More than ever in our brewery’s history, we’re using Maine-grown grains to make our beer. In 2016, we made the pledge to increase our usage of local grain—that year, we ended up using around 65,000 pounds. In 2017, we increased it to around 150,000 pounds, and in 2018, 280,000 pounds. By 2020, we had hit 728,000 pounds.
All of these increases are an effort to make it to one million pounds of local grain, per-year, by 2021.
“We’ve always wanted to brew with more local grain,” says our Brewmaster, Jason Perkins. “It’s important to us to be a part of the movement that’s building out the sustainability of local grain here in Maine.”
We’ve been able to achieve this jump in grain usage, in large part, thanks to tests and trials. There’s no way around it, changing a beer’s ingredients, without changing the way it tastes, is a tricky business. The recipes for our core beers are dialed in. We’ve brewed beers like White, Tripel, and Black thousands of times. To ensure that the beer people have come to enjoy stays exactly the same—across taste, aroma, color, and mouthfeel—we needed to run trials on full-scale batches. It’s not the quality of local grain we’re worried about here—that quality is undeniable. It’s purely the fact that any change in the brewing process has the ability to change the beer.
A large part of these trials included our sensory department, which is in charge of tasting and approving every beer we make. “Our Sensory panel has shown that there is no difference between our former grain and the Maine-grown grain that we’ve started to use. This will allow us to make the same consistent, delicious beer with grain from right in our backyard.” said Karl Arnberg, our Sensory Manager. This department—made up of tasters across the brewery, from finance to the packaging line—ran trials of all our year-round beers. In these tests we compared batches brewed with higher portions of Maine-grown grains vs. those with less. The results have been encouraging. Maine grain is certainly up to the task of creating beer high-quality beer.
We’re also happy to report that our concrete pledge has also had an impact on our local farmer partners planning for the future. Jacob Buck, one of the owners of Maine Malt House, said they’re “hoping that in the next couple years [our farm] will double our current production.” Now, this is due to multiple factors, as the market for feed is also rising, but we can honestly say that sustainable growth is happening in Maine agriculture.
And we’re by no means the only brewery that’s brewing with Maine-grown grain. “There has been a clear demand from buyers both big and small, from inside and outside the state,” said Tristan Noyes, the Executive Director of the Maine Grain Alliance. “Some of New York City’s largest bakeries are beginning to use Maine grown grains… Distilling is also beginning to make a noticeable impact.”
And that’s ultimately a big part of the point. The more demand we can contribute for Maine-grown grain, the more supply there will be, and the less it will cost for others looking to buy it. Being one of the biggest breweries in Maine, we felt that we could really have a positive impact on our local economy. It has been incredibly gratifying to see what started as an idea, growing in real life.