Monday, May 9, 2011

Beer at The Farmer's Market
Donna WesselMark VanGlad with hops he used for the beer he will sell Friday at the Union Square GreenAt 8 a.m. Friday, when Mark VanGlad arrives with 50 cases of pale ale at his new stand at Union Square Greenmarket, the moment may not look particularly significant to passers-by.
But Mr. VanGlad’s Tundra Brewery will be the first to sell beer at theGreenmarket, under a law passed in 2009 that allows small-scale breweries in New York to sell at markets. The hops in the ale are among the first to be grown in New York — which once produced most of the nation’s supply — since the crop was wiped out by disease, pests and then Prohibition.
For Mr. VanGlad, 25, who brews the beer from grain he grows in Stamford, N.Y., the venture will be the first time he steps out from his family’s 25-year-old maple syrup stand at the Greenmarket to sell his own product.
“It seemed like I lucked out,” Mr. VanGlad said. “I was in the right place at the right time.”
After decades of tagging along with his father and uncle to the Greenmarket to help sell maple syrup and other treats from their Wood Homestead stand, Mr. VanGlad said the market seemed the natural place to try his luck with his fledgling brewery, and the beer he’s labeled Ma-Pale.
He describes Ma-Pale, which he flavors with his family’s syrup, as mild and hoppy, with a slight aftertaste of maple, but without the syrup’s sweetness. The beer has an alcohol content of 4 to 5 percent, he said, and he will sell six-packs for $13, or two for $25. The pale ale is the first of three beers that he plans to sell at the market. The next will be a red ale made with local honey, followed by a gluten-free sorghum beer.
As a student at Clarkson University, Mr. VanGlad and his roommate discovered home brewing during the cold, bleak winters in Potsdam, N.Y., which reminded him of the tundra and which inspired his brewery’s name. He graduated in 2008 with a double major in supply chain management and entrepreneurship. Two years later, he received his microbrewing licenses for Tundra Brewery.
Mr. VanGlad grew five to six acres of barley last summer on his family’s farm, and planted another similar batch in the fall, which he expects to harvest in a month or so. He has also grown two small plots of hops, and he plans to plant another acre this year, though he expects that he’ll have to purchase some hops to tide him over in between.
Although the avid market for craft beer has nurtured the growth of boutique brewing operations in New York, most of the barley and hops used to make that beer is imported from Europe or elsewhere in America. Local grain production has increased somewhat in recent years, but it is still far from widespread. And hops production is still so tiny in New York that it is not even measured, said Bob Lewis, who works at the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets as the special assistant to the commissioner for market development.
Mr. VanGlad’s success using local grains could go a long way to showing others what’s possible, said Mr. Lewis, a founder of the Greenmarket.
“It’s very exciting,” he said. “Here’s an example of one brewery that has shown that it can be done, and that the New York State industry that used to be the source of hops and barley for virtually every beer brewed in New York can come back.”
Mr. VanGlad’s timing was impeccable. In 2009, the state passed legislation that allows New York brewers who make less than 60,000 barrels of beer a year to sell at farmers’ markets as well as at county and state fairs. Wineries were already allowed to sell at markets under the Farm Winery Act of 1976.
But for Mr. VanGlad, successfully growing the barley and hops was only half the battle. Like those at the vanguard of other local food movements — small-scale meat producers who lacked slaughterhouses and wheat farmers who lacked mills — Mr. VanGlad found a dearth of infrastructure when it came to processing the products of his agriculture.
To make beer from barley, it must first be malted — soaked in water to germinate, dried with hot air, cleaned and then roasted to the desired darkness. At first, Mr. VanGlad couldn’t find a malt house willing to process a small batch of barley. The handful of malt houses nationwide are mostly giantc plants that deal in 100,000-pound batches, when Mr. VanGlad had only couple thousand pounds of barley. He discovered Valley Malt, a small plant that opened in September in Hadley, Mass., after receiving a tip from an online beer-brewing message board.
“We’re really more of a nano-malt house,” said Andrea Stanley, who along with her husband, Christian Stanley, owns Valley Malt. “We’re trying to do for malting what was done for microbrewing 30 years ago.”
Mr. VanGlad drove a thousand pounds of barley up to Massachusetts in his truck and picked up the malt a few weeks later.
At Greenmarket, Mr. VanGlad’s work dovetails with the organization’s efforts to promote local grain production, said June Russell, the manager of farm inspections, strategic development and regulations.
The new state law allowing brewers to sell at markets does not specify that the beer must be made from local grain, but Greenmarket rules for beverage producers require that all the ingredients be locally grown and that 60 percent must be grown by the sellers themselves, Ms. Russell said. Some craft breweries incorporate New York State grain into their beers, she said, but only Mr. VanGlad is brewing entirely from his own grain.
“We have been trying to engage beer makers in our grains work for the last couple of years,” Ms. Russell said. “It starts with where to refine the barley? And no one was growing barley.”
She had heard about the work that the Stanleys were doing at Valley Malt, Ms. Russell said, and she was delighted to hear that Mr. VanGlad had also discovered them.
This year, Mr. VanGlad has made three 155-gallon batches of pale ale, which each produce 70 cases. He built his brewery from stainless steel milk tanks that he bought second-hand from dairies, staking out his territory in a corner of a building that his family uses to boil maple syrup. Friday will be his first day selling the beer to strangers, he said.
“I’ve had friends and family who have tried it,” he said. “They all seem to like it.”market.

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