We brew our Harvest Ale
with 100% ingredients grown on our 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.
2019 was our fourth year producing ingredients for our 100% farm grown Harvest Ale, and it was one for the record books. An extremely wet spring led to the latest start to planting in modern memory, with the first grain going in the ground on May 22 (the previous latest start date was May 17, 1984). Planting conditions were more wet than ideal but the barley got off to a good start.
The late planting date, coupled with a hot and dry late spring and early summer, created a much shorter growing season than our AC Metcalfe malting barley would typically like, with the barley plant heading out more quickly than normal. This resulted in a reduced yield, but on the positive side harvest conditions were excellent and common grain quality issues, such as pre-harvest sprouting and fusarium head blight, were avoided.
The resulting grain colour was nice and light with little to no staining. Due to the dry conditions at grain fill, the protein level was a bit higher than normal at 14.3%. Although this resulted in a lower extract level in the brewhouse, it did give our friends at Barn Owl malt a bit more to play with in creating flavour and colour in the malt house. In our Harvest Ale we use 100% Munich Malt, a highly kilned malt that produces a deep amber beer with a rich, malty flavour. Higher protein typically lends itself to better developing the desired colours and flavour profile in the Munich malt.
On the hops side, the late/wet early spring and dry summer resulted in a relatively clean hop yard with a reduced yield. Very little downey or powdery mildew was present, and leaf hopper damage was kept to a minimum. From a variety standpoint, Mackinac was again the star. This proprietary hop from Great Lakes Hops in Michigan is very well adapted to our growing conditions, and we have added another 250 plants on this variety for 2020.