BY GREG SIERING
Take a look at a lot of Bloomington restaurant menus and you will see an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients. The localvore movement fits well into Bloomington’s culture. Perhaps this is why I drink local beers whenever I can, supporting the talent of Bloomington’s brewers with each pint. In turn, these local brewers are seeking out locally and regionally sourced ingredients for their beers.
One notable example comes from Sugar Creek Malt Co., located in Boone County, just north of Indianapolis. By growing their own barley and purchasing more from other nearby farms, Sugar Creek Malt Co. is providing what they consider craft malt for the production of craft beer. Upland Brewing Company is increasingly using Sugar Creek malts, including a variety in their Champagne Velvet beer, and another in their newly released Free Time, a Vienna-style lager. By enjoying a glass of these beers, you are helping connect brewers to the Indiana farmers and maltsters who produce their ingredients.
Hops are another beer-related crop we’re starting to see grown closer to home. Several hop farms have emerged throughout Indiana over the past few years as farmers are looking to diversify their crops and connect to craft brewers. While some brewers will use local hops that have been processed and dried, an increasingly popular technique is “wet hopping,” where freshly picked hops are added to the brew kettle to capture all of their available aromas and flavors. Upland’s Harvest Ale features local hops using the wet hopping technique to pack in as much Indiana hop flavor as it can to balance those Sugar Creek malts.
Yeast is a bit trickier to produce locally because of the technology involved, but Indiana is making important strides in that area as well. Indiana University biochemist Matt Bochman is known for his expertise in isolating and growing locally found yeasts. Bochman’s business, Wild Pitch Yeast, has worked with brewers around the country to produce yeasts, bringing a sort of terroir to brewing. In Bloomington, Bochman has collaborated with both Function Brewing and Upland to provide local yeast for their brews, and the Bloomington Hop Jockeys, a homebrewing club, has run group trials with Bochman to test new local yeast strains.
Besides these core brewing ingredients, other local ingredients are finding their way into beer, as well. The Tap has used honey from Hunter’s Honey Farm in Martinsville in their Gossamer Wings Kölsch ale, Upland Brewing regularly uses local fruit in their sour ales, and Bloomington Brewing Co. uses local, wild-harvested persimmons in their classic fall ale.
As Bloomington brewers increase their use of local ingredients, I encourage you to seek out those beers that use grains, hops, fruits, and even yeasts from nearby fields and orchards. Raise a glass not only to our talented local brewers but to the farmers of all types who provide the ingredients behind that delicious beer. Cheers!