How 100% Local Ingredients Adds Up to Awards

Named Small Brewery of the Year along with Brewer of the Year in 2020 by the Brewers Association, Kyle Hurst saw the accolades, along with numerous other awards for Big aLICe Brewing as a win for small farmers throughout New York State.

The President of the Long Island City, New York brewery — with locations in Queens, Brooklyn along with its production facility now in the Finger Lakes — has used up to 100% locally sourced ingredients. That surpasses the requirement to be a “farm brewery” in New York — a state-wide designation and not a location-specific attribute for the brewery that opened in 2013.

“When the law passed, you had to use 20% of hops that had to be grown in your state and then 20% of all other ingredients,” Hurst explained in an online chat with maltsters across the country at the 2022 Craft Malt Conference. “Primarily, that was malt. We use a lot of other adjuncts and we often exceed that by quite a bit. We use cherries, peppers, and honey. We use a lot of stuff that all contributes and it’s all by weight.”

A law passed in the state made breweries work locally and Hurst said it actually sparked that side of the malting business with more than a dozen maltsters to work with now instead of very few. Although the minimum is at 60% now with a possible increase coming in 2024, Hurst said Big aLICe strives to be 100% if possible with beer ingredients.

READ MORE: Tröegs Deepens Home State Roots, Partners With Local Farms & Maltsters

“The legislation has been very friendly to breweries and growth for farming and agriculture around both malt and hops over the years,” he said. “When we started (along with Head Brewer Jon Kielty), we were brewing with the ingredients: veggies, fruits … everything we got from our CSAs and from food co-ops. As we’ve grown, we’ve been able to scale that.

“There have been challenges around that, with costs and things related to that but it’s been a great experience for us, and one of the ways we continue to grow, we’ve made a lot of great relationships along the way with farmers, maltsters, beekeepers, maple syrup, we got a lot of fun relationships. So that’s been great for us.”

Along with state accolades and national recognition, developing those local relationships is more important than garnering awards, Hurst added.

“So we’re participating, we’re active, we’re involved in all of these things,” he said of being a part of the Farm Bureau of New York, the Northeast Grain Shed Alliance along with state brewing guilds. “We’re not just paying our dues and saying we’re part of it. So we’re looking to help be drivers of the change and hopefully, we get more of our colleagues on board with it as time goes on as well.

“The story is about the relationships and the local ingredients and stuff we do. You don’t need to get all of the mass-produced stuff. There are really great ingredients right in our state. And that’s why we can go locally and win these awards brewing with our local ingredients. We’re thrilled to testify that there’s a perception out there — or was — that local and smaller farms are not producing the same quality. And that’s BS.”

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