Retail!

Kent Falls Brewing Company promo from Mike Marques on Vimeo.

Good news folks!

Spring is finally here and we are only two weeks away from re-opening the brewery’s doors to the public. On Saturday, April 8 from 12 – 4 pm the brewery will have it’s first retail day and beer release of the year. Last June, we opened the brewery with a very narrow scope of operation – welcoming people to the farm and brewery, offering tours and selling bottles of our small batch beers to go. No growlers or on site consumption; tastings or otherwise. Throughout the year the number one question we received was whether that would eventually change. And we are extremely happy to announce, later this summer, it will.

Before it became our home and brewery, a family operated a small dairy farm on this property. When we first came to look at the property, the immediate vision was to convert the old dairy barn into our brewery. Unfortunately modern equipment requirements (and code) made it too costly to renovate and impractical to operate. The vision however, has never faded. While the old dairy barn may not be the place for steam boilers, glycol systems and the like it is a perfect fit for a barrel aging facility and modest tasting room.

One of the most satisfying experiences of living and working here is the ability to sit outside as the sun beams down on you and enjoy one the fruits of our labor with friends and family. This summer we will finally be able to share that experience with you. We will announce more of the plan and be sharing pictures of our progress as we get closer to the barn’s grand opening.

Until then, we will be opening as we did last year every Saturday from 12 – 4pm with farm tours at 11:30 am and 2 pm. For this first weekend we will be releasing the second batch of Second Nature, our farmhouse ale aged in wine barrels with cherries; as well as filling growlers of our freshest hoppy beers.

Here is the full list of what will be available for our opening day on April 8, 2017.

You can find out what beers will be available on any weekend by checking out the retail section on the main menu of our site.

AVAILABLE BOTTLES

Second Nature Cherry (batch 2) farmhouse ale aged in wine barrels with cherries 5.6% abv $12
Batch 100 bourbon-brandy barrel aged Gratzer 5.0% abv $10
Variant 4 brett dark strong ale soured on peaches aged in peach brandy barrels 8.0% abv $14
Fingerprint farmhouse ale aged in wine barrels with native yeast 5.4% abv $10
Tiny House 2016 mixed fermentation harvest ale 4.0% abv $8
Blueberry v Blackberry 2016 wild ale with berries 5.0% abv $8
Get More Likes imperial stout 8.0% abv $10
When Life Gives You Grape Must farmhouse ale fermented on grape skins 6.0% abv $8
The Hollow pilsner 5.0% abv $5
Maybe Both pale lager 7.0% abv $6
Dekkera brett table beer 4.0% abv $5
Equinox dry hopped farmhouse ale 4.8% abv $6
Second Cutting toasted hay porter 5.4% abv $5

AVAILABLE GROWLERS

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6.2% ipa (azacca, amarillo, galaxy)

Are You Single? (Glacier) 

6% ipa brewed with glacier hops

750 ml $8 750 ml $8
1 L $9 1 L $9
2 L $16 2 L $16
32 oz $8 32 oz $8
64 oz $16 64 oz $16

 

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If you’re reading this the odds are pretty high that you know our brewery is on, and a part of Camps Road Farm. What you may not know, is that we are also partners with Neversink Spirits.  For those of you who do not, consider this a formal introduction.

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While it was only two years ago that our brewery and distillery mashed in for the first time; our partnership goes back quite a long ways.  Back in August of 2011 five of us sat down and began working through some of the ideas for how a brewery-farm-distillery might actually work. Our original idea (or dream if you want to be accurate) was to have all of the operations located in the same place – to increase and share efficiencies, sustainability and make collaborations a whole lot easier and frequent.

Our farm would simply not be able to take both operations running at full capacity and in order to preserve the nature of the property, community and environment; not to mention allow the businesses to grow the decision was made to open the distillery in Port Chester, NY. The legal environment for farm distilleries is also much, much friendlier in NY State.  Despite the farm brewery and distillery being in separate locations, we needed a physical anchor to connect the businesses. After moving onto the farm in June of 2012 one of the first projects was to clear an area in the back pasture and plant an apple orchard of more than 10 heirloom cider varieties. The trees are still too young for a harvest, but they will soon yield an estate cider and apple brandy.  Approximately the same acreage as our hop yard, the apple orchard has been an intense learning experience about literally growing your supply chain, and a symbol of what we strive for.  Not to mention require serious effort!

 

Some city slickers hard at work planting baby apple trees

Cleaning up before winter.

Training day. Get those limbs out! (also shadows make you look very strong)

No matter the distance, we have worked tirelessly as a small group to help get each other overcome each hurdle as it presents itself.  The opportunity to problem solve within different operational requirements, growth strategies and certainly production processes have been an invaluable experience to us all.  The ingredients may be similar, but there is a lot more than higher alcohol content in the finished product that sets breweries and distilleries apart.

In a brewery like ours, sanitation and cleaning can be significantly more complex, especially when handling multiple yeast strains and mixed cultures containing wild yeast and bacteria. When cleaning tanks we use some pretty serious chemicals and sanitizers and plenty of CO2 to purge them of oxygen prior to filling them with our next batch. For now, we do not have a separate barrel aging facility ( hint hint) and our most “wild” barrels of beer, ones that have come from our cool ship and spontaneously fermented in the barrel, rest only a few feet from our brewhouse and fermentation tanks. Nonetheless, we maintain separate hoses, gaskets, packaging equipment and tanks for each of our yeast strains.

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One of the barrels used for Variant 4. Now full of spirit.

With distilled alcohol, it’s a bit different.  The distillation process and high alcohol content makes for a more forgiving sanitation process during fermentation. I remember my fist trip down to the fully operational distillery, each tank full of vigorously fermenting cider. While discussing which variety of apples were used for the juice, the guys asked if I wanted to open up the top man-way and smell a little bit of apple heaven (a serious no-can-do in the brewery). After a double take or two, I jumped at the opportunity and got a whiff of what would become their first batch of eau du vie (un-aged brandy). Think an orchard of alcoholic caramel covered apples.

“How lucky are these guys?!” I thought. And then I am reminded that it takes 6 days of distillation on their still to fill one 55 gallon barrel, which will then age for at least a year before it is ready.  The distillation process may allow for a bit more more lax sanitation requirements but it does no favors when you look at production schedules and growth rate. One thing, however, that breweries and distilleries will always have in common is the capital intensive nature of their operation. Equipment and space are not cheap, ingredients (and much more) need to be paid for, and suppliers don’t give you a break because you want to make bourbon that must rest in a barrel for at least a year before it can be sold. So anytime the opportunity presents itself for additional capacity, it’s hard to pass up.

This summer the brewery began producing 3000 liters of wort per week using NY grown barley, malted by our friends at Valley Malt. The goal, to produce a NY State Single Malt Whiskey.  Using our brewhouse to lauter (filter) the wort off the grain would allow the guys at Neversink to double whiskey production, using a cider tank for fermentation while their mash tun was filled with future bourbon. This would also be the first whiskey where the distillation was done from fermented liquid instead of from a fermented mash (“On grain”). Back to some numbers… Each of these 3000 liter batches ends up being distilled down to 30 liters of alcohol. Together, we managed to produce enough to fill a 225 liter pear brandy barrel which will rest for approximately two years before it is released. Needless to say, this is one long collaboration.

Rather than going on and on about collaborations that wont be released for a very long time or how we truck their spent pear mash and bourbon corn gloop mess back to the farm for composting – it’s time turn the focus to the first official collaboration between Kent Falls Brewing and Neversink Spirits; the perfect celebration of the brewery’s 100th batch.

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Filling totes with single malt wash for future distillation

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Three of these totes are distilled down to 30L of spirit. This has to be done 7 times to fill one barrel.

Like our location on the farm informs many of the decisions we make for our brewery, the abundant supply of apples in NY informs much of the distilleries production methods; even outside of the apple brandies. While spirits mature in barrels, you still have to produce something that you can sell to keep the business afloat. Apples translate incredibly well in both unaged and oak aged spirits. Each year the distillery produces a single batch of unaged pear brandy, and have begun producing a gin; the base of which is a blend of neutral spirits from their apple brandy and bourbon production.  In fact, their bourbon even takes a bit of inspiration from apples. After a year of maturation in new American oak barrels of various sizes it is blended into used apple brandy barrel for finishing. Four months later, the bourbon is ready for proofing and packaging. Then we come back into the story.

When we found out the barrel from Neversink would be made available to us at the time of our 100th batch we knew we needed to do something special with it. A stout felt like the obvious choice for a bourbon barrel but the apple character was not something we wanted to incorporate into a stout, and any nuance of brandy left in the barrel would likely be lost. Most importantly, we wanted something that would speak to what we have produced with the other 99 batches of beer produced since we began brewing in Feb 2015.

Amidst all of the different beers that we produce, certain beers generate the most internal excitement and gratification.  Beers with great depth but without any crazy ingredients. Anachronism, our grätzer is one such beer felt like the perfect beer for the project.

Brewed with oak smoked wheat, the char and vanilla notes from the bourbon barrel character accentuates the delicate notes of smoke within the beer without masking residual apple notes. The challenge was to figure out how to make a beer at some production scale while only having one barrel. The original plan was to blend the barrel back into a small batch of Anachronism to mellow the bourbon character. Upon tasting the barrel after two months, it hit all of the notes we could have hoped for. We hope you enjoy it.

Here’s to ?.

 

We Wanna Experiment…

Hi there.

You may remember us from such beers as Wanna Experiment? (Idaho #4) or our latest in the series Wanna Experiment? (With Powder) heading out to bars in Connecticut this week.

If you’re not familiar, the Wanna Experiment series is where we go to try out not only new experimental hop varieties but new forms of hop as well.  This latest batch, features something quite new and promising to the market (as far as we have seen) and, well, it just makes us want to keep experimenting.

Lupulin powder. As soon as we found out about this we knew we needed to try it out. Lupulin is the wonderful little yellow oil pods you see inside a hop cone that contain all of the flavor, aromatics (oils) and even bittering potential (alpha and beta acids). Lupulin Powder claims to be the least vegetal form of hops available without going to CO2 or steam distilled extracts. It arrives in the same package as pelletized hops, but feels like a big mushy block instead of hard pellets.

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Just one of many football fields of hops drying in Yakima. Photo courtesy of Farmer John

In order to pelletize hops, they must first be sent through a hammer mill (or other device to pulverize and make a powder) being punched through a dye in order to form pellets. The immense friction required to do this can create significant amounts of heat, which in turn can activate (isomerize) the bitterng potential, or without specialized pellitizers simply burn the hops and deteriorate delicate flavors or simply burn the hops. Obviously the big guys out in Yakima have specialized equipment to avoid this. In any case, this powder is supposed to contain only the lupulin and bracteole (leaf) – leaving the strig (stem) and any other plant material that may find its way into the pelletizer for the birds.

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It may cost twice as much, but it’s also twice as effective as hops and if used properly can yield 5% more beer.  More important than circular math equations is unlike other hop products which generally do not have some of the more sought after and exciting varieties available – the producers making lupulin powder started out with Simcoe, Mosaic, Citra, and Equinox. So that’s nice.  We chose Citra for our experiment.

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Dry hopping was a whole lot easier too… we’ll share more info about what cleanup is like once the tank is emptied.

And from what we have seen the aromatics of the lupulin powder live up to the hype.  It’s intense yet more delicate and not as heavy handed as the aroma we see from the same usage rates of pelletized hops. Since we did not anticipate brewing this batch far enough in advance to bottle any of it – and we were feeling so inclined to continue experimenting, we figured the perfect opportunity for a packaging and retail experiment….

Growlers.

This coming weekend will mark three months since we opened the brewery to the public on Saturdays. We have released barrel aged beers, mixed fermentations, and started bottling our IPAs all to a very positive response. Enough people to keep us busy and make the expenses and effort involved worthwhile but not so many that there are unbearable lines and make it so that we cannot have a conversation with those coming to visit our farm and brewery. And our goal from day one has been to ensure as good of an experience as possible for those that decide to make the trip; even if that means limiting what we make available.  We would rather have a limited offering executed extremely well than sacrifice the quality of your experience to expand what we offer. After all, we want you to come back.  Seeing as things have been going well and we feel we have the routine down to a point where we can look at how to best expand what we offer for next season, we are going to give growler fills a shot.

It will be a limited experiment, likely the only time this year we do so. We anticipate closing the brewery to the public for the winter sometime in November (weather will dictate exactly when). Assuming all goes well we would certainly like to include it when we open back up in the spring next year.

So here’s how it’s going to work:

  • We will not have any growlers for sale. You must bring your own growler to be filled.
  • No growlers will be sold at the farmers market.
  • We will fill a maximum of 2 Growlers per person since we will have a limited quantity available
  • Growlers must be clean – we hold the right to turn away any dirty growlers
  • There will be two separate entrances – one for growlers and one for bottles so that the entire line is not held up.
  • If you would like growlers and bottles we will have a second cash register where you can b-line up to the counter, purchase what you’d like up to the 9 Liter state limit and pay for it all at once.

Hope to see you Saturday. For a list of available bottles, prices etc click here

One more additional note. This Saturday will be the last weekend of the season we will be offering farm tours.

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Six months of the year, the first thing that I see as I walk out of my front door and head over to the brewery are the green canopies of hops in our yard towering over the rest of our farm. It’s an amazing way to start a day. Walking through the rows hot mug of coffee in hand, taking mental note of the plant’s growth and competing weed and pest situations, the morning dew soaking your feet and making putting on brewery boots that much more difficult.

Then, each year the wild activities that make up our farm brewery come to a crescendo. Over one hundred people ascend to the farm to help us take down the bines, pick a couple hundred pounds of cones getting thrown right into the kettle for a mixed fermentation harvest ale.  It’s the beginning of the end of our farming season. It’s possibly my favorite day of the year; not only is it the most social and public day on the farm but it is the best opportunity we can provide to put the daily collaboration that takes place between the farm and brewery on display, to publicize and put the adage “No Farms No Beer” to work.

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Harvesting hops is not for those that don’t like heights

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Community members young and old make it out for our annual harvest

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Derek loading the first batch of wet hops into the lauter tun to act as a whirlpool vessel.

There’s a ton of work that goes into the brewery and farm, and the hop yard is one of the more challenging components. To have so many people come and join us in the harvest is as rewarding and welcome of an end to the season as we could ask. Yet there’s another part to making our harvest beer that too often goes unheralded, and that is the malt. Last year we used six row barley grown and malted in the Hudson Valley. This year, we’re beginning a new and exciting chapter of brewing locally. The malt used for our harvest beer, and all of our farmhouse beers for the coming year (and hopefully beyond) will be coming from fields in Farmington, CT; less than 40 miles away.

In early spring I received an email from Andrea at Valley Malt about someone in CT attempting to grow barley. I immediately reached out to Rob to inquire about his operation; methods, interests in working together, and whether or not this was a one time side project. Last year we found ourselves in a similar circumstance, and after bringing in 8,000 lb of malted barley from Rocky Hill, when we finally met the grower we were unpleasantly surprised by the fact that he had no interest in making a business out of barley – and that it was grown with more conventional methods than we had hoped.  Thankfully, this time around things are very different.

Rob’s background is in machinery and asphalt, but last year he tested his hand at farming and planted a small crop of wheat which he successfully harvested and sold for seed.

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Rob showing me his first combine. This combine is smaller than any combine John Deere now makes.

For any “local” small scale hop or barley farmer the post harvest challenges are equally if not greater than the actual challenge of growing the crop itself. In some ways, they’r even more daunting.  After all, barley and hops are plants. They both want to live. They don’t however have any preference as to whether they are dried to the right moisture, cleaned, stored and malted in the right conditions (barley) or pelletized and packaged in mylar bags filled with inert gas and stored below 30 degrees (hops). In both cases quality begins in the field, but counties all the way through the supply chain until it reaches the end user – the brewery.

 

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Unloading barley for cleaning at Valley Malt

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Barley must be cleaned/sorted before the malting process can begin to ensure a quality product

Barley must be cleaned/sorted before the malting process can begin to ensure a quality product

Simplifying our supply chain is part of the reason we have chosen to plant only an acre and half of hops (a third of which is being replanted this fall) and use our harvest straight off the bine in a single batch of beer. This allows the qualities of our hops to come through in their natural state, make a product unique to the season and our farm, as well as avoid potential challenges (and costs) of drying and pelletizing smaller volumes of hops. Small scale pelletizers are either risky or extremely expensive. Hops are very sensitive to heat – to get the sense of a hops character you do a rub test. Break the cone apart and rub it between your palms to spread the lupulin oils and activate the aroma with moderate friction and heat.  Just as if you boil hops for 90 minutes you extract more bitterness than if you whirlpool or use them post fermentation if you dry them too intensely or run them through a pellitizer without any cooling mechanism built into the dye and you’ll scotch out all the flavor and create (in our case an unwanted) bitterness.

Thankfully there are some larger yards being planted in our area – 5 and 9 acres respectively which will require and are investing and building proper harvesting, drying and pelletizing infrastructure. By the time our yard is at maximum yield, we hope to be able to work with our neighbors and begin utilizing our hops in additional batches of beer. In the meantime we are excited to begin bringing in the hops we have signed contracts for with Smokedown Farm and Pioneer Hops; the two largest hop growers in CT and only a short drive from our farm.

Some of the 5 acres planted at Pioneer Hops in Morris.

Some of the 5 acres planted at Pioneer Hops in Morris.

We have the luxury of a brewery just a few hundred feet from our yard (I’ve never measured) that most hop farms do not. So while those guys will surely have PTO harvesters attached to tractors rolling down their rows, we will hopefully have close to 200 people on our farm helping us pick, listening to bluegrass, enjoying some beer and a pig roast.

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Hop yard on the left, the brewery is just south of the solar panels in the center of the frame. Barely two inches from each other.

There are very different styles of harvest for small yards like ours and larger commercial farms like Smokedown Farm in Sharon and Pioneer Hops in Morris. But even for them, they could use their machinery for most of the farm and have a harvest festival for a small portion of the yard. Barley farms however, don’t really have that opportunity. Even the smallest barley farm’s social harvest would seem to be quite dangerous – imagine people walking around a field swinging sickles! It’s unfortunately much less dramatic, perhaps as much because of the nature of the plant as it is the process required to use it.  I don’t know of any breweries who make wet  barley beers; there’s no getting around the maltster.

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9 Acres of hops requires serious infrastructure. Smokedown Farm’s PTO harvester/baler is beautiful!

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Wolf Harvesters may be old school, but the are as serious of a harvester as there is. With it Pioneer Hops can process up to 200 bines an hour!

Which is why we are so thankful to be close with and growing alongside Andrea and Christian at Valley Malt. They produce an incredible product that is incredibly important not only to making beer – but to establishing viable farming options for new and experienced farmers alike.

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Prior to renovations, Valley’s floor malting took place in a modified attic. Not much vertical space – raking barley while crouched over is not easy!

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The same floor malting facility after their recent renovation

Setting up a hop yard is incredibly expensive ($10-17k per acre!) for the distance to max harvest, potential yields and risks due climate, and supply chain issues that currently exist in the Northeast. As a perennial, once you establish a yard that is what you will be growing there. There are cover crops that can be grown in between the rows, or you can rotate your pasture raised chickens and pigs in the yard as well to utilize the space for as much revenue generation and free labor/fertilizer/pest control as possible; but for the most part and especially at larger scales a hop yard is purely a specialty crop with one primary end user.

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Raising chickens on pasture in hop rows not only supplies free fertilizer but reduced Japanese beetle problems

Cereal grains on the other hand play an absolutely key component to our diet; and establishing local and non-conventionally grown barley and wheat farms go much farther than producing a locally grown beer – it can change the food system and viability of small scale or organic/non-conventional farming. It has been four years since NY State passed their farm brewery law, and while there is a lot that remains to be known about it’s long term affects, it is causing real change.  The demand from breweries and distilleries for locally grown barley has risen such that it is now an insurable crop in NY State – letting farmers know that if they grow it, even in face of environmental challenges they will be covered. These types of changes can affect change far beyond the brewing and distilling industries, and is why farm brewery laws are important, but that is another matter entirely and this post is already getting long.

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Valley Malt’s expansion. The first time I visited there were no silos.

When I got the chance to drive out to Farmington and walk through Rob’s 10 acres of barley, taste the sweet, biscuity and nutty flavor of the seed picked freshly off the plant I became extremely excited. If there’s a terroir to beer, I think it must start with the most abundant ingredient – malt. Part of Andrea’s job as the maltster is to help new farmers with their farming practices – and in some ways play farming psychologist for the struggles that come about. Part of my job as the end user is to give a sense of security back along the supply chain so they can farm with confidence and not fret about sales. But even with post harvest processing – drying, cleaning, storing, malting all taken care of the challenges of how to make the other crops in a proper rotation viable are surely great. Rob is currently planning on taking over some corn fields in the fall to expand his acreage – planting beans to replace the nitrogen depleted in the soil by the corn, and eventually bring back to grain. Lets just say I wouldn’t be surprised if there were cows on the property at some point – but I’ll spare you the details and recommend you read Third Plate by Dan Barber instead. The point is that it all basically boils down to soil health – if you have good soil, and farmers dedicated to their process and flavor there is amazing results that can be had.

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Rob’s barley fields run parallel and just west of the Farmington River

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Oh, those beautiful plump Conlon barley seeds.

Just this past week Andrea came down to the brewery for a malt sensory exam. Without any discussion of friability, extract, and the other quantifiable statistics that you use in making a decision about what malt to use – we compared and analyzed over 24 different malts for flavor. The ability to taste wort from different varieties of barley side by side, malted in the same manner, or tank malted vs floor malted was an eye opening experience. It was unbelievable how much more flavor one variety had compared to some of the others. And will inform what varieties the collective “we” choose to grow, and how we choose to have them malted for our beers in the future; to ensure that quality and flavor are equally as important as extract potential.

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24 samples of wort extract different malts for sensor analysis.

That’s a lot about hops and barley malt. Let’s talk about yeast and microbes for a quick second. The yeast we use for Tiny House, our harvest ale is a mixed culture of our brett strains, lacto, and our farmhouse culture that has been going since our first batch of beer. So while we brew Tiny House, we will be releasing Fingerprint; our first beer with native yeast. This beer is a farmhouse ale aged in white wine barrels with wild yeast and microbes cultured off of fruit, flowers and hops from our farm when Derek and I first started brewing together a few years ago. The culture was stepped up using our old 15 gallon home-brew system located in what is now the farm’s egg washing room.  It went from a small jar of fruit to several batches of various farmhouse ales and ultimately found its way into the wine barrels along with it’s base beer to age for over a year and bottle conditioned for four months.

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Raspberries. Squash blossoms. Apples. Pears. Flowers. and of course, hops. Where our wild culture all started.

This will be a small initial release, one bottle per person who attends the harvest.  To have so many things local, native, and close to home in a figurative and very literal sense going on at the same time is wild. We could thing of no better way to celebrate local farmers, maltster, brewers, friends, family and community members alike than to combine all of these aspects into one very special day. It’s been quite some time since we have gone long form with a blog post about growing/brewing local or any other topic for that matter. It can be difficult to find the time or energy amidst all that goes on here, especially during the summer; but doing can be the best form of reflection and self-assessment on what our greater missions are. And while each and every day on the farm has its challenges, frustrations and daily dose of doubt; today, it feels like we are growing in the right direction and our excitement for this year’s hop harvest could not be greater.

We hope to see you there!

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Tickets can be purchased in advance at www.campsroadfarm.com/harvest