While we incorporate our own crops into all of our mainstay brews, we also produce unique brews using ingredients sourced solely from our own farm. We’ve always envisioned the Harvest Ale as a pure expression of farm-grown ingredients, with the intention of showcasing not just the character of our farm but also the differences between growing seasons. As it happens, you couldn’t ask for two years more different than 2016 and 2017.
First brewed in November 2016, our Harvest Ale is a variant on the German Oktoberfest style, brewed using an ale yeast rather than a lager yeast. The malt base was a traditional 100% Munich made from barley grown solely on our farm and malted by Devin and Leslie Huffman at Barn Owl Malt in Stirling.
2016 was one of the driest summers on record in our area. While many types of crops suffered, the lack of rainfall produced growing conditions for AC Metcalfe barley. Yields were average and harvest conditions were ideal with very little moisture. This produced high-quality barley: very light in colour with virtually no staining. Our hop yard was just reaching maturity and produced a decent yield with the assistance of heavy irrigation. The 2016 Harvest Ale materialized from this pairing with a smooth malt flavour of caramelized, biscuit-like undertones.
Fast-forward: spring growing conditions in 2017 were some of the most challenging we’ve experienced on our farm in modern times. Our hops suffered from an infestation of leafhoppers – these insects affect hops by stunting the plants and reducing overall yield. Barley planting season saw the highest rainfall in recent memory. This meant that the crop went in late and portions of the fields were suffocated by flooding. Weed pressure was heavy throughout the spring and summer and combined with high rainfall during harvest produced a much darker barley with significant staining. Yields were significantly lower than average. The resulting Munich malt was much darker than its 2016 brother with a pronounced, phenolic smoke flavour.
In October 2017 we brewed the Harvest Ale using only 2017 malt and hops. The resulting beer was much darker than the 2016 version, with a pronounced smoke flavour on the nose and phenolic off-flavours from the barley. As much as we wanted to showcase the differences from year to year, we’re committed to producing the best quality beer, and that also means using the top quality ingredients and best practices. In November we brewed the Harvest Ale again with 100% Munich malt from Barn Owl, but this time using a fusion of 80% 2016 barley and 20% 2017 barley. This batch was obviously much closer to the 2016 variant, with a subtle accent of the smoke flavour from the 2017 barley.
Find the 2017 Harvest Ale in bottles at the brewery retail store, as well as on tap at pubs and restaurants throughout our region.