Building Community Through Beer

This post is By Edgar Evans Foudray.

Edgar is an enthusiastic young Orchardist whose chickens eat our leftover malt culm. When the average age of a farmer in America today is 57, you can't help but feel good that some younger people are digging it too :)

We really appreciate that Edgar took the time to write about this story.

noah tucker

noah tucker

No matter where you are in Massachusetts, you can find someone to drink beer with.

College students aren’t the only people you’ll find partying on a cold night in October.  Farmers love to drink beer by the campfire on crisp autumn nights, rejoicing to the sweet harmonies of an old time string band, in celebration of a bountiful harvest and a successful growing season.  For the farmer, the beer is something extra-special that a mere college student wouldn’t appreciate – that is, knowing that his hard work played its part in brewing this satisfying beverage.  Of course, anyone can do some homebrewing – if you can drink a beer, you can brew a beer.  But not everyone knows the joy of tasting the sweetness imparted to the malt from the barley he harvested from his fields.

IMG_0066

IMG_0066

For Noah Kellerman and Ford Tucker Smith of Alprilla Farm in Essex, Massachusetts, reaping what you’ve sown means drinking Ipswich Brewery’s Five Mile IPA brewed with their barley crop.  Alprilla Farm is five miles from Ipswich Brewery, making this 2012 harvest IPA a local sustainable choice beer of the year.

Saturday, October 20th was the 2nd Annual Alprilla Farm Harvest Party at their Organic CSA farm tucked between the salt marshes of Essex, and this year, they were proud to not only eat the veggies, but also drink the beer of their harvest.  It was a fantastic event, complete with a pig roast, Local Pickles from Maitland Mountain Farm in Salem, Ma., and a romantic meteor shower lighting up the Atlantic sky.  So of course, the guys from Ipswich Brewery drove their antique Ford keg truck to the party with a couple of kegs of the IPA brewed with the Alprilla barley.  And boy, let me tell you, that was some tasty brew.  Just the right amount of bitters to compliment, but not cover-up the fine flavor of the barley malt.  And of course, the brew wouldn’t have been possible without the small-batch malt processed by Andrea and Christian at the Valley Malt CSA in Hadley.

Tap Mobile

Tap Mobile

The whole occasion was a magical experience for me, since I’m college buddies with Noah and Tucker, and have had some memorable nights drinking beers and (attempting) to ride cows at an unnamed college farm in the pioneer valley.  I got to celebrate this agricultural and brewological achievement with my buddies.  What made this whole celebration even more special was that I was the middleman in the beer-making process.  Since I grew up on the North Shore in a small coastal Massachusetts town, I was visiting friends back home one weekend in August, and Noah hired me to transport 1500 lbs of barley back across the state to Andrea in Hadley, since the malthouse is in my neighborhood, amongst potatos, butternut squash, and cornfields.  It makes sense that I could bridge the gap between agriculture in Eastern and Western Massachusetts.  So Noah, Tucker and I, with our best Sunday hangovers on – back in August, loaded the super-sack full of organic grain into the back of my Chevy truck and strapped it down with some tarps.  If you don’t remember before Tropical Storm Sandy, we got a bunch of rain at the end of the summer, and so it made sense that it was pouring that Sunday driving back along Mass.Route 2.  Somewhere around Walden Pond, I noticed the blue tarp flapping wildly in the rear view mirror, and pulled over on the shoulder to refasten the binding straps so the precious malting barley wouldn’t get prematurely sprouted.  Once back in Hadley, Andrea unloaded the super-sack from my truck and bestowed upon me a couple bottles of Wormtown Ale brewed with barley that she and Christian grew in Northampton – now that’s some tasty stuff right there, and sure enough I shared it with some of my college friends the next weekend.

A couple months later, the farming season was over, and it was time for the harvest party.  To consider the supply chain established by this micro-economy is truly awe-inspiring.  Noah and Tucker planted the barley seeds, harvested it, and drank the beer produced from the barley malt.  The secret genius of serving local beer at the harvest party was that it attracted a whole crew of Noah and Tucker’s friends, who then woke up bleary-eyed the next morning to share in the labor of planting the next succession of Alprilla’s garlic crop.  This really tied the community-vibe together by sharing in breakfeast and garlic-seed peeling, then crawling down 3200 row feet of garlic beds.  Through social equity, Alprilla Farm saved labor expenses for an 8-member crew by the simple act of serving their homegrown beer at the harvest party.

IMG_0115

IMG_0115

So you see, beer does build community – it lubricates farm machinery, brings people together to enjoy campfires and folk music, and it transcends place – no matter where you are, you can always find kindred spirits to drink beer with.

IMG_0082

IMG_0082