The Denver Post Features QC Malt

In a state saturated with craft breweries and local distilleries, it’s hard to imagine a canned malt beverage finding its way onto shelves in stores and refrigerators next to your favorite local beer.

But Steve Grasse, owner of Quaker City (QC) Malts in Philadelphia, didn’t let that deter him from testing the Denver market with it.

“I’m trying to test the proposition of selling something like this in a beer market and make it work with a craft beer audience,” said Grasse. “Denver is very picky and persnickety when it comes to its beer, and that’s what makes it an intriguing challenge.”

Before turning up your nose at malted hard soda, this isn’t just another Mike’s Hard Lemonade or Smirnoff Ice. Grasse is using natural ingredients and a brewing process similar to what is done in any other brewery. The major difference is a filtration process that removes gluten and adds natural or cane sugar for flavoring.

“Flavored malt beverages are notorious for being full of” crap. “Smirnoff Ice doesn’t have Smirnoff in it and Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers had no wine in them,” Grasse explained. “If you call it out on the package that it’s malt and be as transparent as possible instead of pretending to be something it’s not, it’s easier to understand. It’s made the way beer is made, and you can add flavoring to it with all natural and cane sugars.”

QC Malt is starting out simple with two flavors — Lemon Shrub and Old Dutch — but Grasse said they hope to get more flavors on the shelves. “If these work then we have about 15 others queued up to make. The flavors and recipes are made by a chef I have full-time on staff.”

Grasse said the reason behind his endeavor into malted hard sodas is to give people an alternative to beer. “There’s a need for a beer alternative and we created something for it, because not everyone wants to drink beer,” he explained. “It’s a very good alternative for someone looking for ingredients but doesn’t want to drink a beer and, quite honestly, it’s great for day drinking.”