I like to stop into Three Tides when I’m in Belfast, not only for good food and good brew, but to see the owner, whom I have known since he was 4.

David Carlson’s parents moved their family from Illinois to New Sweden the same year my former husband and I moved from New Hampshire to Westmanland. It was not a coincidence.

My husband and David’s parents attended the same small college near Chicago. In 1973, we met by chance in Aroostook County, where they had been spending summers, and we subsequently decided to make our homes in Maine’s Swedish colony.

Now 47, David Carlson’s affection for Aroostook County, where he grew up, has not waned, even though business keeps him in Belfast. In addition to Three Tides on the Belfast waterfront, he and his wife, Sarah, own the Marshall Wharf Brewing Company next door.

When David greeted me on a recent visit to the pub, he pointed proudly to the logo on his shirt — Maine Malt House — declaring he had just contracted for 20 tons of malted barley from the Mapleton business owned by the Buck family. It was not a hasty decision.

He said he had been buying malt from Germany for years, but last year began testing the malt produced by Buck Farms for qualities such as flavor and color.

“We didn’t want to commit until we were sure what we were getting,” he said later in a phone conversation, describing every brewer’s hesitance to switch to a new product.

“We were thrilled,” he said.

Maine Malt House was clearly competitive.

“We pay them more than for the product from Germany, but we would rather put money back into The County,” he said.

Named the 2016 Aroostook Entrepreneur of the Year by the nonprofit Aroostook Partnership, Maine Malt House is operated by brothers Jacob, Josh and Jared Buck, their father, Bruce Buck and uncles, Brent and Barry Buck.

“The whole family is involved,” said Josh, 25, when I followed David’s suggestion to contact him.

He said the farm had always grown barley in rotation with potatoes and sold it for malting in Canada. As the third generation looked to the future, the brothers experimented with new crops to diversify the farm.

Josh, Jacob, 23, and his twin brother, Caleb, now an engineer for Boeing in Washington State, visited a brewmaster in Bangor to test the market for hops.

“A light bulb went off” when the brewer said he could use barley, Josh recalled. As suppliers, they would “just have to malt it.”

They returned to Mapleton with a new idea for diversification: malting barley themselves instead of selling the raw stock to Canada.

They surveyed 40 breweries and received a 50-percent return, affirming the value of their idea. They learned the malting process at an academy in Canada. They converted a potato storage house into a grain cleaning and malt house. They bought used steel tanks, tubing and other equipment from lumber mills to repurpose for cleaning and steeping, and Josh crafted a new stainless steel kiln with galvanized lining for drying. They started malting in February 2015.

“They were very resourceful in finding materials in The County, rather than taking out big loans and going into debt,” Carlson observed. “They’re doing everything by hand.”

When I visited Buck Farms this week, the crew was constructing a new bin with a 400-ton capacity to store this year’s harvest. Two identical bins hold the crops from 2014 and 2015 ready to malt.

Josh showed me the grain-cleaning equipment they had constructed, and then the repurposed steeping tank where, once the raw barley is cleaned, it is steeped with water, expanding as it begins to germinate. Workers then move the 4,500-pound batches by wheelbarrow to the malt house floor where the grain is raked by hand every four hours for four days to slow the germination process as starch is converted to sugar.

Josh said the temperature of the germinating grain we were looking at was 96 degrees in a room that was about 60 degrees.

The grain is then shoveled by hand into rectangular steel tubs, which a forklift places in a large kiln for 24 hours, drying the grain as the temperature rises gradually up to 180 degrees.

After a final cleaning — called de-bearding — to remove remaining filaments, the product is packaged in 50-pound bags for shipping to breweries in Massachusetts and New Hampshire as well as Maine.

Maine’s first modern malt house, the Buck Farms facility operates year-round producing 10 tons of malted barley each month from 230 acres of grain.

“The Buck brothers hit a grand slam with this one,” Carlson said. “They are extremely well-respected in the Maine brewing community. They have proven to the brewing community that they can pull it off. We’re extremely proud to be working with this county company.”

For more information, visit buckfarms.net and marshallwharf.com.

Kathryn Olmstead is a former University of Maine associate dean and associate professor of journalism living in Aroostook County, where she publishes the quarterly magazine Echoes. Her column appears in this space every other Friday. She can be reached at olmstead@maine.edu or P.O. Box 626, Caribou, ME 04736.