‘From the dirt to the glass,’ farm brewery focuses on a homegrown, farm-malted product

‘From the dirt to the glass,’ farm brewery focuses on a homegrown, farm-malted product
At Wood Ridge Farm in Nelson County, growing barley is the first important step in a hands-on process by which Barry Wood oversees production of craft-brewed beers served at his Wood Ridge Farm Brewery.

Wood Ridge is a 300-acre farm that has been in Wood’s family since the 1800s. He grows 40 acres of winter malting barley and 55 acres of malting barley in the spring, along with wheat, rye and oats. Although barley is the most commonly used grain in beer, Wood grows all of the grains used to create the 14 beers served on tap at his brewery.

“We not only grow all of the barley, we malt, roast and toast the barley. It is brewed right here using all of the ingredients we possibly can from the farm. That’s what makes it unique—everything is sourced locally, from the dirt to the glass,” Wood said. 
The farm even produces some of the hops and some of the yeast needed for the beers.  

Wood is among brewers reviving the age-old craft of farm brewing, but he also is tapping into a growing interest in local grains among burgeoning craft breweries and distilleries.  

“Barley is an essential ingredient for brewing beer, and proper quality of barley is determined in the field,” he explained.
Virginia farmers planted about 46,000 acres of barley in 2015, but the crop grown now is used almost entirely for livestock feed and is not suitable for malting.

Virginia barley acreage has decreased in recent years, noted Robert Harper, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation grain manager, “because the price of barley is so low. Small craft breweries and malting barley producers have found a way to add value to quality small grain products.”

Wood is helping to re-introduce the production of malting barley in Virginia. He grows four kinds of barley for brewing, but he readily admits that it involves trial and error to meet the challenges of this specialty crop.  

Malting barley is a more sensitive crop than traditional feed barley. It is more susceptible to fungal diseases and requires application of fungicides, and Wood also applies two different fertilizers to grow the plump seeds he’s looking for. He constantly monitors his crop to harvest the grain at just the right time for optimal performance in the malt house and the brewery.

He sells some of his barley to other breweries, but most of it is malted right on his farm.


Support Virginia Agriculture

Join Now

Related Articles

Get Recognized

If your publication or radio or television station is delivering stellar coverage of agriculture on an ongoing basis, this is the award competition to enter. Learn More