The long tradition of malting in Milwaukee is taking a bit hit as Malteurop, 3830 W. Grant St., is idling its plant and eliminating 28 jobs.
The company – which launched in 1961 as a French farming coop and now has maltings around the globe – occupies the West Milwaukee facility built by Froedtert Malt a century ago.
While the maltings here are older, a filing with the state’s Department of Workforce Development says that an economic hit from the pandemic spurred the decision.
“Due to the economic impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus), Malteurop North America will be idling production atits Milwaukee facility at 3830 West Grant Street, Milwaukee, WI,” reads the filing.
“This action is expected to result in the permanent elimination of 28employees. The company expects to begin eliminating positions on August 15, 2021 and will continue in phases until January 1, 2022.”
Thanks to its connection to Froedtert, Malteurop’s malting roots in Milwaukee date back to 1875 when brothers William and Jacob Froedtert, born in 1852 and 1845, respectively, in Nordheim, Germany, started the Froedtert Brothers Commission Co. at 510 Juneau Ave.
As brewing and distilling boomed in mid-19th century Milwaukee – already a grain shipping powerhouse – the demand for malt also ramped up. While some breweries – think Pabst and Schlitz – had their own malt houses, others, like William Gerlach, snapped up breweries and converted them into maltsters.
Peruse the 1894 and 1910 Milwaukee Sanborn maps and you’ll find maltings scattered throughout the city.
But now, with the idling of the Malteurop plant, all that remains is Proximity Malt, which operates a tiny innovation maltings. The bulk of its malting is done at plants in Colorado and Delaware.
In addition to serving big brewers and distilleries around the country, Malteurop has also focused on the craft beer industry with dedicated sales reps, as well as craft-focused products and packaging sizes.
Accounts are unlikely to be affected by the idling as the demand can likely be met by other Malteurop plants in North America.
The company has maltings in Winona, Minnesota, Great Falls, Montana, and Winnipeg, Canada.
In 2019, Malteurop announced it would build a new maltings in Meoqui, Mexico, too. That facility was projected to come online this year.
While not all of the employees at Malteurop in Milwaukee will lose their jobs, electricians, elevator operators, malthouse operators, millwrights, a plant engineer and a variety of supervisors and managers, as well as an administrator assistant, will be out of work.
Hourly employees are represented by the UAW Brewery Workers Local 9 and IBEW Union Local 494.
Representatives of Malteurop and IBEW did not respond to requests for comment by post time. The UAW Brewery Workers declined to comment.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.