Aroostook hop growers, maltsters, and brewers are teaming up on homegrown suds.
By Will Grunewald Photographed by Mark Fleming
More often than not, a locally brewed beer is local inasmuch as a Volkswagen assembled in Tennessee is Tennesseean. Most U.S. hops come from the Pacific Northwest, and multinational corporations dominate the malted-barley market. Aroostook, though, is the first county in Maine to have its own hop farmers and maltsters supplying its own brewers. So the forumla all-County brew is simple:
In 2009, UMaine–Presque Isle natural-science professors (and husband and wife) Jason Johnston and Krista Delahunty started Westfield’s Aroostook Hops. Hops are sensitive to soil and climate, so their organic hops have flavor nuances that distinguish them from the same varietals grown out west.
The Buck family has had a potato farm in Mapleton since 1958, but the family has grown over generations, and the potato market can only support so many on one farm. So, in 2015, the Bucks turned the barley they were growing as a cover crop into a value-added product by malting it at their Maine Malt House.
Northern Maine Brewing (22 Main St., Caribou; 207-492-2185) uses local hops and malts in most of their beers. At the County’s other brewery, First Mile Brewing (28 Market St., Fort Kent), five or six of the eight taps feature local malts, and First Mile recently collaborated with Bangor’s Geaghan Bros. Brewing on an Aroostook Hops wet-hop IPA.