The artisan grain revolution centered in farmland 60 miles north of Seattle has yielded a beer milestone: In March, Mount Vernon’s Farmstrong Brewing Company became the first Washington beer maker to use local grain in all its ales and lagers.
It’s a feat made possible by a relative newcomer six miles down the road. Burlington’s Skagit Valley Malting supplies brewers around the region with the distinct flavors, even terroir, inherent to locally malted grain. Having this groundbreaking resource nearby, “We wanted to make that our standard,” says Farmstrong’s Clay Christofferson. But early attempts to add local malts to the brewery’s two lighter flagships—crisp Cold Beer Skagit pilsner and La Raza Ambar—didn’t go well: “The grain is so rich, the recipe changed dramatically.”
Farmstrong rebuilt both recipes, a considerable effort that yielded…two beers that taste pretty much the same as before. But now, says Christofferson, “they’re tethered to our region.”
Typically it’s hops that furnish Washington’s locavore beer cred, but achievements like this one portend endless new possibilities. “You gotta remember,” says Christofferson, “when you’re talking about beer, maybe 80 or 90 percent of what’s going in there is grain.”