What It Really Means To DIY Our Beer And Spirits
At Rogue Farms we do a lot more than grow and harvest the ingredients we use to craft our beers, spirits, ciders and sodas.
After founding the GYO (Grow Your Own) Revolution, we jumped head first into the DIY Revolution, processing our ingredients by doing it ourselves. It started with our malting barley.
Artisan floor malting was almost extinct when we revived this tradition at the Farmstead Malt House at Rogue Farms in Tygh Valley, Oregon. In tiny batches of no more than 2,000 pounds apiece, our maltsters steep, spread, germinate, rake, shovel, kiln, sift and bag our malt by hand. If 2,000 pounds sounds like a lot to you, consider that it’s only .0057th of a typical batch at most malting facilities.
Hand crafting malt from the barley we grow ourselves allows our maltsters to see, sniff and touch the barley every step along the way. If something doesn’t look quite right, they just scoop it out before it gets to the brewery. There’s no way we’d have that kind of quality control if we were producing malt in batches of 350,000 pounds. We also love the complex flavor of floor malt. There’s nothing else like it.
A few years ago we bought a second-hand coffee roaster and, after tinkering with it, converted it into our DIY malt roaster at the Rogue Brewery in Newport. This is as small batch as it gets, it roasts only 33 pounds at time.
But what a difference it makes! We can roast our malt to create any flavor we want, from sweet caramel and coffee malts, to dark roasted chocolate, coffee and black malts. We invent new flavors from scratch.
Best of all, when the hot roasted malt comes out of the roaster it’s at peak flavor. All Brewmaster John Maier has to do is grab a bag, haul it 273 steps across the Brewery and pour it into the mash tun. That’s as fresh as it gets. If you’ve ever tasted our Fresh Roast Ale, you know what we’re talking about.
When we decided to make a pumpkin beer, we knew John wasn’t going to be happy using pumpkin puree, canned pumpkins or artificial pumpkin flavoring. It would have to be real pumpkins, or nothing. That’s how Dream Pumpkins became the second crop we grow at Rogue Farms in Independence, Oregon.
From the moment the pumpkins come in off the field, we load them into trucks and drive them 77 miles to the Brewery in Newport. There, our fellow Rogues going into DIY overtime, cleaning them, chopping them and roasting them into a pizza oven to caramelize that sweet, pumpkin flavor. Fresh out of the oven, they go straight to John who uses them to craft Pumpkin Patch Ale. If John won’t accept anything less, why should you?
Our dedication to DIY has gotten us out of a scrape or two. The 2014 crop of Wigrich Corn was almost a total loss because we couldn’t find anyone to combine it for us, and the machines we bought to shuck the corn failed. So we did it all ourselves. Picked and shucked 18,563 ears all by hand.
Had we not been experienced do-it-yourselfers, who knows what would have happened? The DIY Revolution taught us self reliance and not to give up just because times are tough.
Just like we did with floor malting, Rogue is preserving the ancient art of coopering by hand at Rolling Thunder Barrel Works.
Using Oregon White Oak sourced from the Coast Range, Cooper Nate Lindquist joints, plains, assembles, hoops, toasts, chars, crozes and heads each barrel one at a time. When he’s moving at full speed, Nate finishes five barrels a week. We’re not a threat to any of the barrel factories out East.
But we didn’t start the DIY Revolution because it was efficient, easy or cheap. We did it because we wanted to know our crops, to learn how they became ingredients, and because DIY is a lot more fun that buying malt, pumpkins, corn and barrels from someone else.
Experience it for yourself by visiting us at Rogue Farms in Independence, and at our Brewery, Distillery and Rolling Thunder Barrel Works in Newport. Join us in the GYO and DIY Revolution.