The availability of a real malt has become sporadic. The rise of shakes pushed by fast food chains has all but done away with the traditional malt. Low-calorie fruit smoothies, blended coffee drinks, and intense flavor-driven shakes have become a way of summer for many, helping push the malt to extinction. For those looking for a step back in time, the PortLand Malt Shoppe on the edge of Lake Superior in Duluth still delivers the 1950s-style malt — one that isn’t complete without a cherry on top.
PortLand Malt Shoppe became a malt shop in 1989, and it is in a small brick building that can’t get any larger. The building dates back to the 1920s when it was owned by the Northwestern Oil Co. and used as a gas station. There are only 15 flavors due to the limitations of freezer space.
Ice cream cones, sundaes, frozen yogurt, and floats are all available, but the 16-oz malt ($6.25) makes the line outside the PortLand Malt Shoppe last every day from April 2 to October 17. Malted milk powder, an ingredient and taste that has been left behind in the evolution of frozen drinks, is the driving force in the taste and texture of a malt at the PortLand Malt Shoppe. They’re smooth and easy to pull through a straw, and they leave the gritty texture of the malted milk powder in your mouth.
With Fitger’s Brewhouse next door serving root beer floats with homemade root beer, the PortLand Malt Shoppe differentiates itself by serving a Brown Cow ($3.75): a root beer float with chocolate milk. The Brown Cow has a smoother texture and richer taste than a regular root beer float.
After two decades of malt-making experience and with half of the summer left, it’s likely that the line outside of the PortLand Malt Shoppe will only get longer. While the taste of malt is a rarity among the blended drinks of warm days, the PortLand Malt Shoppe has a malt deserving of a cherry on top.
716 E Superior St
Duluth, MN 55802
April 2 to October 17