The Local Food Report: Homebrewing, part 2

I've got a little more on homebrewing for you today. This week's show was part two of my interview with Gui and Dennis, and this time we're talking ingredients—what you need, and which ones you can find locally. Let's dive in!

There are only four basic ingredients you need for making beer: water, yeast, malt, and hops. Most of them you can find locally—obviously, local water is easy. Yeast you actually don't want to find locally—according to Gui and Dennis, local, wild yeast is everywhere in the air, and a big part of making good beer is keeping it out. You don't know what it will taste like, and if it gets into your brew, it can lend it some off flavors pretty fast. Most homebrewers buy yeast at homebrew stores (Cape Cod Beer has a good one) or online. Dennis and Gui recommend two websites: Wyeast and Whitelabs.

Next up is malt, which has the most exciting local news I think. First off, I should explain what malt is. It's grain—often barley, but anything works—that has been steeped in hot water and left to germinate. Once the wet grain sprouts and gets just to the right point—the point when it has the most nutrient potential—it's dried and you have malt in the form that homebrewers buy. The person or company who does this work is called a maltster, and more and more are popping up in New England. The one I'm most interested in is Valley Malt in Hadley Massachusetts. They make malt from locally grown grains and even have a Malt of the Month Club that works like a CSA! If I start brewing, I'm joining.

Finally, you need hops. Hops used to be big business in New England, and thanks to the Northeast Hops Alliance, which was founded in 2001, they're making a comeback. Companies like Peak Organic are using all local hops grown just for them in many of their beers, and places like Foothill Hops in New York are selling locally grown hops to homebrewers. Better yet, hops are easy to grow and a lot of homebrewers are starting to grow them in their own backyards. Dennis has friends who found hops growing in their backyard in Wellfleet (to see a picture so you can check your backyard, click on over here), and he says he made an excellent IPA with them last summer. 

So an all-local brew? Yes, it's possible. It just takes a little more work.

Next Thursday we'll talk homebrewing with Gui and Dennis again—this time, they'll walk us through the process. I'll see you then.


mybonnie said...

Morning... Love your Diary & website!!
Reading part 2 of home-brewing and somehow missed part one. Can't find it on your webpage. Will you lead me to it?
Many thanks , E.

Elspeth said...

hi mybonnie,

thanks so much! part 1 was last week, so you can either scroll down the page (it's two posts down) or click on this link: http://www.diaryofalocavore.com/2012/02/local-food-report-homebrewing-part-1.html. have fun!

all the best,

Beth Marcus said...

Nice stuff! Thanks for the plug for cape cod beer. You can also remind folks there is a homebrew club that meets in Hyannis the first Wednesday of the month..coming up soon. It's a fun group that keeps growing every time they meet.

Also a note that there are wild and heirloom hops growing on cape cod. We met some guys a few years back that had a significant amount of hops from the Wellfleet/ Truro area, who claimed they are very very old vines that have been on cape cod for a very long time. We see wild hops out and about..for sure there are hops growing at the end of long beach road in Centerville...nestled amongst the poison ivy so beware!

We are currently selling rhizomes for spring planting at cape cod beer.. $5 per..just make sure you "want" them..they will take over underground with a significant root system...but grow nicely here on cape cod. also of note hops can be poisonous to dogs...ours leaves them alone..but if your dog is a serious herbivore,you may want o skip the growing your own idea... Details are on our website www.capecodbeer.com


Elspeth said...

Beth, thank you so much for chiming in! I have heard about domesticated hops "going wild", but I didn't realize there were so many around. Dennis's friends (also our friends) Lee and Darren found tons of hops growing on their property that they assumed had been planted by someone else a while back. When you say wild, do you think they were planted at some point or that they are part of the native vegetation? I'm curious.

Also, thank you for letting us know that you guys have plants for sale. I'd love to grow some if we can find a spot.

And of course, thank you, as always, for all good anad local things beer!

All the best,

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