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1/8/2014       Terroir  at  the  bar:  Discovering  western  Washington  grains  in  a  glass       Contacts:   Stephen  Jones,  WSU  Mount  Vernon  Research  and  Extension  Center,  360-­‐416-­‐5210,   joness@wsu.edu         Sylvia  Kantor,  WSU  CAHNRS  Communications,  206-­‐770-­‐6063,  kantors@wsu.edu             Editor’s  note:  Photo  available  for  download.  See  instructions  below.       MOUNT  VERNON,  Wash.  –  Demand  for  locally  grown  beer  and  booze  has  set  the   stage  for  craft  brewing  and  distilling  industries  to  capitalize  on  the  flavors  of   western  Washington  wheat  and  barley.       “If  you  come  to  Skagit  Valley  to  look  at  the  tulips,  you  probably  don’t  notice  that   there  are  15,000  acres  of  wheat  and  barley,”  said  Stephen  Jones,  wheat  breeder  and   director  of  the  Washington  State  University  Mount  Vernon  Research  Center.  The   grains  are  important  rotation  crops  for  maintaining  soil  health  when  grown   between  cycles  of  the  vegetables  and  flowers  that  are  the  bread  and  butter  of  valley   farmers.       The  grains  also  embody  the  region’s  terroir  -­‐  flavors  that  reflect  the  unique  soil,   water  and  climate  of  a  place.  This  has  proven  a  revelation  to  farmers,  chefs,  millers,   artisan  bakers  and  craft  brewers  and  distillers  who,  along  with  Jones,  hope  to  usher   in  a  renaissance  of  grain  in  western  Washington.       The  annual  Cascadia  Grains  Conference  (http://cascadiagrains.com)  this  weekend   will  bring  together  farmers,  processors  and  end-­‐users  -­‐  as  well  as  investors,  brokers   and  local  government  officials  -­‐  to  support  rebuilding  a  grain  economy  west  of  the   Cascade  Mountains.       The  heart  and  soul  of  beer       While  the  bread  lab  at  WSU  Mount  Vernon  recently  has  enjoyed  the  limelight  among   chefs  and  bakers  nationally  and  internationally,  craft  brewers  and  distillers  also  are   paying  close  attention  to  WSU’s  research  with  grains  grown  in  the  region.       “Malted  barley  is  the  heart  and  soul  of  beer.  So  a  prayer  was  answered  when  the   Skagit  Valley  Malting  Company  was  conceived  -­‐  a  local  malting  company  geared  for   craft  brewing,”  said  Charles  Finkel,  founder  and  owner  of  Pike  Place  Brewing   Company,  one  of  the  first  five  microbreweries  established  in  Washington  in  the  late   1980s.      


Cool  nights,  long  summer  days  and  rain  mean  that  grains  grown  in  western   Washington  don’t  experience  drought  stress  and  therefore  have  a  low  protein   content,  said  malting  company  co-­‐founder  Wayne  Carpenter.       “This  is  wonderful  for  distilling  and  brewing,”  he  said.  “Low  protein  grain  can  only   be  grown  in  six  places  in  the  world.  One  of  them  is  here.”       Growing  demand       Craft  brewing  has  grown  into  an  estimated  $440  million  (in  2012)  industry  in  the   state.  Carpenter  and  Jones  estimate  the  Skagit  Valley  could  support  double  the  grain   that  grows  there  now.       Skagit  Valley  Malting  Company’s  11,000-­‐square-­‐foot  malting  facility,  located  just   down  the  road  from  the  WSU  research  center,  is  scheduled  to  come  on  line  this  year.   It  is  designed  to  produce  2,500  to  3,000  tons  per  year  of  finished  malt.  This  may   sound  like  a  lot,  but  according  to  Carpenter  it  would  serve  only  5  percent  of  the   microbreweries  in  the  state.       Meanwhile,  total  sales  for  the  nascent  craft  distilling  industry  are  estimated  to  be   $9.2  million  since  2011,  when  the  Washington  State  Liquor  Control  Board  began   recording  sales  data.       The  state  allows  small  batch  distilling  (up  to  60,000  gallons  a  year)  and  requires   that  50  percent  of  the  raw  ingredients  be  grown  in  Washington,  a  rule  intended  to   benefit  farmers  and  the  state  economy.         Spirits  of  experimentation       The  family-­‐owned  Westland  Distillery  in  Seattle  is  the  first  single  malt  whiskey   distillery  in  Washington  and  the  largest  in  North  America,  producing  1,200  liters   daily,  six  days  a  week.       President  and  co-­‐founder  Emerson  Lamb  said  it  is  important  that  his  product  reflect   its  place  of  origin:  “That’s  why  we’re  really  excited  to  work  with  Skagit  Valley   Malting.  We  can  be  hyper-­‐local  with  flavor.”       Roasting  and  kilning  the  grain  in  the  malting  process  is  what  creates  the  palette  of   flavors  a  distiller  can  work  with,  Lamb  said.  But  climate  and  grain  variety  affect   kernel  size  and  husk  thickness,  he  said,  and  these  contribute  to  flavor  in  whiskey.       As  a  small  distiller,  Lamb  has  the  flexibility  to  produce  single  batch,  single  varietal  or   even  single  farm  whiskeys.  He  embraces  a  spirit  of  experimentation  and  is  grateful   to  find  that  same  spirit  at  WSU  Mount  Vernon.      


“We  see  science  and  academia  pushing  the  envelope  in  terms  quality  and   consistency,”  he  said.  “What’s  so  exciting  about  that  is  that  whiskey  is  ready  for  it.”       Expanding  possibilities       Jones  and  his  research  team  are  using  traditional  breeding  methods  to  develop  and   test  contemporary  and  historic  varieties  of  wheat,  barley  and  oats.  They  are   developing  grain  varieties  that  are  not  only  suited  to  the  maritime  climate  of  the   Skagit  River  delta,  but  that  offer  unique  qualities  that  commodity  grain  production   has  left  behind.       “It’s  changing  the  way  we  look  at  grains  here  in  the  valley,”  said  Dave  Hedlin,  an   organic  and  conventional  vegetable  grower  in  La  Conner,  Wash.  “Now  it’s,  ‘How  can   you  grow  it,  organically  or  conventionally,  to  get  these  attributes  that  are  desirable?’   ”  He  said  he  is  thrilled  to  have  more  market  options  for  his  grain  crops.       Jones  and  Carpenter  envision  a  western  Washington  grain  economy  that  offers  more   options  for  everyone.  With  a  strong  desire  to  create  market  alternatives  that  are  tied   to  place,  the  components  are  lining  up  –  research  to  produce  and  test  grains  that   farmers  can  grow  for  added  value,  more  varieties  brewers  and  distillers  can  select   for  custom  malting,  passionate  entrepreneurs  along  the  supply  chain  and  the   resulting  libations  that  impart  local  flavor  and  pride  of  place.       Find  this  news  release  at  WSU  News  online  at  http://bit.ly/1epLC9z.       -­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐   Editor’s  note:  Photo  available  at  http://mediatransfer.wsu.edu/,  click  on  Login.  Use   “wsunewspics”  as  username  and  password.    File  is  called  “Westside  grain  2014”.   Click  on  the  download  button  to  save  file  to  your  computer.         ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~   Follow  WSU  News  on:   Tumblr  at  http://wsunews.tumblr.com/   Facebook  at  https://www.facebook.com/WSUNews   Twitter  at  https://twitter.com/wsunews   Google  Plus  at  http://bit.ly/1fJ8Bip   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~   French  Ad  #446   Pullman,  WA    99164-­‐1040   Ph:  509-­‐335-­‐3581,  e-­‐mail:  wsunews@wsu.edu        


Terroir at the bar: Discovering western Washington Grains in a Glass