by Tamara Anderson
On the corner of Emlen and Mt. Pleasant, there is a small retail shop filled with all of the magical ingredients needed to make craft beer. Owner, Scott Wikander, 42, who opened Malt House Ltd. in May of 2012 and who teaches beer-making at both his storefront and at Mt. Airy Learning Tree classes, believes that beer making is “like a science experiment. It’s a lot of trial and error.” Throughout his life before practicing the art of beer making, Scott had often been called “a beer snob” by many of his friends.
He is an active part of the local brewing community. “I like to experiment. It’s fun. It’s like cooking. Beer is a type of food.” The practice of making your own beer is not very difficult, but it does require a kind of creativeness. “You play around with ingredients, like making soup or chili.” His journey did not start with beer; surprisingly, it began in television.
Scott grew up in Monmouth County, New Jersey, and attended Rowan University after graduating high school. He majored in communications, specializing in mass media. He graduated in 1996. Soon after, he relocated to Philadelphia and started working in the television/media industry in Center City. His work included but was not limited to production, editing, camera and sound. He worked for Channel 57, the Learning Channel and several projects for Comcast.
His last employer was Center City Film and Video. He described the work as enjoyable but grueling. “It’s next to impossible to have a life and work in television 50 to 70 hours per week … You travel for several days, see lots of hotels, and all you have time for is to sleep, wake up and work again.”
Then he noticed a change that troubled him. “Instead of a few stations, we now have over 500.” This makes the networks seek a more cost-effective pathway when it comes to production. “Now you can edit on your laptop, and anybody with a camera can call himself a production specialist. The industry likes to hire freelancers. I needed to make a change. I did not want to work in television anymore.”
Right before his move to Mt. Airy, Scott started brewing his own beer. When he moved from Center City, he quickly realized that “there was no close location to buy stuff.” In order to get the necessary ingredients and supplies for home brewing, Scott had to drive one hour, but many of the retail stores closed between 5 and 5:30 p.m. This provided the impetus to create the Malt House.
He even considered the idea of opening a brewery, but “the cost can be a bit much. Commercial brewing is all about perfecting a specific recipe and duplicating it several times.” Scott enjoys the creative aspect of brewing. He likes the experimentation, and the retail space did not require a massive upfront investment. In order to accommodate the schedules of home brewers like him, the Malt House is open from noon to 8 p.m.
Most home brewers are scientists, chemistry/biology teachers or engineers by trade. The act of brewing is science. Scott compares it to cooking. In the beginning, there is a great deal of trial and error. “I wonder what it would taste like if…” Scott believes that the process of home brewing is not as difficult as people might assume it is. “The best of us end up with a bad batch that has to be completely thrown out, but the process is the same.”
In 2013, the National Home Brewers Conference was held for its first year in Philadelphia at the Convention Center. Nearly 5,000 attendees from all over the country were there. Scott’s group of local home brewers made a well-received Flanders Red Belgium. “It included all of these unusual flavors. We could never do it again. It could never be duplicated, which is what makes the magic happen.” When Scott looked around the convention center, he realized that “there are beers here that will only exist in this room.” This passion and understanding inspired the creation of Malt House Ltd. and his ongoing personal home brewing.
Malt House Ltd. worked with Earth Bread + Brewery in Mt. Airy to host their Second Annual Home Brew Challenge on March 29 from Noon to 4. The winner will have his/her beer brewed at the brewery.
Scott teaches a home brewers class to “demystify brewing and simplify it.” It is a process that has been done for thousands of years. His courses are offered at Malt House Ltd., 7101 Emlen St. Courses started April 1 but are ongoing. You can register at www.malthouseltd.com. Additional courses are offered on a regular basis through Mt. Airy Learning Tree; the next one begins May 12. The best part of each class is that you can take your new batch of suds home.
Scott Wikander lives in Mt Airy with his wife Joanna and daughter Katherine.
For more information about Scott’s classes, call 215-242-1700 (Malt House) or 215-843-6333 (MALT), or email firstname.lastname@example.org.