non commodity This is a topic that many people are looking for. khurak.net is a channel providing useful information about learning, life, digital marketing and online courses …. it will help you have an overview and solid multi-faceted knowledge . Today, khurak.net would like to introduce to you The resurgence of non-commodity agriculture in single malt whiskey Matt Hofmann TEDxEastsidePrep. Following along are instructions in the video below:
“Name is matt hoffman. I m the master distiller and one of the cofounders of of westland distillery. Make single malt whiskey here in seattle. Master distiller is a funny because i very rarely distill these days.
I do a lot of spreadsheets send a lot of emails. But i also get to talk to people about kind of the exciting things that we do here one of the interesting things again. We re kind of talking about dinner last night. We all got together one of the things that kind of echoes.
Both the talk that we just saw and then the things we talked about at dinner is the idea of mastering something i think is false it is something we can constantly strive towards we re trying to always get to perfection and we re talking about the excellence thing. But we ll never get there and to think that you will get there to think that you will ever be the master of something is as arrogant in my opinion so when we say master distiller functionally. What that means is is kind of in charge of the process start to finish does not mean that i have mastered distilling in any way. I don t believe that that is possible so single malt whisky is the original style of whisky that has been produced at least as far as recorded history goes for about 600 years.
The origin of it is probably ireland unless you re asking the scottish people in which case it s scotland. But this it s the origin of all other styles of whiskey. So basically scottish irish immigrants move to other parts of the world especially the us find that barley doesn t grow very well in the eastern us. They plan try instead i take the ride that the german immigrants have they use that to make their whiskey.
Then they all get kicked out of there. It s something called the whiskey rebellion. Which is a very fantastic story. We don t have time for today.
And they have to move down to kentucky. Where they find corn is a lot better and that s where bourbon comes from singable whiskey. Is a hundred percent malted barley. What malted barley is is basically sprouted barley.
So barley grows as has been growing for for thousands of years and its really kind of reached its pinnacle expression in these kind of cooler climates. We have a cooler spring kind of like the uk and also like the pacific northwest as it turns out so one hundred percent malted barley. So what they re going to do is going to take that raw barley. They re going to soak it in water for a few days.
Then the barley grain goes hey it just rained so take this water in and i ll begin to sprout. So it goes along and it develops a root lid. And some shoots. And then there s all sorts of things happening.
Inside of the grain basically developing enzymes in the grain that help convert starch into sugar. All this is very important when it comes to processing. The whiskey. But we need to stop it so it doesn t go into full barley plant.
Because that would be disastrous so they stop it by drying it out and that is what we call malted barley. So that s used in beer. As well as single malt whiskey. So the single part means produced.
At one distillery and this again is most of the time you re seeing this come out of scotland. So that s kind of that s what we do here. The pacific northwest is the best barley growing climate in the united states. It is one of the best barley growing climates in the world outside of the uk pacific northwest are the two best ones in the northern hemisphere.
So a lot of people say oh you guys are americans why aren t you making bourbon well actually. It s more authentic for us to be making single malt whiskey here because barley is what grows here and not corn corn is used for bourbon. So this is barley everybody say hello barley everything that s used in the world of single malt whisky. Is commodity.
Barley doesn t actually matter and it s true not just for whiskey. But it s also true for beer and any kind of baking products that use barley. It s all commodity barley. So what does that mean so.
Commodity. Barley or any commodity grain is bred for high yield in the field high yield in the plant in our case in the distillery. It s bred for disease resistance. And it s also bred for what it s my last thing that it spread to be dependable.
It spread that you can count on every time when you go to make whiskey like when we do. But also the farmers know what they re going to get then you get these varieties certified by various organizations in the us it s called the ambulance american malted barley association. All of these things are admirable the ability to do high yields and and disease resistance makes things grow and you know what you re going to get. But there are also some downsides to that and those aren t commonly talked about this barley varietal that you see here this is called full pint this is a new barley varietal bred by oregon state university keep this in mind as we look through the rest of these slides here this is what when if you ask a scottish person.
What barley looks like they re gonna say looks exactly like this and varley s only ever looked exactly like this so here s the thing about commodities. If you re running commodities you re probably doing monoculture. So that means you re planting the same crop year after year after year after year. The us has mastered this in a really really depressing way i mean the middle of the country is corn corn corn corn corn each year that corn is depleting the soil it is the taking things out of the soil.
They can dump things back in before they learned how to dump things back and they simply moved away. This is the origin of the dust bowl. This is people moved out kind of into the plain states planted a bunch of stuff then kind of forgot to take care of it all and then destroyed it and then they kept moving but now these days people are able to dump synthetic stuff back into the soil over and over and over again it s not good for the soil. Though it s not good for the environment.
You talk about all this extra stuff that you have to put into the system. This also includes diseases. If you break up the crops. If you plant this and then do a different crop different crop different crop.
Then the disease has time to go away otherwise it just builds and builds and builds and builds year after year the other big thing is that commodity grains are price fixed. It s a race to the bottom. I just finished reading a great book at highly recommend. It s called gaining ground.
It s about a farmer out in virginia. I believe and he inherited he was probably my age he s in his 20s and he inherited so i am in my 20s. It s true actually so anyways. He inherited a.
He inherited a farm from his grandparents. And he got really really into the idea of planting grains and so we planted corn and soy and he made it through the first first season. The first harvest and he got all the way to the end. There was a little bit of drought and some things that were going on there and he he sold all of it you have 300 acres of this stuff.
And sold all of it tallied everything up at the end of the year. And he realized he made exactly eighteen dollars. And that s because the price is fixed. It s a race to the bottom no matter.
What you can t add value to a commodity crop. Because that s against the definition and the other big thing is it s always bred for yield. The idea of flavor does not come into consideration ever. Which is really really remarkable actually so again there s some admirable things about commodities.
But there s a lot of negatives. So what do we do to try to fix this this is the resurgence that we re talking about here a return to original styles of farming to rotation crops. So you re going to get things that are going to help the soil going to help each other out there s a lot of examples of this throughout the world. The rest of the world knows this a lot of cuisines are based on this idea of rotation crops.
But in america. We sadly have no real concept of it because we ve always kind of been able to either take more land or develop chemicals to get around it getting value out of these products not just breeding them for a commodity system. Where you you put into a giant truck that goes to a giant train car and it goes to a giant commodity market you re done with it let s add value to these products you can do that if you take control. But then also flavor and this is a big that i kind of get into this in a little bit.
But let s actually think about flavor as we develop new grains. So this is the skagit value can see that there in washington state. The barley regions are kind of split into two places you ve got eastern washington. Which is big that s big ag country that is there s we get a lot of barley from eastern washington.
But the system. There is very much commodity system. There s two varietals of barley that are grown out there amongst the thousands that exist and if they grow effectively. But that will come in and and the farmers you don t you never meet them.
But western washington is a little bit different they ve rejected the commodity system for a lot of very simple reason so. The skagit valley. There those are tulips a lot of people here will know that the skagit valley is famous for its tulip festival. What they probably don t know is that those tulips basically just destroy this soil not totally.
But they can t do the tulips in the same place generally speaking year after year because it takes so much material to make those tulips work. So what these farmers have been doing for a hundred years is they ve been planting barley after the tulips to help put carbon back into the soil barley is actually a carbon fixing it sucks carbon out of the atmosphere puts it back into the soil breaks disease cycles then they ll plant something like beans. They would put nitrogen back into the soil and away they go then the complaint tulips again they don t have to dump a bunch of extra stuff in there and that s a natural crop rotation cycle. This is how a lot of agricultural communities have existed for a long time.
The problem is is that they had nobody to sell that grain to they were outside of the commodity system. Even if you were farming in western washington is a lot more expensive that it is in eastern washington. If you manage to get perfect grain out of this barley you might break even if it made what s called moulton great so be high grade barley. But on the commodity system.
If not you would get feed grade barley. Which goes to cattle and that you lose money planting that but they have to do it because it s good for their soil. This barley here. So you remember the barley is just showing you a little bit ago.
This barley is called purple obsidia. I m going to come up with there s there s a lot of names here that they are going to see it s we re not involved with marijuana at all purple obsidian tibetan purple. You know there s all sorts of you know no so so. Anyways this is a varietal of barley that comes from.
Egypt it s 2000. Years old there s an almost unbelievable back story involving some camel trading routes in eastern washington it s very bizarre but this is not an approved varietal for planting for multi barley in washington state. Why not well there s all sorts of reasons. But one of them is it melts in four days instead of seven.
So actually if you re thinking about this it melts faster than what the standard is but just because it moves away from what the standard is it makes it totally reject abul so one of the things that we move to do and we re working. We have to work with other companies to do is we re working with a company called skagit valley malting to accomplish. This is basically changing the system to suit the grain to suit the agriculture and not changing your agriculture to suit your system this is only really possible now with technology so you can change each different batch you have to be more patient it costs more money yes. But the flavor that you get from something like this is is unbelievable people have never tasted it there s i mean how many of you have tasted just an unbelievable piece of whole wheat bread that totally changed your mind.
There s not enough of you this is the problem. But but that s out there when you taste it in it totally just you have no concept of this if you re just raised on wonder bread and all this other stuff that we are as americans and so this is a very very important thing you can take the varietals that are not just for multi. But a feed varietal that full pint back there two slides ago. That was a feed varietal that s also not approved for malting under the approved list and yet you can multi and you get incredible flavor out of it so that s a really really that s a really important thing to think about when you think about flavor first just try to get the thing that tastes best and then work backwards from there to make it work in order for this to work you need grain breeder.
So we re going to help you develop new varietals barley. I don t mean gmo. I mean kind of the old fashioned way of breeding grain. Which is you take two grains and he kind of rub them together like this sin its it wouldn t be good at this i m not a teacher so.
But it s it s developing grains. The old fashioned way start to finish that process usually takes 10 years from the time you make the first cross. But to the time that it could be approved if you start with a thousand varietals you might be lucky. If you get one that works.
So. There s a guy named dr. Steve jones. He was out breeding wheat and barley at washington state.
University. Pullman monsanto approached him. And said will you develop a varietal of wheat for us that we can patent. He said no that may sound obvious.
He said. I m a land grant university professor you re not supposed to breed for companies supposed to breed for the public good he s the only one in the us. That said no he was banished from this university from washington state university pullman and before you think this is a political thing big ag reaches across both sides of the aisle when this happened so he was kicked up to mount vernon. An hour to the north of us basically allowed to do whatever he wanted they stripped him of all of his funding save his salary and his assistant salary which continues to this day by the way everything that he s done up to this point.
He s only done with two people salaries and no other funding of any sort and basically said all right go nuts up there. And so up there. The farmers initially and then other companies westland helps fund. This as well.
But also companies like cliff bar. Whole foods patagonia chipotle have to fund his work in developing varietals of grain for flavor instead of just for yield that s 15000. Varietals of barley that he s got in there in scotland. They only use one varietal of barley so if you can imagine if you know like the world of wine merlot.
What if all wine was merlot. Who s seen the movie sideways. Okay. So whatever you think about merlot even if it s a if it s an amazing merlot.
If every wine was merlot how boring would that be now i ll caveat. This by saying. The world of scottish whiskey. Has produced a lot of great stuff.
And that s even increasing these days. There s a ton of great stuff out there. And i have a lot of respect for what goes on in the scottish whiskey industry for the most part. But there there are so many new possibilities of getting beyond this high yielding type of barley varietal if you start thinking about flavor who cares if it yields ten percent less charge twenty percent more for it because people go nuts over it you know people love things that taste good.
It s it s really not actually that complicated so the bread lab up there is doing amazing things you ll find them in documentaries. Again all of their funding is coming from from donations mostly from kind of progressive companies and and from individuals big ag has removed everything else from them. So this is this is a big deal the end result from all of this what they re trying to do is make sure that these varietals. They re breeding.
These varietals to grow well in the washington state climate in the pacific northwest climate. So you don t have to dump things back into the system back into the agricultural system. That don t belong. There.
The farmers now will take these varietals and make a living off of them before they would just feed it to cows because they couldn t bother to sell out on the commodity market. Now we can go in and say hey we will pay you not just above commodity market value will pay you good money for this grain that you re breeding here. Even though it s yielding maybe fifty percent less per acre. Even will pay you the difference.
And then some to make sure that you get paid a living wage and ultimately really the important thing that comes out of it is you make better product and and what s exciting about this is this is applicable beyond whiskey. This is applicable to a lot of things. There s a huge movement going on right now in this country. And it s just getting started for this style of thinking we talk about things like triple bottom line.
Where everybody wins people get paid more money the environment ends up better and ultimately you develop better more compelling products with better flavor and this is something we should always be striving for it s something we re pushing very hard on and something we want the whole world to see so let s wake up thank you very much ” ..
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