FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — For more than 100 years, the barley used to brew beer in Maryland has come from out of state or Canada.

Not anymore.

A 10-year collaboration between a local farmer and a brewmaster has resulted in the first commercially produced beer using locally grown and malted barley in Maryland in modern times.

Brewmaster Tom Flores has been working with Greg Clabaugh, a Frederick County dairy farmer, for the last decade or so to develop a barley malt suitable for brewing.

“We finally have a beer that shows off what the local agricultural community is able to produce,” Flores said, as he and Clabaugh introduced Amber Fields Best Bitter to the public Tuesday at Brewer’s Alley restaurant in downtown Frederick, where the beverage will be available.

“We’re finally ready to invest in what we have,” Flores said. “We’ve finally taken that jump. Years of trying to narrow the pilot scale is over, and it’s time for production.”

The beer captures the classic flavor of a famous British-style ale known as “Best Bitter,” Flores said. With only a small amount of caramel malt, the distinctive flavor of this beer is developed by the use of the business partners’ custom malt.

The barley is malted and dried, and the drying yields a lot of flavor, Flores said.

“As a brewer, I’m really excited that we can develop flavor straight from the field, pick what variety we want, how it’s planted, harvested and how it’s germinated and turned into malt itself and how it’s dried,” Flores said. “That’s a lot of fun for the brewer. We like to have control over our raw materials.”

Clabaugh said beer produced from the farm is a perfect example of value-added agriculture — a process of increasing the economic value and consumer appeal of an agricultural commodity.

When Clabaugh’s milk income went from $20 per 100 pounds of milk to $9, growing barley for beer seemed like the right thing to do. Clabaugh said he has three children, and he needed a way to make the 1837 family farm work.

“The whole thing is sustainability. I had to do something, and this seemed like a good idea,” Clabaugh said.

Flores had the brewing expertise, and Clabaugh had experience growing grains. One thing led to another, and the entrepreneurs took off with it, Clabaugh said.

“We made some mistakes and learned from them. Now we know we can do it at a high level,” Clabaugh said.

The two men credited Terry Poole, principal agent emeritus at the University of Maryland, for introducing them to a University of Maryland Extension agent who provided useful information for the project.

“We have been greatly encouraged by the support received from our District 4 Maryland General Assembly members, as well as the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation and key personnel within the Frederick County government, and special thanks are due to the owner of Brewer’s Alley, Phil Bowers, for his patient support of this project,” Flores said.

The venture culminates more than a decade of field test plots, malting trials and pilot brewing. The beer is 4.4 percent alcohol by volume. The type of yeast used was selected for its unique and subtle contribution to the overall flavor of the beer, Flores said.

Classic British hop varieties are known for having gentle aroma notes of earthy, loamy, tobacco leaf, mild spiciness and an overall pleasant hop flavor.

Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post,

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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