One of the great perks of my job is I get to explore new places while introducing brewers to the barley growers. Dave Engbers, Co-Founder and President of Founders Brewing Co, and “Diamond” D.W. Deschaine, Brewing Materials Manager of Founders Brewing Co, joined me on a trip to Wyoming earlier this summer.
We had the opportunity to meet Briess Growers, explore the Ralston, WY Barley Operations with Briess Regional Manager Rick Redd, and learn about Wyoming’s unique flood irrigation that makes the Briess two-row barley so plump and rich. It was also exciting to see first-hand the Briess silo expansion project and the two new 750 M bushel bins towering over us.
The Wyoming landscape is so vast and diverse from the Mid-West. You can see for miles on end, but what I found most fascinating was — in what seemed to be an arid and desolate part of the country — the abundance of gold barley fields. Magnificent rivers wove in and out, providing a life source to the barley and other crops. Water reserves from winter’s snow and summer’s rain are able to flow to the fields through meticulously engineered waterways and dams. The 100 mile long Shoshone River flows between Bighorn Lake and the Buffalo Bill Reservoir, providing the main artery to the farmers.
On the outskirts of Ralston, WY we meet Briess Grower, Josh Christopherson, who gave us a lesson in flood irrigation. Small channels of water run between the fields, farmers then hand-pump the water into the field through 4ft steel pipes. The water will naturally flow into the field through siphoning and gravitational flow. Josh made this process seem so simple, but when we put Dave and Diamond to the test, it proved to be harder than it looked, and several attempts were in order before we could get the water pumping into the fields. (Check out our fun video of our siphoning efforts).
We had a great visit to Wyoming and learned so much about the families and farmers who grow Briess barley. The Growers are passionate about what they do and their families are rooted in agriculture and growing barley. They also have a passion for working with Briess; the support and partnership they have with the Briess Wyoming Barley Operations, from the Powell Seed Plant to the Ralston Operation, is phenomenal. It’s fun to hear how they look forward to the Briess Growers Dinner held each year in the fall and how they enjoy having the opportunity to meet the brewers and see the spoils of their harvest in craft brews. I can’t wait until the fall to come back out to Wyoming and see the amazing landscape again and spend more time with the farmers at the Grower Dinner.