Connecting Local Brewers And Farmers For More Sustainable Food Systems
$503k in multiple awards and grants
grain processed annually
of grain processed projected in future expansion
of all business expenses spent on local Maine suppliers
Joel Alex founded Blue Ox Malthouse in 2013 with an ambitious goal – to connect local brewers and distillers with locally farmed grain.
Blue Ox Malthouse provides Maine brewers and distillers with Maine grain farmers through quality Maine-made malt with the goal of supporting more sustainable food systems and rural economic development.
Blue Ox malt is made using a process known as floor malting, where grain is laid on floors and raked to produce malt. Blue Ox Malthouse has innovated a sophisticated floor malting process with automatic temperature and moisture control systems, making it easier to scale the floor malting process.
Joel Alex first heard of MTI through Slow Money Maine Network – a community of people dedicated to growing more resilient and robust food systems in Maine. Blue Ox Malthouse received its first award from MTI in 2013, which helped them bring the technology of floor malting to Maine. A subsequent Seed Grant allowed Blue Ox to pilot malt production using Maine-grown grains and build a prototype production vessel. In January 2014, with two tons of grain from Aroostook County, Blue Ox Malthouse processed their first pilot batch of malts in Belfast, Maine.
Blue Ox Malthouse outgrew their first warehouse in Belfast, and scaled up to a commercial space in Lisbon Falls where it reached commercial production in 2015. They held their public grand opening in January of 2016. Further grants and loans from MTI over the years have helped Blue Ox Malthouse grow and develop, increasing the number of farmers they work with, and refine their malting process.
MTI has provided resources to Blue Ox that facilitated their continued growth. In 2019, Blue Ox had plans to expand their facility in the upcoming year. The pandemic put a temporary pause on their plans, as their customers (primarily craft brewers) had to quickly pivot to the new reality of pandemic-related shutdowns. MTI helped Blue Ox Malthouse stay on track with their expansion plans by bringing in additional grants and technical assistance.
In addition to the financial support that MTI has provided Blue Ox Malthouse over the last decade, Joel Alex credits MTI for connecting him with great mentors and advisors that he still consults with to this day.
Joel’s vision for Blue Ox Malthouse is an intentionally Maine vision. In addition to the rich natural resources, he notes Maine’s innovation ecosystem. “As a non-profit community organizer stepping into business and entrepreneurship for the first time, I think Maine has a wealth of programs and resources – MTI included – that really make it possible for first time entrepreneurs and small businesses to go from an idea to a fully fledged commercial business.”
Blue Ox Malthouse continues to scale, guided by their mission to be a driver for rural economic development in Maine.