“We Grow. We Malt. And We Brew.” 

Locality Brewing recently traveled from North Langley, BC to participate in the Advance Class in Craft Malting and MaltCon2024. These farmers, maltsters, and brewers operate on family owned MacInnes Farms, just up the hill and around the bend from the historic village of Fort Langley. They grow and sell malt and hops as Be Ingredients and operate Locality Brewing onsite. 

In this Member Highlight, Andrew Hamer, Co-Owner at Locality Brewing, regales the joys and challenges of operating across the supply chain as a farmer, maltster, and brewer. He also previews the farm’s 2024 wastewater project and advocates for more beers made with local ingredients in the Canadian Malt Forward beer category of the Canada Beer Cup. 

Thanks to Andrew and the whole team at Locality for sharing their story with us, and for joining us in California! 

How did your field-to-glass concept come to be? 

In 2016, Mel and I started a farm rollover plan where they grew hops, barley, hazelnuts, and cider apples; they also kept bees and a small flock of chickens. That winter we heard about a ‘40km ISA [India Session Ale]‘, made by Longwood Brewery in Nanaimo, which reinforced that a ‘zero mile’ beer was (still) possible. 

We thought that was so innovative… or was this just the way it was done a long time ago? We sourced some antique farm equipment and decided to go for it.

We hand-scythed 1½ acres of Newdale 2-row spring barley and threshed it by hand. In 2017 we grew, pilot malted and brewed our first beer using ingredients from our farm.  Breweries situated on farmland in BC Canada must use more than 50 percent fermentable ingredients from the farm (or have long-term contracts from other farms in BC). The objective of these provincial regulations was to ensure ‘farm breweries’ were not simply ’breweries on farmland’ (cheaper land). 

In 2021, we opened the doors to Locality Brewing. Today, we grow and market our own hops and barley under the name Be Ingredients and operate Locality on the same farm. 

Tell us about your malting operation. 

Be Ingredients (Locality Brewing) grows grains and malts on the same family farm as the brewery.

We run all available products through the brewery including barley, rye, wheat, hops, honey, cider apples, hazelnuts, and farm-foraged plants like wild blackberries, spruce tips, stinging nettle.

On a weekly basis we malt primarily base malts, and we also malt seasonal small batch releases, specialty, and smoked malts in our smaller drum. If the brewer needs it, Be Ingredients will grow and process it for the brewery. It’s a LONG runway for new beer releases that starts with communication (Sales-Brewer-Farmer-Maltster-Brewer).

What are some of the challenges of managing the whole supply chain?

In 2017, we were grateful to host some local industry legends with 30+ years of hands-on brewing experience. We went on a farm tour. They were blown away by being able to walk through a golden barley field 50 km from downtown Vancouver, a city with a population of 2.5 million people. They strongly advised that we ‘PICK ONE’— farm, malt OR brew.  

Being stubborn we kept slowly chipping away at the vision in parallel with working full time off the farm to pay for it and raise our two kids. In 2018, we sold our ‘forever house’ and in 2019 we built a small malting drum to make 500 kg batches. In 2021 we quietly opened the brewery during the pandemic. 

We are exhausted, it’s a battle everyday, we break equipment in all three businesses and are definitely a little broken ourselves. If we knew how hard this journey was going to be we would have been scared off. We have had so much help from our family, friends, community (and little stress relieving furry friend Atlas and his wagging tail). Our industry mentors were right, but I don’t think we would change it. Ask us again in 2 years.

Why did you join our Craft Malt Certified™ seal program? 

Our community supports our small brewery and we need to pay that support forward all the way to the farmers. We showcase local talents and hard work and connect consumers to the land in which this craft is grown.

What’s happening on the farm in 2024? 

In 2024 we are implementing two projects, one focusing on sustainability and the other on predictable experience and sales.  

On the sustainability side, we have purchased a process wastewater treatment system.  We have been conscious of the resources we use, well water being a big one.  Most breweries use 7 to 10 L of water to make 1L of beer. Our target is below 5:1L of water by treating and reusing processed wastewater to irrigate our crops.

On the predictable sales side, we think it’s long overdue to finally add A ROOF to our Pacific NorthwWest on-farm picnic area. Our marketing is very much word of mouth but we have seen a steady increase in guests who are aligned with our values and code of conduct. We are hoping to add dry + warm space for winter 2024/2025. Baby steps on this long journey but folks seem to be understanding about where our values lie.

Time to stand on your soapbox about the Canada Beer Cup. 

BC brewers recently claimed the gold in the Canadian Malt Forward beer category at the 2023 Canada Beer Cup, as voted by a panel of judges including international representatives. The beer was a Barrel Aged Smoked Doppelbock by Five Roads Brewing Co and Locality Brewing. The bronze cup also came home to BC with Whistle Buoy Brewing Lojo Light Larger, made with locally grown craft malt from Five Field Farm.

BC needs to get fired up if we want to keep this trophy in BC for years to come!