Valley Malt BSA hits the shelves this week, taps next week, and you can catch us at the release party at Clover in Inman Sq Cambridge on October 4th. You may have noticed the name of the beer has changed, but the foundation of this beer remains the same – supporting Massachusetts agriculture. The Brewer Supported Agriculture (BSA) program was created last year by Valley Malt in Hadley, MA as a way to encourage farmers to grow grain for brewers. Notch pre-pays for the grain at the beginning of the growing season, which provides an incentive and guaranteed customer for the farms growing the grain.
This year’s barley was grown in Northampton, at Slow Tractor Farm, harvested on July 22, malted in late August at Valley Malt and brewed that same month. The the Valley Malt BSA is a farmhouse ale, brewed with a pain in the ass yeast that has a long fermentation time, so from mash tun to bottle takes five weeks. So here we are at the turning of the season, and the beer is finally ready for release. As you can tell, this harvest beer is a bit later than the seasonal pumpkin beers that hit the shelves in July, and the primary reason we the changed the name. We discussed this last year, and it got some unexpected play in the beer-o-sphere. Rather than conjure the gods of the Massachusetts harvest to quicken the growth of our barley, our BSA Harvest is now Valley Malt BSA. No big, really, we are happy with it.
Each year the Valley Malt BSA will be a little different, as we are relying on one farmer’s field for all the grain, as well as the unpredictability of Massachusetts’ weather. This beer is not about repeat-ability year in and year out, it’s about taking what nature gives us and making a beer with it. So when you say “this year’s BSA taste different,” you are 100% correct. We hope it will always be a farmhouse ale, but some years the barley may be better suited for something else, so we are always open to change.
This year’s beer started with some discussions with Andrea at Valley Malt, and we decided pale malt and a bit of crystal malt would work well for this year’s grain, so this year’s beer is shaping up a little bit more like a Belgian Pale Ale, but unlike the big sweet versions that are popular, our saison yeast dries this beer out. For hops, we’d love to use all local, but the supply simply is not there yet. So we used all US hops instead – Chinook for bittering, Centennial and Ahtanum for late kettle flavor hops, and Centennial again for dry-hopping. We hope all these elements come together for a fun beer. Look for a distinct malt flavor (of course!), hoppy dry finish, a complex, spicy, fruity nose from the play between the yeast and hops and a whopping 4.4% ABV.
And when you finish drinking the Valley Malt BSA, envision the money you spent going back to the Massachusetts retailer, wholesaler, brewer, maltster, and farmer. All of these businesses take that money and pay their employees, many of whom will go out to their local bar or retail store and buy beer. It’s a cycle of commerce we can all benefit from, unless you like paying the mortgage of some guy in San Diego.
All pics courtesy of Valley Malt!