Ken Foether joined Briess as the Plant Supervisor for the Chilton Malthouse back in August of 2015. His background included four years as a Production Supervisor for the Cargill Sheboygan Malthouse, and over five years of Environmental Health and Safety for Cargill in Wahpeton, ND.
Ken’s mornings start fairly routine at the Briess Chilton Malthouse. He begins with site tours inspecting the facility for any safety concerns. Then he meets with his teams before heading off to the steep tanks and germination compartment to check on the status of each batch of grain in and out that day. From there, his day can be anything but routine. He is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the malthouse from juggling bin space to production schedules to ensuring product is be bagged on time.
One could say Ken is a master scheduler; preparing steep, germination and kiln schedules on a regular basis. He is also responsible for coordinating employees’ schedules as well as collaborating the bagging schedule. Coordination is key to ensuring everything runs smoothly in a malthouse, especially a 115-year-old malthouse. “One of the most interesting things I think, that many people may not know, is we are operating on a 1901 wooden [grain] elevator. Most wooden elevators burnt down back in the 1920s and 1930s when firefighting technology was not as advanced,” Ken explained.
A variety of raw and finished grains are constantly passing through the malthouse, each one intended for a different customer or purpose. Malt flavors, styles and colors are created through precise recipes that range in temperatures and times during germination and drying processes. Ensuring that each malt is properly steeped, germinated and dried according to their specific recipes is important. The tricky part is making sure all the moving pieces flow together so deadlines are met and the malt moves through the malthouse seamlessly. “I am very fortunate that a large portion of the staff has been here for 20 to 30+ years; it helps make things run smoothly and they are always teaching me as well as me teaching them,” Ken said.
Frequently, Ken will work with unique customer requests, such as toll processing a grain and malting it to a specification sent by a customer. “One of my favorite things about working here is the opportunity to work with customers and make malts that meet their needs. I enjoy working with the customers and discovering how we can coach and guide the grain to create the finished product they are looking for,” Ken remarked.