Brewing beer requires 3 major ingredients, and many minor ingredients. Number one on the list is water.
While some home brewers may acquire water from springs, lakes, or other sources, most breweries pull water from an on-site well or the municipal tap. We believe that you should brew with the water you’ve got. This is certainly true for many historically significant beers, as well as fine spirits. At The VB, we brew with Monroe County Water Authority water, which is delivered in pipes right to our brewing system. We run the water through a simple charcoal filter to remove chorine and other impurities. We’ve found the pH moves up and down a bit with the seasons, so we adjust the pH as needed.
The next ingredient is malted barley. We buy the majority of our grain from Great Western Malt, located in Champlain, NY. GWM gives us access to many different malts from around the world, and we take full advantage of this opportunity. Our base malt is primarily from Canada. Our specialty malts, used to color and flavor the beer in different ways, comes from all over the world. Scotland, England, Belgium, and France provide excellent malt, are readily available.
The New York Farm Brewer act requires us to use at least 20% of NY grown and processed malt in all our recipes. We are fortunate to have a number of new malt houses in this are providing excellent product. In our case, we use local malt that is grown in the NY southern tier, and processed in Rochester, NY by Pioneer Malting. Their 2-row malt is excellent quality, and is a nice addition to our recipe flavor profiles.
The third major ingredient is hops. Hops provide four essential properties to beer: anti-bacterial qualities, bitterness, flavor, and aroma. The VB Brewery utilizes hops from Bluebell Hopyard, located about 3 miles from the brewery. The Farm Brewery requires us to use 20% local hops in all our recipes, but we actually use about 95% local hops. In fact, the only recipes that don’t use local hops are those that require varieties that don’t grow well in this climate, or are proprietary strains. For example, our German-style Pilsner uses Saaz hops, a variety grown in the US, but is not prevalent in this area.
We will continue to use locally-sourced ingredients wherever practical, and are proud to support the local economy.