Over 3,000 micro and craft breweries operate in the U.S., nearly ? of which opened in the past decade. That deserves a round of applause. Among this batch of artisans is a surprising, quiet contender: farmers.
Sure, home brewing is old news to farmers; farmhouse ales, for one, were historically made and enjoyed by farmhands as a simple, spirit-lifting sustenance. But as craft breweries change the game—often toying with up to seven times as much malt as mega-breweries—farmers are in a unique position to capitalize on the complex, ingredient-hungry process of craft brewing. Who understands beer’s ingredients better than the farmers who grow each ingredient themselves, after all?
Not to mention, as farmers bottle up brews with their agricultural knowhow, they’ve started instilling each with esoteric flavors from their bounty, pulling fruits and vegetables to round out truly nuanced, farm-fresh varieties.
Call it farm-to-bottle, if you must, and stay on the lookout for a new batch of bucolic brewmasters. Here are a few to start you off.
Nassau, New York
Photo via S&S Brewery
For great beer that isn’t just made, but grown, S&S Brewery has cultivated their family-run farm since the 1800s. Located in Nassau, New York, the family has long focused on conventional farm yields like dairy and livestock, but started growing their own barley and hops (using organic practices, of course) for their new small-batch beers. Names like Brown Chicken Brown Ale and Hayfield Blonde are among their brightest batches.
Photo via Agrarian Ales
What first started as an organic, family-run vegetable farm in the 1980s in Eugene, Oregon, is being upgraded by its second generation, the Tilley brothers, as they forge new terroir. The brothers began cultivating hops, herbs, and even chili peppers over the past decade for their line of farmed ales. The brewery, Agrarian Ales, is housed in an old dairy barn and uses 10 different varieties of estate-grown hops. The Delilah Honey Blonde is the ultimate example of the farmer brew, a fruity Belgian blonde with honey that, you guessed it, is sourced from the farm’s own hives.
Dirt Farm Brewing
Photo via Dirt Farm Brewing
Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Loudoun County, Virginia, the folks—the Zurschmeide family—behind Dirt Farm Brewing harvested their 400 acres for over 40 years before deciding that beer was their next venture. Three acres of hops and 10 acres of grains later, this freshly blossomed brewery stays true to its farming roots, incorporating ingredients like pumpkin and peach (give their Som-Peach ale a sip) in their bounty of brews.
Hopshire Farm & Brewery
Freeville, New York
Photo via Hopshire Farm and Brewery
Steeped in hoppy history, New York state was once the largest producer of hops in North America. The industry waned in the early 1900s, but the folks at Freeville, NY’s Hopshire Farm & Brewery are taking back the tradition. Over four acres of varietal hops are grown on their family-run farm, not to mention berries and fruits that make an appearance in their recipes. While their hopped-up brews are aplenty, their Shire Ale is especially pastoral, fermented with flaked oats and six different barley malts.
Wolves & People
Photo via Wolves and People
The race back to the farm continues on with anticipated openings of new farmhouse brewers like Wolves & People, a brewery set to start pouring (any day now) in the owner’s childhood home atop a working hazelnut farm. The expectations are high for this new farmer-brewer, who’s using yeast extracted from his own fruit trees and estate grown hops in Newberg, Oregon.