Like many new college graduates, Andrew Martahus was on a seemingly never-ending quest to find a job after earning his chemical engineering degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 2014.
“I was interviewing to find a job in Cleveland and nationally, but nothing seemed to stick,” Martahus, 23, recalls. “So I started brewing beer.”
It sounds like a typical hobby for a new grad without a job. But the beer brewing turned into a curiosity about the process – and of the malt that goes into beer. That curiosity turned into the creation of Haus Malts last April, a craft malting institution for local commercial craft brewers. It is the first Ohio malt house since prohibition.
Haus Malts will create custom malts in batches for local breweries. Grains are soaked, partially germinated, dried and roasted to turn them into malt. Martahus would like to eventually expand the business to serve the food industry and home brewers. In fact, the company has already partnered up with Mennel Milling Company in Fostoria, Ohio.
After telling his father, Craig, about his interest in the malt process and touring a malt house in Asheville, North Carolina, the son and father team decided to go into business in Cleveland and revitalize an industry that once thrived here.
“There used to be a large malt house on W. 11th and Front Streets,” explains Martahus. “Cleveland and Cincinnati were two of the largest brewing cities before prohibition.”
The aroma of the MidTown building the Martahuses purchased on Carnegie Avenue is more like a bakery than a place where grain is converted to malt. “During the fermentation process it sort of smells like cucumbers, a very fresh smell,” Andrew says. “When its in the kiln it’s a grassy or hay smell, like darker bread.”
The business fits right in with its neighbors – Pierre’s Ice Cream to the north and American Sugar to the east. “It’s sort of like a food block here,” Martahus says. “We wanted to be downtown somewhere and we liked the idea of taking an old building built in the 1900s and keeping it going.”
While Martahus is still working out the kinks before officially opening, he does give tours on request.