LINC Foods typically connects local farmers with larger institutional buyers like schools and hospitals. But now, the Spokane-based cooperative wants to hook them up with some smaller entrepreneurs: the fast-growing crop of area breweries.
LINC Foods is planning the first local craft malting operation, producing the modified grains used to make beer. Fundraising is underway with the goal of a late fall launch.
“It’s what we’re all about – relocalizing the supply chain and helping farmers in the area,” said LINC Foods co-founder Joel Williamson, himself an avid homebrewer.
While Washington produces most of the nation’s hops for beer, most of the barley grown in the state is lower-quality feed grade. The malting barley that is produced gets mixed with more far-flung grains at large regional malting houses.
With LINC’s planned operation, Williamson said, local brewers “can make beer with malt from farmers 15 miles from here.”
Some of the co-op’s farmers already grow malting barley and others are starting this season, he said. Along with more common barley malts, LINC plans to produce specialty malts made with wheat, oats, rye and eventually some ancient grains such as spelt and kamut.
Several local breweries already have expressed interest. Smaller brewers are more likely customers because of the limited quantities and higher prices compared to mass-produced malt, Williamson said.
They’re also in a better position to tell the farmers’ stories in their taprooms than bigger distribution breweries, he said. Like LINC’s produce, the malt will be linked to individual farms.
“It will all be single-source batches – pale malt from this farmer, crystal malt from that farmer,” said Williamson, who recently completed an intensive two-week program at the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
LINC needs to raise $600,000 to buy the necessary equipment. That will be split between a bank loan and individual investors, with both efforts in progress.
A more modest campaign also is underway through Seattle-based Community Sourced Capital, which crowdfunds interest-free loans for small businesses, with a minimum $50 share.
While the goal is only $5,000, Williamson said, it helps get the word out and shows community support. For more information, visit www.lincfoods.com.
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