New Pi garden to feature beer

BY PAUL OSGERBY | JULY 23, 2014 5:00 AM

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One local community garden is set to celebrate summer harvest next month with a cool, frothy glass of beer.

On Aug. 24, the sponsors of Earth Source Garden, located at the northeast corner of North Scott Boulevard and Rochester Avenue, will showcase Iowa soil’s ability to grow both barley and hops — two integral ingredients that local brewmasters love to talk about.

The event will feature live music, tasting, tours, and an in-depth look at local beer and brewing.
“It’s a joyous display of how fertile and generous gardening can be,” said Theresa Carbrey, the New Pioneer Co-op education and outreach coordinator.

The event is aimed for the public, and one focus will be educating people on barley and hops, she said. Beer staff from New Pioneer will also be there to explain the brewing process, such as malting barley.

Earth Source Garden began in 2009 by New Pioneer Food Co-op in conjunction with Harvest Farm & Preserve. The goal was to create a five-year educational program for adults and children on the different categories of food.

This year is focused on milk and cheese.

Co-op members are allowed to secure a plot of land in the two-acre farm and cultivate various types of food, as long as they garden sustainably and within regulations established by New Pioneer and Harvest Farm & Preserve.

The initiative was designed to show gardeners the soil-to-table process with food.

Recently, the Co-op added barley and hops in order to begin education on brewing.

“Local people are curious now and experimenting with making beer,” Carbrey said.

Earlier this month, 24/7 Wall Street released a report that nationally, beer consumption is declining.

Iowans are also imbibing fewer “cold ones,” but the state still remains 10th nationally in terms of beer consumption.

Carbrey said people have become more interested in the taste of craft beers and are more appreciative of microbreweries.

“Breweries like Rogue are growing their own hops in their backyard,” said Chris Moore, a beer expert at John’s Grocery, 401 E. Market St.

Jacob Simmons, a cofounder and brewer in Coralville’s Backpocket Brewing, 903 Quarry Road, said the hybrid restaurant and brewery is always looking for ways to be as locally sourced as possible, but there are challenges.

Raw barley cannot be used in brewing, Simmons said, and it must be malted first, which is always a large-scale operation. 

Briess Malt & Ingredients Co., based in Chilton, Wisconsin, is the smallest malted barley distributor that Backpocket uses, Simmons said.

Barley is also a more native plant to the Dakotas or Montana, he said.

However, hops can more readily be sourced locally, and Simmons said Iowa farmland is pretty well suited for it.

Moore said the key is to dry and freeze hops immediately after harvesting. Trying to use wet hops makes it difficult to calculate flavor, he said.

Simmons said the trick is storing hops in the absence of oxygen, but he enjoys using them fresh from the soil.

“You can make really fun beers with that,” he said.

Moore said that breweries are evolving their use of hops to involve a new technique of grinding the plant after harvest and extracting the liquids.

Local ingredients for beers are available, but Carbrey said that the primary goal of the barley and hops in the Earth Source Garden is to educate by putting seeds in their people’s hands and showing them the plants.

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