Our First Wet Hopped Beer and a Note on Local Ingredients
Today is an exciting day for us as we release our very first wet hopped pale ale! This is really the first beer we’ve released that drives at our ultimate goal here at Badlands: grow as many ingredients as we can on the farm, and use them in our beer. We still have a very long ways to go to get to a point where we have a steady supply of fresh, local ingredients that we can consistently use in our beer on a seasonal basis; but we are slowly laying that infrastructure while trying to balance life and get everything else in place. Most importantly, an on-site location that will allow the general public to buy/drink our beer on the farm (not a super easy thing for a brewery of 2 people with other full time jobs!)
The beer itself is largely composed of a blend of Columbus and Centennial hops (with a very slight hint of first year, late planted Chinook!) that we grew ourselves on our farm in Caledon. Truthfully, this was a pretty horrible year for hop growth in Ontario because of all the rain and the general lack of heat/sun (mildew… so much mildew). Overall, we still got a decent yield from our little hop trellis and we dedicated 100% of the pickings to this one beer. The hops were picked fresh from the bine and used within a couple of hours (they would have been used sooner, but it literally took a couple of hours to pick them from the bine by hand).
So How Did the Beer Turn Out?
Very well, we think! We have found that a Caledon grown Columbus and Centennial hop blend (and I can’t speak for the whole province here, because I haven’t experimented enough with various crops from different hop growing regions in Ontario) throws off some very unique flavors and aromas that we don’t find are present in typical West Coast, American grown Columbus/Centennial hops. Specifically we found in this particular batch that there is a very distinct orange citrus character that compliments the otherwise commonly found piney, resiney flavor profile. This is exactly the reason we want to grow and use ingredients from our farm in our beer: because we know that the microclimate can, and does, change the flavor of whatever crop is being grown, and this will ultimately make our beers more nuanced, distinctive and interesting when used.
More on Farm Ingredients
We have our heads a bit in the clouds on this particular topic, and we know it too. We have a strong desire to grow anything and everything we can, but we realize that there’s only so much time in the day and we can only grow and harvest so much. So we have come to understand that developing the infrastructure to grow/harvest beer ingredients is going to take us some time to put in place (not to mention money!), and it’s also going to have to occur alongside the development of our brewing infrastructure, but hey, slow growth is supposed to be good or whatever right? (also the majority of the land is currently dedicated to growing hay, soy bean or is pasture for the cattle and is being well used, so if we re-purpose the land, it has to make sense and be useful to the beer).
Currently we are growing some hops (mostly the 4 C’s), and we will continue to see what grows well in our climate and expand our hop yard slowly with either more bines of the C’s or some other fun publicly available varieties (Cashmere, am I right!?) We also have a small garden going with some herbs and spices that grew pretty well this year and should find their way into some beers in the future. We will be trialing some small patches of barley, wheat and oats this coming spring, and assuming those grains grow relatively well, this would largely close the loop on a full farm to table beer that we a) grew ourselves on our land; and b) harvested and processed ourselves into a beer.
Grow the grain, grow the hops, use the water from our on farm well and spontaneously ferment it with local Caledon microflora. That’s the ultimate goal: grow, harvest, and process every ingredient somewhere on our 100 acre plot of land and turn it into a hyper local beer that is a snapshot of a time and place. The taste of our farm at a particular time in history. (The only other thing I would love to do is build our own barrels with oak trees from the property, but that is already getting way too far ahead of ourselves… but we’re definitely going to do it at some point).
We’re still Going to Use other Ingredients
That being said, the hyper local beer I have described above is only one aspect of what we want to do. We still want to continue to produce awesome beers that fall outside of the hyper local constraints detailed above and just generally not limit ourselves to the many delicious ingredients that are out there. Many of our favorite hops are proprietary, and therefore, we will never be able to grow them. Many of our favorite fruits cannot be grown in Canada. That doesn’t mean we’re going to stop using them. In fact we’ll definitely continue using them because they are delicious, and ultimately our #1 goal is simply to produce the best beer possible.
Now, more on that Wet Hop beer:
The Dirty Deets:
Name: From the Bine
Style: Wet Hop Pale Ale
Tasting Notes: Notes of citrus, pine, and nectarine orange over a light, mostly clear body. Drink it fresh!
Additional Detail: A melange of organic Columbus and Centennial hops that were all grown on our farm in Caledon (Note: they are NOT certified organic, but they were grown 100% organically. Nothing but manure, water and sunlight!) They were handpicked by us and used all at once fresh from the bine late in the boil!
Where Can you Get it?:
The Bent Elbow (2880 King St E, Kitchener, ON N2A 1A7)