Distillers Invited to the Farmer Brewer Winter Weekend

Distillers interested in using more local grain and malt, and leveraging the marketing value of that grain-to-glass story, are invited to the Farmer Brewer Winter Weekend. The only conference of its kind, Farmer Brewer will be a fun and informative venue for people from the entire grain supply chain – plant breeders, farmers, maltsters, brewers, and distillers – to connect, share ideas, and learn from each other and industry-leading presenters in a collaborative environment.

Now in its fifth year, Farmer Brewer will be held at the Hartwick College Center for Craft Food and Beverage in Oneonta, New York on February 4-5, 2017. Last year had a sellout crowd, and admission is capped at 100 participants to maximize interaction and impact.

“Every year we try to bring more advanced material so that we’re really helping people stay at the cutting edge of their craft,” said Aaron MacLeod, director of the Center. “I think that distillers are looking for ways to connect with the local movement, and certainly using local malts and local grains is a big part of that.”

Farmer Brewer was founded in 2013 by Andrea and Christian Stanley of pioneering craft malt house Valley Malt in Hadley, Mass. Last year it moved to Hartwick, and this year it is presented jointly by the college and the Craft Maltsters Guild.

“The farm brewing movement was growing so much in New York, along with nine craft malt houses now, that it was a good fit,” said MacLeod of the move to Hartwick. At the Center, MacLeod – a malt and grain chemist – and Hartwick students provide grain, malt, hops, and beer analysis, as well as business development and education, to farmers, maltsters, brewers, distillers, and others. Farmer Brewer will include a tour of their lab.

This year’s theme is “Everything in Modification,” celebrating the four elements needed to make malt: fire, water, air, and time. Presenters include experts from fields like malting and brewing, and industry writers like “The New Bread Basket” author Amy Halloran.

MacLeod said distillers may be especially interested in the workshop covering rye and malted rye. While rye can be challenging to work with, it is also of growing interest to distillers and consumers, and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) reported that rye whiskey sales grew by nearly 20 percent in 2015.

Another workshop distillers should enjoy is a presentation on floor malting from Hugh Alexander of Balnamoon Maltings in Scotland. While the percentage of distillers that malt in-house is low, the number is growing, and those distillers often floor malt.

Even if distillers aren’t interested in malting in-house, MacLeod said they should at least be aware of the growing number of craft maltsters, many of which will be in attendance.

“There are craft malt houses in almost every state,” said MacLeod. “I think one of the things that’s really defining about craft is that the supply chain isn’t anonymous, so you have a connection. You can point to the field and say, ‘This is where our ingredients come from,’ and that forms part of the story, and it’s the story that sells.”

In addition to the classes and networking, beers made with craft malts will be served periodically. They will also be paired with locally-sourced cuisine prepared by Brewers Association (BA) executive chef Adam Dulye at the Saturday dinner.

In a growing sea of quality spirits, MacLeod sees story-driven grains and malts as a good tool for distillers wishing to distinguish their products. “If distillers aren’t connected to that and they want to know more, this is a great venue to come to,” he said. “Plus there’s lots of beer and socializing.”

For registration, a schedule, and more information, visit the Center’s Farmer Brewer page.


Farmer Brewer Winter Weekend Workshops:

  • Principles and Practices of Floor Malting
  • Barley Variety Trial Updates and Production Research
  • Craft Malt and the Craft Beer Supply Chain
  • Brewing a Taste of Place
  • Lessons From The Malt Lab
  • Deconstructing and Troubleshooting Modification
  • Rye Malting Research
  • The Revolution Must Be Financed
  • Malt Sensory in the Malthouse and Brewery

Presentations by:

  • Joel Alex, Blue Ox Malthouse
  • Hugh Alexander, Balnamoon Maltings
  • Lindsay Barr, New Belgium Brewery
  • Dr. Gary Bergstrom, Cornell University
  • Dr. Patrick Boivin, French Insitute for Malting and Brewing
  • Blue Hill Stone Barns
  • Cassie Liscombe, Briess Malt
  • Aaron MacLeod, Hartwick College Center for Craft Food & Beverage
  • John Mallett, Bells Brewery
  • Tim Mathews, Oskar Blues Brewing Company
  • Dr. Paul Schwarz, North Dakota State University
  • Dr. Kevin Smith, University of Minnesota
  • Dr. Mark Sorrells, Cornell University
  • Chris Swersey, Brewers Association
  • Joel Williamson, LINC Foods


  1. Hi,

    Will the Farmer Brewer Weekend come back to Amherst or will it be at Hartwick College from now on? I attended in 2014 and loved it but Oneonta, NY, is not as convenient.


    • Chris Lozier on said:

      Hi Matt,

      Sorry to hear it isn’t convenient for you to attend FBWW in Oneonta! They may change the location in the future, but for now the Hartwick College Center for Craft Food and Beverage is a good fit for the organizers. Hope you are still able to make it!

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