Growing local supply network feeds WNY microbrew boom

Jan 21, 2013

While smaller micro-breweries are becoming a growing part of the alcohol picture in this area, they usually don't rely on local sources for anything other than water.  But there's a growing supplier network feeding the breweries.

For beer, you need high-tech machinery and the traditional ingredients: water, hops, malt and maybe rice.

A century ago, New York state not only produced innumerable kinds of beer, the state's farms produced the agricultural elements the hops and the malts to make them. 

Between some agricultural plagues and prohibition, the beer business became dominated by a few giant companies.  That's changing, as is Albany's attitudes toward beer with new legislation allowing farm breweries like the farm wineries which have created so many opportunities for using grapes.

Those farms are changing, not only considering a brewery but also growing the ingredients for beer like the increasing number growing hops.

Batavia farmer Ted Hawley is about to start producing one of the key ingredients of beer.

"There really isn't any local malt available. It's from from the Midwest: Manitoba, Canada or all imported from around the world. There really is just a fraction of what's needed for a local New York state malt and beer," says Hawley. 

Hawley says he has 100-tons of malting barley stored on his farm and should have some ready for brewers to use late this spring.