Sticking a toe in the (distilled) water at the ADI annual conference.
In return for watering the attendees with NABC beer, I was allowed the full run of seminars and meetings. The single most memorable one of these was a presentation by Andrea Stanley of Valley Malt, an indie micro maltster located in Western Massachusetts.
A farmer growing local grain, a local maltster hand-turning that grain into malt, and a local brewer crafting a truly local beer to be enjoyed by their neighbors. Valley Malt and its partners are working to create this vision of a transparent, localized supply chain that connects us to the land and to each other. This is a landscape built on risk, love, and cooperation and it is truly a view to behold. Grab a glass and taste the view.
As bright as one might fancy himself to be, it remains that epiphanies are sometimes required to retain simple concepts. Valley Malt's presence at ADI was one of these.
I learned about the company's plan to produce a product line of certain types of malt, as demanded by brewers and distiller, as leading to the establishment of an old school supply chain; farmers nearby avoided risk by raising barley they knew Valley Malt would buy, to be malted and sold to brewers and distillers who already had indicated they'd purchase them from Valley Malt.
There are two overarching points to this digression.
The most obvious is to reiterate that localism in barley malt (and hops) means very little without an intermediary close by to process raw crops from the field for use in the brewhouse (or in the case of malt, by distillers, too).
And, during two recent trips to Western Massachusetts, it never once occurred to me that Valley Malt might be located nearby, as in fact it is -- in Hadley, just a few miles from Diana's niece's family in South Hadley. We almost certainly were within minutes of the malting, and may well have passed it a half-dozen while driving back and forth.
All the while I remained oblivious. Maybe next time.
As a side note, All About Beer Magazine has an interesting profile of brewing ingredients. An overview appears on-line, but you'll need to buy the magazine to get the bulk of it.
THE FUTURE OF BEER INGREDIENTS