Brewer taps into CSA idea
Colrain man thinks he has right ingredients
COLRAIN — If local farms can sell produce through paid-in-advance farm shares — why not a local “farm brewery” that also grows some of its own beer ingredients?
That’s the dream of Justin Korby, who has been working for two years to make his Stoneman Brewery a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) reality.
Last week, Korby was finishing up the installation of six new 42-gallon stainless steel fermenting vessels, propane tanks and brewing equipment inside his tiny, 360-square-foot brewery.
But he’ll be ready for the public on Nov. 9 and 10, as part of the annual Crafts of Colrain open artists studios tour.
“We’re starting to get people to sign up for CSA shares,” says Korby, who has been brewing beer for four years. “The Crafts of Colrain tour is our open house. That’s when we’ll have some (test batch) samples.”
Stoneman Stock Ale will be his opening salvo, with 64-ounce jugs, or “growlers,” for sale during Crafts of Colrain at Pine Hill Orchards. Korby said the brew is his recipe, made in collaboration with People’s Pint of Greenfield and Valley Malt of Hadley. It’s also on tap now at People’s Pint, he said.
“Basically, the idea of a beer CSA really works for a farm/brewery, where it allows you to get a little funding up front — so I know exactly how much beer I have to make — and it’s already sold,” said Korby. “If you have a brewery, you spend most of your time trying to sell your beer, rather than making it.”
Korby, a 10-year stone mason, has been home-brewing for about four years, learning from books, through trial-and-error, and developing his own recipes along the way. He said he spent at least six months on paperwork for this project and that Stoneman now has both its federal and state brewery licenses.
At first, Korby will only be releasing 150 shares, with the first beer pick-up to be ready around the holiday season.
It was while building an enormous stone wall at the nearby Katywil co-housing and farming community that Korby started thinking about changing careers. Because of his stonework, he got the nickname “stoneman,” and that’s how he named his future small-batch brewery.
Justin and Katie Korby now have a home and 80 acres across the road from the Katywil complex. “We’re looking to be involved in growing grain with our neighbors at Katywil,” said Korby. “Katywil has a few acres down by the river. We’re going to go in with them to plant wheat and spelt,” which can be used to make certain styles of beer. The main traditional ingredients in beer are barley and hops. He said he also has a 10-acre pasture that he may grow hops on. He now has a test plot of hops growing on his parents’ land, which is also in Colrain.
Korby said he has three deeded springs on his hilltop land, and had them tested for water quality. “It’s pure, Colrain mountain water,” he said.
His father, Ken Korby, a retired engineer, helped his son design the brewhouse, and his family “has been helping tremendously” with the building structures, Korby said.
For now, he’s using grains grown by Valley Malt in Hadley, that converts grain into a molasses-like malt — the key ingredient in the brewing process. When he grows his own grain, Korby said he’ll be able to bring the grain to Valley Malt, which is the only micro-maltzer he knows of east of the Mississippi River.
Korby said running his brewery on a CSA basis keeps it simpler for him. He’s planning on making 12 different batches a month, with six recipes that will be available year-round and eight seasonal beers. Korby said he uses heritage grains, including spelt and a type of wheat known as emmer.
“One of my goals, for Crafts of Colrain next year, is to have a 100 percent Colrain beer, with my own grain, hops and water,” he said.
Korby plans to make about 100 gallons of beer per week. He has arranged to make Pine Hill Orchard’s shop the place where share holders can pick up their monthly case of beer. Pine Hill Orchard will also have some bottles for general sale there, he said.
His beers have unusual names, with some long stories attached to them: Dragon Beam IPA, Ox Pull Porter, Peacemaker Pale Ale, DeadFoot Ale, Rusty Hoe Farmhouse ale, Wheat Reaper, Sled Dog IPA, and Dirty Boy Brown among them. They will come in 22-ounce bottles.
CSA shares cost $400 each, and the shares pay for a case of beer (12 22-ounce bottles) every month for six months. He said the cost averages about $5.50 per bottle.
“That’s as low as I can go, using over 90 percent local ingredients,” he said. “This would be considered a nano-brewery, and I’m trying to prove that a nano-brewery can be profitable. If you have a distributor, you have to make a whole lot of beer to be profitable. I’m cutting out the middle man. I think this is the smallest square-foot brewery in Massachusetts.”
It’s also the first beer CSA in Massachusetts, he says.
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