With brewing, most of the raw materials come from out of state for agronomic reasons. Barley grows best in areas that can be irrigated thus apply water at the exact right point to reach the plumpness, proteins and clean crop you want to brew a quality beer. You can grow barley in Wisconsin, but it is prone to staining, disease and has 67a low level of acceptance due to these traits.
In 1894, Wisconsin was the top producer supplying 75% of the nation’s hops only to have downy mildew and over production destroy the industry. Hops also grow best in the high desert areas on Washington State, or the fertile Willamette valley of Oregon where pest issues are not a normal issue. Several farmers are growing hops in Wisconsin, and we have about a half-acre setup on our land.
One crop that grows well in Wisconsin is soft, red winter wheat. This past week, we plowed under a 2 acre field on our farm and planted it with Diener N251, this will mean little to anyone other than a wheat farmer. We picked the Diener due to its agronomics that exhibit a good plump with good pest resistance along with a yield of 100 BU per acre. In other words, we should harvest approximately about 12,000 pound of wheat. The attached photos show the before and after planting of our winter wheat. Now that we are back from a much needed break, we can see that the wheat is out of the ground and about 1” tall, so right on track for next year’s brewing.
Winter wheat will sprout in October and then go dormant over the winter months. In early spring, it will start strong and out compete the weed population thus leading to a better crop and yield. Our intention will be to pilot malt part of the wheat for use in our late summer heffes and Belgian style beers. The remaining portion will be flaked for use in other beers. As with all agricultural products, we really won’t know if it makes it until we harvest the crop. With our small field there is no insurance nor assurance we will get it off. However, if we do get a good crop, we will be the only brewery (that I know of) in Wisconsin that supplies its own ingredients from its own fields. In other words we will have some Grand Crue’s in the lineup next year!
Picture #1: Field prior to bottom plowing and planting
Picture #2: Planted field
Picture #3: Long view of whole field planted