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Back to the future for Manitoba brewer

Neepawa’s Farmery Estate Brewery is highlighting the farm-brewer connection by showing the public the ingredients that make beer

A farm-based beer maker is offering a unique agri-tourism destination that will show attendees the historical ingredients that were used to make beer.

Neepawa’s Farmery Estate Brewery, run by brothers Chris and Lawrence Warwaruk, are showcasing the malt barley varieties ranging from a century ago to modern times on their operation, which also produces other beer ingredients like hops.

Visitors can see the varieties, most of which haven’t been widely grown for more than half a century, up close and personal, says co-owner Chris Warwaruk.

“We call it the ‘Walk Through The Ages’ malt barley tour,” he said. “We were thinking that it would be really interesting to see if we could grow the old heritage varieties of malt barley that my grandpa grew, side by side with more modern barley varieties, so people can see the change in varieties over the years.”

The Warwaruks, inspired to make this idea a reality, approached the Manitoba Department of Agriculture to see if it was open to a collaboration. The Department of Agriculture also saw the opportunity to help educate the public, and helped to source the seeds from local seed companies and government organizations, and to seed and maintain the showcase plots on the Warwaruks’ farm near Neepawa.

Farmery is also producing hops for beer production, something that’s unique to this farm-based brewing operation.

Farmery is also producing hops for beer production, something that’s unique to this farm-based brewing operation.
photo: Farmery Estate Brewery

When it comes to the craft beer market, the growing trend is closer relationships between brewers and farmers, such as the Barley Project in Oregon. Oregon is an area that has one of the highest craft beer-drinking populations in North America, and yet is an area not conducive to grow industry-standard malt barley, in contrast to the Prairie provinces, whose malt barley is globally in high demand.

Yet in Oregon, farmers and craft brewers are working together to create an Oregon “brand” for their beer, and there is even research being done at the Oregon State University to see if there is a relationship between malt barley variety and beer flavour apart from the malting process.

By combining farm and brewery under one roof, Farmery highlights the connection between the two, Chris says.

“It gives us the flexibility and freedom to have a farm where we can grow whatever variety of malt barley we want to make our beer with, and that’s a unique experience that we can provide to beer drinkers.”

Lawrence Warwaruk concludes, “Back in the day, to have a local brewery meant it used local products. We want to get back to that local craft brewery experience, and invite people along for the ride.”

This article was originally published in the August 25, 2016 issue of the Manitoba Co-operator.

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