The days are getting longer and spring is here, making it a perfect time to shrug off winter and enjoy all that Massachusetts has to offer, including the more than 60 craft breweries across the state. The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) teamed up with the Massachusetts Brewers Guild (MBG) to develop the Massachusetts Craft Brewers Passport to support Bay State brewers and highlight local ingredients to connect consumers with brewing and agriculture.
Craft beer tourism is exploding across the country and in Massachusetts. There is a growing consumer interest in distinct, fresh and natural craft beers, and now there are more premium, high-quality craft beers to choose from. The Buy Local movement in Massachusetts has grown from local produce to craft beer, which supports both top notch products and a local connection.
The Massachusetts Craft Brewers Passport features a map of the Commonwealth, with the locations of local breweries split into five regions. Breweries that use Massachusetts-grown ingredients are indicated with a small tractor icon. At each brewery, you can get your passport stamped and when a region in completed, receive a free T-shirt! Downloadable passports and information for both brewers and growers is available at www.mass.gov/massgrown and http://www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/culinary_tourism/brewery_tours.htm
Creativity and individual interpretation of brewing styles are key components to the success of Massachusetts craft breweries. Brewers are using ingredients from Massachusetts farms with a commitment to innovation and sustainable business practices. For growers, brewers are important customers.
Hops, yeast and malted grains are the main ingredients used in brewing. A small but growing number of Massachusetts breweries are using locally grown and malted grains, fresh hops and indigenous yeast strains. Valley Malt, the region’s first micro-maltster in Hadley, works with local farmers who supply organic grains. They are leading a resurgence of local grain production. Hops grown at Four Star Farm in Northfield, with close to eight acres in production, and Clover Hill Farm in Hardwick, are also used in many local brews. DAR is working with other states in New England to support research relating to infrastructure development for hops, with a focus on varietal trials to see which might grow the best in our area.
A good number of Bay State brewers feature locally grown specialty ingredients. Specialty ingredients, especially for seasonal beers, include apples, herbs, honey, maple syrup, cranberries, peaches, oysters, pumpkins and blueberries. Pumpkins grown by Hadley-based Czajkowski Farms and freshly picked blueberries from Vandervalk Farm in Mendon are among the local ingredients used in brewing. About 90 percent of the specialty ingredients used by Massachusetts craft brewers are purchased in-state. Apples, pumpkins and maple syrup are among the specialty ingredients that contribute the most to local purchases.
Grab your Passport and find a brewery in any direction you may be traveling in Massachusetts. As it gets warmer, add a visit to a local farmers’ market, locations can be found at http://www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/map.htm.
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