As you probably remember from your Western Civilization class in high school, agriculture began the way of life as we know it today. It enabled you to wait in line at Delaware Growler last weekend for an epic IPA. You didn’t have to grow the grain and brew it yourself. Instead, you worked at your (insert adjective of choice) ________ day job and earned money to buy the things you like. This type of lifestyle (i.e. people specializing in things other than hunting prey) started in Mesopotamia, present day Iraq and Iran, and it’s worked out fairly well for the human race ever since.
So it should not surprise anyone that beer production first began in that area as well, which makes complete sense, because you need farms to make the ingredients for beer.
But let me pause here to inform you about the quality of the Mesopetamian beer - it was terrible. You’d give it one star on Untappd.
Some of you would add an extra star because it was hazy, but most of you would hate it. Back then, humans didn’t quite understand the finer points of brewing delicious beer, like keeping contaminants out. I’ll cut them some slack because the product was apparently good enough that people kept drinking it. #knowyourcustomer
While Dan and I have a good bit of knowledge around beer brewing, we are pretty much knuckleheads when it comes to the production of the main raw ingredient of beer - barley!
So when Proximity Malt invited Dan and I down to tour their facility in Laurel, DE, we enthusiastically accepted.
Leaving the brewery early on a Thursday morning, I was surprised the GPS said it would take us 1.5 hours to get there! It has been literally 20 years since I have been to the very southern portion of Delaware (high school cross country meet in Seaford), and I had forgotten how rural the area was (and still is). Miles and miles of flatness. Luckily, Dan and I had plenty of brewery business to discuss.
When Proximity Malt moved into Laurel two years ago, they contracted with local growers to begin producing winter barley. About 8,000 acres are now growing the crop over winter. This is awesome for Delaware breweries because the main ingredient comes from our state!
During one of the tour stops, we visited Conaway Farms where they are into their second season of growing winter barley. The barley is planted in the fall, grows for a short time before winter’s cold descends, and picks back up again in the spring. If you’ve ever seen an absurdly green and grass-like field in the winter, it’s probably winter barley or winter wheat. Harvest is in early June, giving the farmer an opportunity to grow another short crop in the summer. #winwin
Driving home that day, I was really excited about the connection we have to this locally grown ingredient. When you raise your next pint of Autumn Arch beer, I hope you feel that connection too.