Apr 30, 2014 9:27 PM
Barley has many uses, but when it comes to brewing beer, it is malted to create fermentable sugars that are then converted into alcohol. This often gives the beer a sweetness that will balance out the bitterness provided by the hops. In order to maintain a quality crop, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company recently purchased roughly 20 acres in Capay outside Hamilton City. Agricultural Supervisor Lau Ackerman has been overseeing the project and suggested that the company purchase more land when he started at the brewery nearly 5 years ago.
"We’re trying to get a little more room so we can have a little extra barley at the end of the season just in case. Also, if we grow more then we can spread it around to other beers," he says.
The barley in Capay, along with some from the 25 acre crop in south Chico, will primarily be used for the brewery's Estate Ale. Ackerman says growing malt barley can be more challenging than growing grains used for bread or feed because you have to keep the protein levels low.
"We try to do our fertility early in the season and manage our water later in the season when the grains are filling out and starting to mature. You want to make sure you keep plenty of moisture. Dry fields can drive up proteins late in the season," he says.
Between the two sites Sierra Nevada can rotate four to five fields to get the soil structure it needs for a healthy crop.
"Growing good crops is all about soil health, and to maintain soil health you need to rotate your crops to break up disease cycles and weed cycles," says Ackerman.
The barley will be ready to harvest in early June, and then a few months later it will be time to brew.
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