Local agriculture for breweries

July 2019—After water, making beer uses a lot of grains for the malt: wheat, barley mostly. A cooperative in Maine is working on knitting their agricultural community back together. They had been importing $35 million in grains from out of state, a missed economic opportunity and an unnecessary amount of transportation. They’re not only developing local sources for the grains but they’re also putting the waste products to better use, including using straw to generate electricity.

To provide the missing link in the creation of a Maine beer made with 100 percent local ingredients, entrepreneur Joel Alex established Blue Ox Malthouse, sourcing and malting Maine grains. In Maine, barley is typically grown as a rotation crop, mostly for potatoes. Since rotation crops are typically undervalued for that single purpose, they are plowed under to replenish the soil, or sold cheaply for animal feed. Blue Ox Malthouse, however, offers farmers an alternative offtake and gives local breweries a critical local ingredient. The project is a win-win-win for the whole brewers’ supply chain. Today, Blue Ox Malthouse counts 100 different breweries in Maine and New England as customers and works with about 10 local Maine farmers.

Cheers to that.