DEL NORTE — Upper Rio Grande Economic Development gathered at Boogies Restaurant in Del Norte for their November meeting on Tuesday and welcomed keynote speaker Jake Capron with Proximity Malt out of Monte Vista.
Capron said his love for grain science began when he attended Kansas State University to earn his degree. Starting his adult life as a cattle rancher, Capron finally listened to his wife and began to pursue his desire to learn about malting science and eventually gave in to his love of the mountains and moved his family to the San Luis Valley.
Proximity Malt opened their facility in June of last year and has brought economic stability to the area, employing an average of 20 people on a regular basis and enhanced the demand for barley. Capron came on board as the regional manager in August of 2016 and has spent his time with the facility teaching the employees the ins and outs of malting science.
“Training is an ongoing process and everyone who works at Proximity Malt will eventually be great malters. We spent countless hours walking through the reasons why things are done the way they are and what the results are when done correctly,” explained Capron.
Capron passed around three different types of barley that is produced through the plant for everyone in attendance to taste. He explained each type and the process it undergoes to yield the perfectly malted grain. URGED members tasted a crystal malt that is made by the regular malting process until it reaches the kiln stage, which is skipped to make the sweet taste of the grain. Next, members tried a chocolate malt, made with a dry roasting technique to give it its coffee-like flavor and a roasted barley made by not germinating the grain during the process.
Capron explained that their facility is in high demand for barley and as the business grows, so does the demand. At the current time, the plant is processing an average of about one million pounds of barley per week, with an average of about 10,000 to 11,000 metric tons per year. The goal for the facility is to reach the maximum load of about 20,000 metric tons per year and will ship as far as Texas as long as it can remain sustainable. At the time, the facility ships within the state to both breweries and food companies that use the malt for different purposes.
The Monte Vista facility works with several area organizations and businesses to make sure the barley processed within the plant is a sustainable source of malt for the region. Though the facility does not do much business within the Valley at this time, hopes are to change that in the near future.
One of the main challenges the facility has faced, is the current water treatment facility in Monte Vista. Rio Grande County Commissioner Karla Shriver spoke on the topic stating that through the combined efforts of the county, Proximity Malt and the City of Monte Vista, plans are underway to fix the problem.