Bigger breweries have taken a liking to the simpler life, purchasing large plots of land for cultivating ingredients and raising livestock, while a few smaller breweries use their farm-based operations to churn out beer that reflects the local bounty. Out in the sticks, breweries of all sizes are growing big innovation.
with reporting by Jeffrey Glazer, Aaron Skirboll & Brian Yaeger
LOGSDON FARMHOUSE ALES | Hood River County, Ore.
In the picturesque Columbia River Gorge, Hood River County is rife with so many farms that its scenic highway is known as the Fruit Loop. What better place than on David Logsdon’s 20-acre family farm to make authentic farmhouse ales? The brewery is literally housed in a big red barn. In the mid-’80s, Logsdon co-founded neighboring Full Sail Brewery, then launched yeast industry giant Wyeast Labs, so naturally the beers he and partner Charles Porter make are yeast-forward saisons (Seizoen, Seizoen Bretta). The certified organic beers use only locally grown, whole organic hops, and spent grains are fed to the herd of Scottish Highlander cattle.
SPRAGUE FARM AND BREW WORKS | Venango, Pa.
Most of what you see on the 65-acre spread at Sprague Farm and Brew Works goes into Brian Sprague’s beer: the chestnuts; the hops and grains (which are steeped, germinated and kilned on-property, too); and even the maple syrup. Brewing on the grounds since 2006, he and his wife Minnie transformed an old dairy barn into the brewpub Bierhalla in 2009; it’s grown beyond a vehicle for Sprague’s into a hub for the community, which sits just 30 miles south of Erie, Pa. Brian’s relentless curiosity means most of his brews are one-offs, although the current estate beer HIGH PA—a “Pennsylvania pale ale” brewed with homegrown Cascade, Magnum, Nugget and Mt. Hood hops, plus a wild variety Brian grows on his porch—may just become a repeat.
ROGUE FARMS | Independence, Ore.
When the 2008 hop crisis hit, Rogue Brewery founder Brett Joyce couldn’t bear to tell his brewmaster, John “More Hops” Maier, to go easy on the hops. So he decided to grow his own: He flipped through the Yellow Pages, calling Oregon farms to pitch a hop-growing partnership, and the 15th—an Independence, Ore., farm that had, ages ago, grown hops for Budweiser—called back. Today, Rogue Farms is a 40-plus-acre operation, with seven proprietary hop varieties, rye, pumpkins and roses growing along the Willamette River, bees making honey in 19 hives, poultry and pigs roaming the grounds, and an inn/tasting room flourishing inside a 100-year-old farmhouse. A sister farm in Tygh Valley, Ore., grows two Rogue-developed seasonal barleys in Mt. Hood’s shadow. The harvests materialize in Chatoe Rogue beers like Good Chit Pilsner, brewed with barley floor-malted at the brewery.
TUNDRA BREWERY | Stamford, N.Y.
Considering Wood Homestead Maple Syrup’s been the headlining product of the VanGlad family farm for more than a quarter-century, it’s only fitting the sweet stuff found its way into Ma-Pale Pale Ale, the flagship beer from son Mark VanGlad’s Tundra Brewery. Operating on his family’s Catskill Mountains farm, VanGlad’s beer is hyper-local: He sources the majority of the ingredients from the roughly 12 acres of barley and one acre of hops that he planted, and there’s even talk of starting an in-house malting operation. It’s this kind of localism that allows VanGlad to sell Tundra beer at the highly selective Greenmarkets in New York City, including his Pale Ale, Red Ale, Brown Ale and, later this year, an IPA and a gluten-free beer made from farm-grown sorghum.
OSKAR BLUES’ HOPS & HEIFERS FARM | Longmont, Colo.
Oskar Blues’ owner Dale Katechis built the Hops and Heifers Farm on a stretch of land conveniently situated between Longmont, Colo.—home of the Oskar Blues brewery, Tasty Weasel Taproom and Home Made Liquids & Solids restaurant—and Lyons, Colo., the outpost for Oskar Blues Grill and Pub. Today, the farm operation includes an eight-varietal hop farm, vegetable garden and livestock; Dale and his family previously lived on the property, and now his mom calls it home. A burgeoning hop harvest yields fresh-hopped firkins and wet-hopped beers like HGH (that’s Homegrown Hops) in the fall, but what set this operation apart are the goats, Berkshire pigs and nearly 30 Black Angus cows that feast on spent grain from the brewery. The tables are turned back at the restaurant in Longmont, where carnivores revel in juicy Black Angus steaks and burgers. Call it a perfect model of sustainability or just the cycle of life, but this hyper-local brewery-to-farm-to-table setup is definitely one of a kind.
DAVE’S BREWFARM | Wilson, Wis.
David Anderson, brewmaster of the eponymous Dave’s BrewFarm, didn’t grow up on a farm. But after a career of starting breweries, distributing and importing beer, and judging international brewing competitions, Dave drew inspiration from rural Belgian breweries and started BrewFarm in tiny Wilson, Wis. (pop. 184). Recipes featuring hops, herbs, fruit and botanicals harvested and foraged on the farm are brewed on a system powered by a windmill and kept cool by a geothermal field behind the tap room. The beer is exciting and thoughtful; you’re as likely to find a Breakfast Lager made with Grape Nuts or a Rhubarb Saison as you are a classic Dortmunder lager.