Most of what Colorado Malting Company produces falls into your standard fare: wheat and barley. But Cody has started tapping into specialty grains too like locally grown quinoa and millet, which is essentially bird feed, shown here. (Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media)

Most of what Colorado Malting Company produces falls into your standard fare: wheat and barley. But Jason Cody has started tapping into specialty grains too like locally grown quinoa and millet, which is essentially bird feed, shown here. (Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media)

The country’s craft beer industry is growing at a tremendous rate. Last year, more than 400 breweries opened nationwide. In some states, like Colorado, there are so many craft breweries they’re beginning to blend together. As Harvest Public Media’s Luke Runyon reports, in such a crowded field, startups are trying a more unique approach.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

How does a new craft brewer stand apart from the pack? A few have hitched their brewery onto the local food bandwagon, sourcing the ingredients that form beer’s DNA straight from the fields around them.

Last year, more than 400 breweries opened nationwide. It shouldn’t surprise that the craft beer industry is growing at a tremendous rate. In some states, like Colorado, there are so many craft breweries they’re starting to blend together.

Kyle Carbaugh’s Wiley Brewing Company is half-finished. Right now it’s just bare floors, a framed bar, and four industrial size brew tanks in a former cinderblock factory in Greeley, Colo. The area is already home to numerous microbreweries – familiar names like New Belgium Brewing and Odell Brewing in nearby Fort Collins. So Carbaugh says it became very clear that he needed to be different.

“At the end of the day, beer is an agricultural commodity through and through,” said Carbaugh. “There’s a huge thing going on with the local food movement and farmer’s markets and ‘know your farmer,’ that kind of thing. And the question came up to us, why isn’t anybody doing this?”

To answer Carbaugh’s question, breweries in the Pacific Northwest have perfected the art of a “farm to glass” beer. Few have sprouted elsewhere though. In southern Colorado farm country, where farmers are used to producing from the land, the idea is starting to take root.

Water, malt, hops, and yeast are the basic ingredients of beer. While breweries focus on the art of brewing, Jason Cody is perfecting the art of craft malt. Since 2008 Cody’s Colorado Malting Company has been malting barley and wheat from his own fields. He works with specialty grains too, like millet and quinoa. He then sells bags of malt to craft brewers throughout Colorado, like Kyle Carbaugh.

And business is booming.

“The first full year we were in business we sold 20,000 pounds inside the state of Colorado,” said Cody. “And our projection for this year, which we’re right on target with, is about half a million.”

Even half a million pounds isn’t enough to satisfy brewery owners who want to create and sell a hyper local beer.

“There are only so many guys you can take care of. With brewers it’s repeat business,” said Cody. “So they brew a beer and then when it’s time to brew again they need more malt so they’ve got to come back and buy more malt. But then it’s hard to pick up new guys sometimes when you’re in that position, because what do you do?”

It’s also tough to keep with the demand for locally grown hops. Three states, Washington, Oregon and Idaho, produce more than 90 percent of the nation’s crop. The amount of hops grown in other parts of the country isn’t even tracked. Growth in hops production has been slow in Colorado, a state where the craft brewing industry is accelerating quickly.

Zach Weakland and his father saw an opening to set themselves apart. They took their supply into their own hands when they started High Hops Brewery in Windsor, Colo. A two-acre hops farm sits adjacent to the brewery’s tasting room. He compares the set up to a winery, where you enjoy a glass of wine while looking out onto the vineyards. Only replace grapevines with hops.

“You come here for the experience on top of the good beer,” Weakland said. “How many other places can you sit out the patio and look out on the hops and see where your beer comes from?”

Steve Kurowski with the Colorado Brewers Guild says craft malting and small hops farms are just starting to take off, allowing breweries to source locally.

“There’s just so much beer being brewed now, and the movement to supply local hops and local grain is just getting started,” said Kurowski. That supply hasn’t caught up with the demand yet.

Kyle Carbaugh is still trying to navigate where his supplies will come from for his unfinished brewery in Greeley. His malt will be Colorado grown, but his hops will come from Washington. Eventually he hopes to pour a completely Colorado grown glass of beer.

“It’s really all about telling a story, right?,” said Carbaugh. “Through a product or through materials.”

Until his brewery opens up, it’s a story Carbaugh will still be writing.

 

Comments are closed.

News

Duke University Archives
April 21, 2018 | NPR · Duke University has decided to stop honoring roommate requests made by incoming freshmen – returning the procedure largely to chance. Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta tells NPR why.
 

AP
April 21, 2018 | NPR · Gun violence protests may be a pivotal moment for the generation coming up behind millennials. Events that occur when we’re young can have an outsized impact on shaping our political outlook.
 

Getty Images
April 21, 2018 | NPR · James Comey’s memos are released — in redacted, unclassified form — at the end of a week of Comey mania. And Michael Cohen drops a civil suit about the Trump-Russia dossier.
 

Arts & Life

Getty Images
April 21, 2018 | NPR · Falco gained fame and a boatload of awards playing Carmela on HBO’s The Sopranos. She followed that up by creating the iconic role of Nurse Jackie on Showtime. Her new movie is Outside In.
 

AFP/Getty Images
April 21, 2018 | NPR · Allowing cinemas is part of a modernization drive by the Saudi government, which hopes to create more business opportunities and become a regional film hub. But it’s a tough place to be a filmmaker.
 

University of Texas Press
April 21, 2018 | NPR · This collection of essays by novelist and scholar Joanna Russ was first published in 1983 — but it reads as if it might’ve come out last week. “Get angry; then get a reading list,” says our critic.
 

Music

AFP/Getty Images
April 20, 2018 | NPR · Conductor Marin Alsop muses on the power of ballet and her memories of watching choreographer George Balanchine bring the music of Tchaikovsky to life with the New York City Ballet.
 

April 20, 2018 | NPR · Chicago jazz mainstay Willie Pickens died this past December at age 86. Revisit his performance with McPartland in this 1997 episode of Piano Jazz.
 

April 20, 2018 | NPR · Swedish musician and DJ Avicii has died at 28. NPR’s Ari Shaprio talks with KCRW’s Jason Bentley about his career.
 

Get the KRCC iPhone App

The Writer's Almanac

Radiolab