Since I’ve spent most of my life in a city, I haven’t had the chance to stand on a rolling hill in the middle of a barley field and watch massive harvesting combines cut through the 200-plus acres of grain
I was there with nearly 400 people to watch the harvest and sample local food and drinks made with this barley. As you probably guessed, I was there for the beer. According to the Reinheitsgebot, or German Beer Purity Law of 1516, barley is one of only four ingredients allowed in beer along with water, hops and yeast.
While modern brewers have largely eschewed these restrictions, grain is still a fundamental building block of beer. But it’s not as simple as boiling barley and throwing in hops. In order for grain to be used in beer, it must be malted first. It is this step where a local farmer- and worker-owned cooperative saw a need and decided to dive in head first.
LINC Foods was founded in 2014 as a collection of Inland Northwest farmers who wanted to sell produce, meat and other agricultural products to places like universities, hospitals and grocery stores. As a co-op, it provided buyers with a single point of contact and allowed sellers to share resources to fill orders.
The group continued to grow and thrive, but there was limited demand for the large amount of raw grain the co-op produced. Seeing the rapid growth of the craft beer and spirits industry in Washington and Idaho, the co-op founded LINC Malt in 2016.
But what is malting exactly? Scientifically, it’s the controlled germination of grain to produce malt enzymes that help break down starch during the brewing or distilling process.
It starts by steeping the grain in water, air drying it to begin germination, then gradually raising the heat to dry out the grain and stop the germination process. The speed and temperature at which you dry out the germinated grain will change the flavor profile and produce different malt styles even when using the same base grain.
This same process used on different barley types allows LINC to produce more than 20 malt varieties that dominate the local brewery scene. Brian Estes, LINC’s director of partnerships, estimates that three-quarters of Inland Northwest breweries use at least some malt produced by LINC.
And that number continues to grow, especially as LINC begins to expand to the craft beer hot spots of Seattle and Portland. This growth allowed LINC to upgrade its equipment and move into a larger malting facility in the Spokane Valley this year, and it has even more room to expand when needed.
Although hops get a lot of the glory in the craft beer world, Estes is excited about the future of craft malting. “It’s a collaborative effort, and we are always working with our peers to grow the quality of the product. [The Inland Northwest] is a world-class, grain-growing region, which will give [our malt] an opportunity to be known at a national level.”
For the Love of God Brewing in Spokane’s Audubon Park neighborhood (2617 W. Northwest Blvd.) has scheduled its grand opening for Sept. 7.
Spokane Valley’s YaYa Brewing Company (11712 E. Montgomery Drive) is targeting a late September opening – an exact date has not been worked out yet.
These are just a couple of the several brewing projects that hope to open this fall. For the most up-to-date information on brewery openings, please remember to check out my 509 Beer Blog and the “What Hoppin’ This Week” event calendar every Wednesday in The Spokesman-Review’s Food section.
Beer News and Notes
Continuing its growth, MickDuff’s Brewing recently purchased the Sandpoint Federal Building (419 N. Second Ave.) with the intention of renovating the structure – initially completed in 1928 – and moving its successful brewpub and restaurant from its current location on First Avenue to the new facility, which MickDuff’s is hoping to open next summer.
“We love the building and the history and are excited about this next phase in our business in downtown Sandpoint,” co-owner Mickey Mahoney said in a statement. “We plan to keep it as original as possible while we make upgrades and remodel it for our restaurant’s use.”
Also in Sandpoint, Laughing Dog Brewing has expanded its portfolio with the purchase of Coeur d’Alene-based Summit Cider and sister brand Current Hard Seltzer. With cider and hard seltzer booming in popularity, this is a strategic purchase by Laughing Dog.
And according to a statement from its president, Lewis Patrick, Laughing Dog might not be done with acquisitions: “We built our facility to absorb not only our own growth, but also enable us to help other brands expand their footprint. We are excited for … the possibility of bringing additional brands into the fold.”
What’s Hoppin’ This Week
Thursday, Sept. 5
Idaho Pour Authority (203 Cedar St., Sandpoint) is hosting a pint night to benefit Habitat for Humanity. Montana’s Kettle House Brewing will be on hand pouring several of its beers, and a portion of sales will be donated to this great cause. You also can expect live music, a silent auction and complimentary appetizers.
Friday, Sept. 6
The Growler Guys (225 W. Appleway Ave., Coeur d’Alene) is bringing in Spokane’s River City Brewing and Ten Pin Brewing of Moses Lake for beer and a little friendly competition. Both breweries and their hosts are putting together special games for attendees to play and win prizes.
Saturday, Sept. 7
Iron Goat Brewing (1302 W. Second Ave., Spokane) is throwing a party from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. to release a Flanders Red ale, the latest beer from its side project Goatworks. Bottles of the new brew will be on sale, and a special tasting flight of the three Goatworks releases is being offered for $9. You can learn more about the brewing and aging process from the brewers behind these special beers, as well.
River City Brewing (121 S. Cedar St., Spokane) is hosting its first “Rock the Block” music festival starting at 4 p.m. There will be beer, a food truck, games and an outdoor stage with great local musicians. Cover charge is $5.
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