Ag Week event brews up support for Steamboat Springs area farmers
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Storm Peak Brewing Company was filled to the brim with customers Thursday, many of whom came to attend the debut Beer & Backyard Ag event as part of Ag Appreciation Week.
It is one of 10 events that Michele Meyer, executive director of Routt County’s Community Agriculture Alliance, helped organize as part of the group’s annual celebration of local farmers and ranchers.
The evening featured talks from a handful of farmers about how people can grow their own produce, even in more urban areas, or buy food from nearby operations.
Meyer had to stand on a bench and shout over the din of taproom customers to usher people back to the brew house where the beer-making magic happens. It offered a slightly quieter space and a behind-the-scenes look at the brewing process.
“I know it’s tempting but don’t touch anything,” Meyer hollered over the bustling crowd. “We do not need to accidentally make any beer.”
About 30 people clustered around the brew house’s metallic cylinders to hear the presenters. Many in the audience held glasses filled with a sour beer called Cherry Seinfeld, a quip on the sitcom star Jerry Seinfeld and the locally grown cherries that went into it.
Storm Peak released the beer, the first of its kind for the brewery, Thursday to align with the night’s event. The fruit gave a ruddy color to the beer, which had a bright taste with a subtle tartness.
Rob Schwarz, head brewer at Storm Peak, said he aged the beer and cherries for five months. He added champagne yeast, which gave it a slight effervescence and bubbly endnotes.
“It’s not overwhelmingly fruity but you get a lot of cherry in it,” he said of the taste.
Schwarz was among the first to address the crowd. He was joined by JR Lott, farm manager at Elkstone Farm, which supplied the beer’s cherries.
“You can taste Routt County in it,” Lott said.
It took about 75 pounds of the fruit to make 60 gallons of beer, according to Lott. He and others at Elkstone grew the cherries at their operation in Strawberry Park.
After last year’s harvest, they had a surplus and approached Storm Peak to see about using it for a new beer.
Schwarz, who values local agriculture, agreed to the deal. He plans to partner with Elkstone in the future to brew up other beers featuring the farm’s produce.
“We’re excited to have a local source of cherries,” he said.
Lott explained the partnership has been mutually beneficial. Beyond the business side, Storm Peak has recycled its spent brewery grains into a compost additive for Elkstone.
Those grains provide a nitrogen-rich supplement, which plants depend on for healthy, productive growth.
“And it’s got all the microbes that the soil needs,” Lott said.
Schwarz told the crowd that he welcomes similar partnerships with other farmers in the area.
“We’re always open to local opportunities,” he said.
Other presenters highlighted opportunities for community members to support Routt County farmers and ranchers or start their own operations on a smaller scale.
Todd Hagenbuch, the agriculture director at Routt County’s Colorado State University Extension Office, discussed the community garden plots that residents can rent to grow produce themselves.
The Community Roots Garden, located at Sixth and Oak streets, offers 20 plots available for annual rental.
“Anyone can garden, and anyone can have the opportunity to garden,” Hagenbuch told the audience.
At the end of the talks, many attendees stuck around to speak with the presenters or grab another brew.
After all, as Meyer joked of the event, “It’s more about the beer than anything else.”
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