About a month ago I visited the Briess Barley Operation in Wyoming — for the second time this year! I had spent some time there in July when we were filming the barley harvest for a video (stay tuned…). More recently, Briess hosted an appreciation dinner for our growers and their spouses that a number of us from Briess attended.
We contracted with about 300 growers in Northern Wyoming / Southern Montana this year, and a big share of them and their spouses attended the dinner. Thanks again to our barley growers, who contracted to grow 5.8 million bushels for Briess this year — up from 3 million just two years ago. To accommodate the increase, we added two 750,000-bushel bins at our Wyoming operation.
At the dinner, many growers told us how much they enjoy growing barley for Briess and craft beer. They’re eager to learn about the specialty malts Briess makes, and the craft beer their malted barley goes into. It’s a big change for this group, which has been accustomed to growing barley almost solely for base malt for large breweries. Just as craft brewers want to know where their malted barley is grown, these growers are equally interested in knowing how their barley is being used. I see a lot of parallels between growers and craft brewers — passion for their craft, appreciation of the environment, smart entrepreneurs who double as jack-of-all-trades to get the job done and just plain fantastic folks!
The barley growing region where Briess operations and grower network are located is one of the most unique in North America. It’s in arid mountain plains which are watered by flood irrigation from the surrounding mountains. This area produces some of the highest quality malt in North America — highly disease resistant and very bright because the canopies and barley heads stay very dry during the growing season. The barley growers are very experienced, and they like to grow barley because it’s a good rotation crop with their other crops — primarily beets and dry edible beans.
Another Briess expansion this year was the addition of another roaster at our Waterloo, WI, malting operation. That brings to seven the number of roasters operated by Briess.