[brewmaster] John ‘More Hops’ Maier that he couldn’t put as many hops in his beer,” recalls Rogue president Brett Joyce.
So breweries that source as local as possible benefit because it’s cheaper, fresher, less volatile to market forces and they sell better.
According to Imbibe Magazine, “farmer brewers” are the definition of the local brewery movement. These breweries are growing and harvesting their own hops, malts, and adjuncts. As a result, they are less reliant on sourcing these from larger companies. Take a look at Washington’s Bale Breaker
The trio took down three acres of the farm’s Field 41 and built Bale Breaker Brewing, which is surrounded by fields of Cascade hops. “We’re the only commercial brewery located on a commercial hop farm,” says Kevin Quinn, who oversees sales. Meghann handles marketing, while brother Kevin brews hop-forward beers such as the grassy, citrusy Field 41 Pale Ale, fruity and floral Topcutter IPA and, come harvest, America’s freshest wet-hop beers. “It takes about five minutes to get the hops from the picking machine to the brew kettle,” Meghann says. “It’s as fresh as you can get.”
The farmer brewers of Oregon’s Agrarian Ales says the close proximity of their resources are redefining what certain beers are and making them fresher
Golden ales are infused with just-pressed apple juice, cream ales contain handpicked Asian pears and porters are spiced with chipotles. The pepper bounty provides Agrarian with a unique opportunity. “We’re redefining the stigma that chile beers are liquid hot sauce,” Tilley says of beers like the poblano-flavored ¡Poblamo! amber ale.
Across the US in New York the interest in local ingredients is changing the way they brew and source ingredients.
Watson and his wife Emily launched Fishkill’s Plan Bee Farm Brewery with a mission of making beer with 100 percent New York ingredients. (For good reason: New York State’s recently created Farm Brewer License permits breweries to sell beer by the glass, provided they use a percentage of New York–grown ingredients. This has led to an upswing in hop farms, maltsters and farm-based brewers.) “It’s a test plot, a petri dish of this concept to source everything as local as possible,” Watson says of his single-acre brewery.
His idiosyncratic, rigorously seasonal beers—mainly fermented with yeast cultured from his apiaries’ raw honey—include the dandelion-driven Dandeliaison, barrel-aged sours flavored with indigenous fruit, and the evocative Leaf SmOak, a fall specialty crammed with malt smoked over burning oak leaves. “As a farm brewery, you’re literally attached to the land,” says Watson, who is relocating Plan Bee to a 25-acre spread with the goal of growing hops and grain.
But it’s not just the little breweries that are growing their own resources. Just look towards Sierra Nevada, Rogue and Bell’s Brewing.
Sierra Nevada raises hops and barley, which go into its Estate Ale, and Bell’s produces barley on its 80-acre Michigan farm. Oregon’s Rogue operates several farms filled with hops, rye, barley, jalapeños and pumpkins.
The combination of legislation rewarding craft beer as an economic booster and the benefits of raising your own resources has made breweries much more autonomous, more nimble and less reliant on others to create their much sought after beers. Yakima Valley will not always provide 75% of the nation’s hops. Malt will not always be controlled by the agricultural corporations that have no connection to brewing. We can be thankful that the Bellingham Tap Trail abounds with breweries who are interested in creating a local ethos. These breweries are more likely to survive in a market downturn and, most importantly, they create community and a sense of connectivity. It is the success of the local brewery that, no doubt, leads the Brewers Association Chief Economist Bart Watson to say things like
I think there is almost endless run room — as long as craft breweries differentiate.