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When did you first get the idea to pitch growing barley to Loftus Ranches? Why is it important to you?
We have talked about making a 100% homegrown beer since we started the brewery. Not very many breweries have the land or the farming knowledge (or both) to pull off an estate beer. Luckily, we had both, so I wanted to capitalize on our unique situation.
How did you make it happen this year? What was involved in the farming part of the process?
We had some idle land that used to be in tree fruit, and Skagit Valley Malting said they could get us the barley seed we needed. My father-in-law Mike (Smith) had grown some wheat back in his early days of farming and thought that he, Brent (his cousin), and Sam (our agronomist) could grow malting-grade barley. The craft beer landscape has become increasingly saturated and noisy, so I felt this project could really highlight our story of being farmers turned brewers.
The barley seed was planted in April and harvested in early August. Throughout the growing season, we had to monitor irrigation, weed control, and fungus control. Then, we had to cross our fingers that no big rainstorms would hit close to harvest. If that would have happened, we would have lost the crop. The rain stayed away, and we harvested the crop the first week of August.
Who did you choose to malt the barley, and why did you choose them?
We chose two Washington-based maltsers for this project – Great Western Malting (located in Vancouver, WA) to malt our Pilsner malt, and LINC Malting (located in Spokane, WA) to malt our Vienna and Munich malt. Great Western is already our main malt supplier and could do a single 25-ton batch, which we liked because it meant all of our base malt (Pilsner) would be the same. LINC Malting does 5-ton batches, so it worked out well for them to make us our Munich and Vienna malts.
What do you feel the homegrown barley brings to the beer?
Our homegrown barley simply has more flavor. When we smell our homegrown malts against other commercial malts, the Pilsner has more floral and nutty aromas, the Vienna has more grassy character, and the Munich has more sweet honey and nutty characteristics. This gives the beer a honey-like, floral, and subtly nutty character that we wouldn't get from regular commercial malts. We think that the fresh, grassy component is unique to our barley grown in the Yakima Valley.
The grassy, floral, and nutty aromas complement our homegrown Citra, Loral, and Ahtanum hops, which are driving the hop aromas in this first Sown & Grown IPA. When the floral aspect of the malt meets the fruit character from the hops, we get fruit aromas with a floral component: like tangerine instead of orange juice, cantaloupe instead of honeydew, and ripe nectarine. Compared to many of our beers that showcase our homegrown hops, the Sown & Grown IPA has a strong malt presence, which our tasting panel describes as bread crust, toast, or cracker.
What can we expect from the Sown & Grown series? How can we find it? When is it available?
We will have three beers in the Sown and Grown series in 2019/2020. Each release will be limited in quantity, packaged in 16oz cans and draft, and each will be a different recipe featuring 100% homegrown hops and barley. The first beer is being released in our taproom today (Wednesday, November 27), and it will start shipping out to our distributors next week. You’ll be able to find Sown and Grown IPA in your local pubs and restaurants, bottle shops, and independent grocery stores throughout our distribution footprint of Washington, Oregon, and northern Idaho. The next two releases will come in the first half of 2020, so stay tuned!
What are the plans for growing barley in the future?
We hope that the homegrown nature of the Sown and Grown series resonates with the PNW beer drinking community, and if it does, we plan to expand our barley farming. We’re excited about the possibility of planting different barley varieties and seeing their impact on our beers. We’ve spent four generations perfecting hop growing, so this new chapter of barley growing is a lot of fun!
Don't miss our release party in the taproom TODAY. We're opening early–at noon today–to make sure you're able to get this beer in time for turkey and all the festivities. We hope you like it! Cheers!
Posted November 27, 2019