” They don’t dismiss the idea of a flagship line-up in the future, but for now are content with trying different things to satisfy their customers.

maltynationalsignThey have a manageable 10-BBL direct fire brewhouse with three fermenters and two bright tanks, meaning they don’t have to commit a lot to any one batch. Instead they brew six times a month, making a commitment to brew together, even though the system could be operated by one of them. Doing the brewing together keeps them grounded. “It harkens back to our homebrewing days, when we would get together every Sunday to brew together.”

The early days have gone better than they could have imagined. “We can’t produce enough to meet demand,” Beach notes. “We are driven by an eight block area around the brewery. We get lots of bikes and walk-up traffic.” As of a couple weeks ago they are allowed to serve pints in the tasting room, which they anticipate will increase traffic to their location. As a result they haven’t had to spend a lot of energy seeking out other accounts.

Their whole vision is that of being flexible and “seeing how things ride”. They have no grand plans or ambitious schemes. When I ask them what their hopes for five years from now are their response is “onward and upward, whatever that means,” finally offering the possibility of having “more fermenters” and rejecting the idea of packaging. Even the plan for more fermenters is very tentative as the shared space is quite tight and any significant expansion by the brewery means pushing out one of their fellow co-tenants, something they are reluctant to consider. After talking around the issue a bit Beach finally suggests that “maybe we will stay the same size and keep doing what we are doing.”

Which, I suspect, would suit Beach and Smith just fine.

3 comments to Malty National Set to Conquer the World – Not!

  • Jane and Bob Beach

    I am so excited for Malty National and being a share holder.Of course being his mother I am really proud of what has been done so far.I love going on Friday afternoon to get my growler filled and taste any new brews.I wish them continued success.I also love the area and the creative use of the building with the other two businesses.

  • Wayne

    I came west from Vancouver just to taste this great beer.

    Well Adam is my nephew, so family was the second best reason to visit Regina.

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