“Locavores” relish the opportunity to dine on locally produced foods, but some Frederick beer producers are extending that idea to beer, too.
“It’s just the thought that a local brewery is willing to work with local farmers and support local farms, and include them in the whole process,” said Tom Barse, owner of Stillpoint Hop Farm in Mount Airy. “Locavore, farm to table, everyone’s into that now, and it’s great to see them support that.”
Barse and six other farmers sold about 111 pounds of hops — a small flower cluster used to flavor beer — to the Flying Dog Brewery at 4607 Wedgewood Blvd. But instead of just using the hops, the company invited the producers to the brewery on Aug. 16 to help in creating this year’s harvest ale, which will be an American wheat ale.
Each of the seven farmers tossed in the hops until the tank was full, and most also posed for photographs. The hot, unfermented beer wort will be pumped through the tank to pick up the hop flavors, and then into fermentation tanks to become beer. The process will take about three weeks, and be released on Sept. 15 to Frederick retailers on draft and in bottles.
Flying Dog Brewery was founded in Aspen, Colo. in 1990, and moved to Frederick in 2008. It was the 38th largest brewery in America in 2011, according to the Brewer’s Association, an organization that promotes craft brewers.
One of those thrilled farmers was Blake Wasli, a 16-year-old junior at Catoctin High School in Thurmont, who’s grown hops as a hobby for the past two years on his parents Springfield Dairy Farm in Thurmont.
Wasli said he was excited to help with the brewing process, and see behind the scenes of the brewing operation, even if he’s years away from being able to sample the beer he’s helping to make.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “It’s a learning experience.... Even though they’re a bigger company, not everything is a huge scale — it’s still a small business.”
For the brewery, including local hops in the process is a way of creating a product with local connections, rather than shipping in hops from the West Coast, Head Brewer Matt Brophy said. Idaho, Oregon and Washington produce the vast majority of hops in the United States, though some small areas of hops are being grown on the East Coast, according to the Hop Growers of America, a nonprofit association that represents hop producers.
“A lot of people don’t realize beer is a food,” Brophy said. “Much like food, a lot of that comes from other places.”
Brophy said the brewery still needs to bring in the majority of its product from other places because locally-produced hops aren’t sufficient enough to create all of the beers the brewery produces, but uses the harvest ale, now in its second year, as an opportunity to support local producers.
Nate Parry, who owns Lewisdale Farm, LLC, in Clarksburg, said he was glad to see the brewery supporting area farmers.
“It’s the whole process of going local,” Parry said. “They’re brewing something that was grown locally.”
Flying Dog isn’t the only local brewery taking advantage of local ingredients.
Larry Pomerantz, the head brewer at Barley and Hops in Frederick, uses local hops in Snallygaster, a cascadian dark ale, and local produce and hops in Cornucopia, a fall seasonal beer.
Pomerantz said he wasn’t exactly what he would be using in those beers because he hasn’t seen the crops and hops yet. But he said his small batch process makes it easier for him to come up with recipes than Flying Dog, which produces on a larger scale.
“I can just do it and sell it,” he said, laughing. “I have a much quicker turnaround time.”
Pomerantz didn’t have a date for his brews, but expected them in the fall.