Aroostook County is legendary for its potatoes, however two household farms are utilizing its fertile soil to assist develop the beer trade in Maine.
County farmers have efficiently pioneered a number of specialty crops, together with broccoli and alfalfa. These days, hops and barley are increasing the agricultural image.
Anytime a crop helps develop the native financial system, it’s excellent news for farmers and the cities they name house. Aroostook Hops in Westfield and the Maine Malt Home in Mapleton each began small, however have expanded their attain far past County borders. They now present Aroostook-grown merchandise to breweries from Fort Kent to Boothbay Harbor and elsewhere in New England.
“We began rising just a few hop crops only for ourselves in 2008,” stated Krista Delahunty, who along with her husband Jason Johnston owns Aroostook Hops. “We preferred rising issues, working collectively, being outdoors, and acknowledged that there have been only a few farms within the Northeast rising hops.”
Fifteen years later, Aroostook Hops is rising commercially, though on a small scale. The licensed natural operation grows about 4 acres of hops, a couple of fifth of the 20 acres grown yearly in Maine, she stated. The enterprise consists of the couple and their 4 daughters.
Hops present bitter, zesty or citric flavors to beers, in line with the American Hop Museum.
Most business hops come from the Pacific Northwest, however Aroostook County’s local weather is properly fitted to the crops, which develop about 14 ft excessive on trellises, Delahunty stated.
Hops want plenty of water, daylight, warmth and nitrogen. The farm makes use of an irrigation system to ship water and vitamins.
At harvest time, which normally begins in late August, they minimize the vines and a harvester separates the flower cones, which turn out to be the ultimate product. Some brewers use the uncooked flowers for “moist hop” brews, however most use the dried model, she stated.
The cones go right into a dryer, the place Johnston and Delahunty modify warmth and dehumidification to dry them to the precise moisture degree, she stated.
The dried hops are floor and fashioned into pellets, sealed in Mylar baggage and handled with nitrogen to forestall oxidizing. It’s this product most brewers use.
At Mapleton’s Maine Malt Home, Jacob Buck was overseeing the malting course of Thursday afternoon. Bruce and Lauri Buck and their 4 sons — Jacob and twin brother Caleb, Jared and Joshua — personal the enterprise. There are 10 workers.
“We have been within the potato enterprise till just a few years in the past, then we switched to all grain,” Buck stated.
Buck Household Farms grows about 2,300 acres of primarily barley, with some wheat and oats, largely for meals use. Maine Malt Home is a division of the farm and creates the product breweries use.
Tall silos outdoors the ability retailer the grain, which may final in storage for greater than a yr, Buck stated.
Processing the uncooked grain takes three steps: steeping in water so as to add the precise moisture degree; germinating, the place the grain really sprouts; and kilning, throughout which the grain is actually roasted and dried. As soon as processed, the grain is then malt.
“The response occurs within the kernel, like what occurs to bread in a toaster,” he stated. “The extra [the grain] is heated within the kiln, the darker the malt will get.”
Brewers use completely different roasts for varied merchandise. Calmly roasted “biscuit malt” goes in lighter-colored and milder ales, whereas darkish roast lends itself to darker, extra hearty beers, Buck stated.
Malt offers the alcohol content material, taste, coloration, head retention and mouth really feel in a beer, he stated. It’s a posh artwork that mixes completely different malt grains with hops to offer no matter stability of style, alcohol, coloration and different attributes the brewer seeks.
It takes a median of 68 kilos of malt to make a barrel of beer, which yields 248 pints, he stated.
Identical to Aroostook Hops, Maine Malt Home grew its enterprise little by little. Buck remembers driving along with his brother Josh across the state, carrying samples to brewers to introduce them to the product. The primary yr they possibly offered to half a dozen consumers, he stated.
After the primary yr or so, enterprise grew, after which boomed. Some years the farm really contracts with different growers to produce sufficient grain to satisfy demand, Buck stated.
Maine Malt Home provides greater than 80 breweries, promoting about 90 % of its product to brewers throughout Maine, together with Northern Maine Brewing in Caribou, 1st mile in Fort Kent and Geaghan Brothers of Bangor, he stated. The opposite 10 % goes to completely different areas in New England.
Equally, most of Aroostook Hops’ product goes to Maine breweries, together with the Caribou firm, Lubec Brewing Firm, Footbridge Brewery in Boothbay Harbor, Allagash Brewing Firm, Gritty McDuff’s, Fogtown Brewing in Ellsworth and Geaghan, Delahunty stated.
Each firms declined to disclose their gross sales figures.
“Geaghan’s makes an IPA known as ‘Massive County’ that options all Aroostook County elements, together with our hops,” she stated.
In addition they present hops to house brewers, and recently have equipped out-of-state makers of kombucha.
Kombucha is actually a tea product that may be brewed both with alcohol or not, and hops will be added, in line with the American Homebrewers Affiliation.
Each Delahunty and Buck are glad they took an opportunity on increasing into brewery merchandise.
Delahunty stated she has been amazed in any respect the individuals who have wished to study extra about hops.
Although his household farm grew potatoes for 57 years, Jacob Buck stated shifting into the grain realm was the precise transfer.
“We obtained in at a superb time, when the market was proper,” he stated. “We ship and course of yr spherical. That’s the great factor about grain is it’s non-perishable, so long as it’s handled appropriately.”