By Bryan Leavelle
I don’t work the bar often, but when I do, I’m always surprised by the amount of people who walk in our door on a daily basis that have absolutely no idea we source all of our grain from within Colorado. Even fewer people know that we roast our own specialty grains in house, and fewer still know about our recent partnership with Front Range Hops, which has given us the ability to brew 90% of our beers for 2015 with Colorado-grown hops, making those beers 100% Colorado products.
After my initial surprise, I usually think to myself, “Well, no shit, you dummy.” After all, we don’t talk about it enough. But since it is so overwhelmingly important to me, I decided to sit down and write about it here.
Back in my home brewing days, I used to be an audio engineer. I toured the country for half the year and sat at home the other half. This gave me the time to take up my favorite hobby, home malting. When I first started getting into it, it was extremely hard to find quality raw grain. I usually ended up sourcing it from feed stores, and my first few batches were so high in protein that no amount of cold crashing or fining could make those beers clear. I searched and searched, and finally hooked up with Colorado Malting Co. I had been asking my LHBS to hook me up with them, since they were carrying their malt, but after numerous requests with no follow through, I finally decided to contact them myself.
That week, they showed up at my house and hand delivered me 300 pounds of raw barley and wheat. Since that day almost 4 years ago, excluding pure O SHIT necessity, I have never used another brand of grain in my beers.
Fast forward to this past August. We have now been doing business with Jason, Josh, Fud, Tim, Bobby and the rest of the Cody family for a couple of years, and these are hands down the most valued relationships I have formed since signing the lease at 2810 Larimer St. All of the collaborations we have done with them, the late night hangouts when they make deliveries, and listening to Matt and Josh talk German philosophy (in German) are some of the best of times I have had at OMF. But I’m getting off track. Back to August.
Every year, they throw a big party on their farm in Alamosa called “Gerste Gemütlichkeit”, or Barley Party. This year we met Ed from The Front Range Hop Company, a small but staggeringly important operation out of Longmont. They are the first and only hop distribution company in Colorado that owns and operates their own hop processor. This means that they are able to buy hops from Colorado farmers, who do not have the ability to pelletize and package their product for long term storage, and sell them.
As I already mentioned, this year we will have enough local hops to cover 90% of our brewing needs. We have already been using them since October, and like the malt we get from Colorado Malting Company, they have their own unique flavors and aromas that set them apart from ingredients grown out of state. I feel so lucky and proud that when you, our customer, sits at the bar at OMF, we get to show you what Colorado tastes like. As the year progresses the beers brewed with 100 percent Colorado ingredients will take up more and more of our tap list. Together, OMF and our customers are quite literally supporting local agriculture as much as humanly possible. 90% of the money you spend on us, and the money we spend on OMF, goes right back into the Colorado economy. And that feels really, really good.
It has been said that nothing worth doing is ever easy. Having to pay twice as much for ingredients, roast those ingredients, coordinate with smaller operations, and constantly being on the lookout for new places to source more ingredients are all things that need to be dealt with on top of actually running a brewery, which by itself is enough to give a man a goddamn chronic migraine. But I don’t get migraines. I don’t stress out about it. Because every time I write a check to these people, and every time we get to add “All-Colo” to the beginning of the name of one of our beers, I know it’s the right thing to do. One day I hope that it is the normal thing to do, and that I will have to find a new way to make it hard.