Knowing My Ingredients

I’ve been away from the “office” a lot lately. Happens the same time every year. Last week I was at the Rogue Farms barley harvest in Tygh Valley, Oregon. And then had to hurry over to the farm in Independence for the rye harvest.

It keeps me busy. But if I want to really know what’s going into the mash for our spirits, this is how I find out.

The best time to harvest malting barley is when the moisture levels in the kernels get below 12%. If it’s too wet the grain will rot in the silo. But if it’s too dry, the kernels will shatter in the combines. Either way the crop is ruined. So when the barley is ready, we have to be ready, too.

JM Barley Farm 20_web

What I’m looking for are good plump and low protein. A plump kernel is a big kernel. Big kernels have more starches we can modify when we malt the barley.

But I don’t need to see the test results to figure out we’ve got a good crop. I can touch it, see it, sniff it. That’s all the “data” I need.

JM Barley Farm 30_web

Here I am between a field of Risk™ malting barley we planted last fall, and in the background a field of Dare™ malting barley we planted this spring. You can see the Dare™ is just starting to turn brown. The kernels are going into the final ripening stage. We’ll probably harvest the Dare™ in about three weeks.

I’m in Tygh Valley when I get the call that they’re going to start swathing the Dream rye in Independence. So off I go.

John Rye 01_mini report

I show up and they put me to work helping swath and rake the Dream Rye. Swathing is the first cut of the stalk. Then we rake it into long strips called windrows and let in dry in the field for a few days.

Barley and rye are both grasses, so you want similar qualities when they’re harvested. Less than 12% moisture, good plump and low protein.

A few days after we’re done raking, the combines show up to finish the job.

Rye 7.25.13 (20)_web

Whiskey and Rye Whiskey are just two of the spirits I’ll create mash for when the malted grains get to the Rogue Brewery in Newport. And then we’ll distill it across the parking lot in the Rogue House of Spirit. By the time you see it, it’ll be in one of our beautiful hand filled bottles, or maybe in the glass you’re drinking at the bar.

But this is where it all begins. In the dirt of Tygh Valley and Independence, Oregon. We grow our spirits from the ground up.

Categories: Grow Your Own

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