As Strong Rope slowly begins to come to fruition, I've started to reach out to the farmers, maltsters and artisans that will help bring my vision for the brewery to reality.
Developing these relationships is a crucial step for Strong Rope as the brewery will be highly focused on utilizing as much local ingredients as possible. With the Farm Brewery requirements of how much NY grown ingredients goes into a beer increasing in the coming years, fostering relationships early will help immensely as we can grow with those farmers.
One of the biggest benefits of working with local farm, hop yard, and malt houses is it allows the brewer to help develop those flavors and characteristics you want in your beer. Getting out to the hop yard or the malthouse and seeing first hand the techniques, processes, and testing and tasting the product will help the brewer decide how best to utilize those ingredients. The fact that they are small, dynamic, and incentivised (by NY State tax breaks) to develop partnerships with local breweries helps foster these relationships. This is something that can be quite difficult for a NY brewer when working with an English maltster or hop grower from the Pacific Northwest. The access gained for the brewer and the ease of feedback for the farmer and maltster is an amazing system and one that should be explored to the utmost of its ability.
Late last year I had the fortune of visiting two of the newest Malt Houses in New York state, which is seeing a renaissance of craft malting with the introduction of the Farm Brewery License, and the surge in locally produced goods. Pioneer Malting and Flower City Malt Lab, both located in Rochester NY, are new to the malting scene but diving headlong into their craft.
Pioneer uses traditional floor malting process, where the grain is germinated on a tiled floor and raked by hand. It is a more labor intensive method but one that I can attest is making a fantastic product. Flower City Malt Lab is taking the more modern approach in using high tech equipment that helps automate and control the process to their exacting standards, but are also hands on with the farmers who grow the grain, in helping select what grains work best and how to achieve the best product for malting . Both companies come at the process from slightly different angles but are producing great malt. As brewers become more familiar with New York grains, I am hoping we can bring their unique New York qualities to the forefront of our beers.
While I feel the terroir of beer may be a little harder to express then it is in its vinous cousin, just for the fact that much more goes into the creation of a beer than wine (not that I'm bias), I do think it is important to try and express the characteristics of where you are from and that is most discernible in what is known as a Single Malt and Single Hop beer, or SMaSH beer. Using a single malt and single hop in your beer allows you to really develop the unique characteristics of each of those ingredients.
And speaking of beer, NYC Beer Week is starting this weekend and I will be participating in a number of events providing beer made with NY state ingredients. From Jimmy's Homebrew Jamboree (with J.J. Bollerack's Big Brown Ale) and the Brewnity Homebrew Event (with Fat Man Little Stout) this weekend, to Brewer's Choice (with a NY DMaSHH, or a double malt and single hop and honey ale).