For Hops, We'll Even Fly to Virginia
Beer, the greatest invention of humankind, is formulated when, and only when specific ingredients compliment the technical, intricate step-by-step processes of brewing. Like baking a cake, too much of this, not enough of that, or one degree too much or too little will result in an unusable pile of repugnance. Simply put, brewing beer requires harmony.
As craft beer explodes in popularity, ingredient sourcing emerges as a legitimate obstacle for breweries. If essential elements—grain, yeast, water, or hops—become too scarce, craft breweries will cease to exist. In the middle of a global hop shortage, we've taken preemptive steps to combat sourcing issues; planting two hop farms in the sunny Santa Cruz Mountains, signing contracts with hop brokers and connecting with independent farmers from around the country.
Family ties united our brewery with a 250 acre certified biodynamic farm in Virginia; home to hops and other beer-making ingredients. A weekend getaway was required to learn more. Upon arrival, it was clear that the kitchen garden, greenhouse, aquaponics, orchards, rice paddies, runoff ponds, hop trellises and even the timber-tattered rolling hills, were structured with intent; producing awe-inspiring results. Heavily sought-after, these sustainable farms are becoming targets by big name breweries like Stone and Sierra Nevada; offering large sums of money for ingredient rights.
Biodynamic farming is a "farm-forward approach to healing the planet through conscious agriculture" (biodynamic). The farmers manage the fields, woods, wetlands, plants, animals, and people—as a self-contained, self-sustaining organism. They don't use GMOs, synthetic chemicals, fertilizers or pesticides. Instead, they use the USDA organic standards as a foundation plus additional requirements. A biodynamic certification represents the best of modern day farming.
As the beer market continues to boom, sourcing ingredients will become more challenging. Connections with suppliers will be pivotal and might prove to be the reason why a brewery fails or succeeds. Furthermore, being a team hell bent on producing the best damn beer, why wouldn't we make connections with the farmers who produce the best damn ingredients?