Where does beer come from?  Much to my surprise, as well as that of Erik May, President of Pilot Malt House, many consumers really have no clue.

“Through my traveling I realized more and more that people, generally, think it just appears.  Much like a car—they buy it from a dealership and don’t think much about how it got there, [it’s the] same with the beer world.”

The beer is in their glass, it tastes delicious and the rest is history.  That very “problem” is why May started his business.

“I have talked to a lot of brewers/owners or breweries and they only know where they buy their grain from, not necessarily where that grain actually came from,” said May.  “I want to change that!”

Pilot Malt House held an event on Saturday for people from the industry to come out and learn more about where ingredients in beer come from.  After the guests gathered, a bus escorted them from the malt house down the road to a farm growing some of Pilot Malt House’s grain.  The welcoming Chad Becker, Owner of Becker Hop Farms greeted all with a smiling face.  During the introduction to the field of barley, which sat beside some hop vines, a huge Case Combine Harvester grabbed everyone’s attention immediately.  Becker briefly described the types of barley guests would come across.

Six-row barley, though not currently grown at Becker Hop Farms, is great for distillers.

“Through the distillation process, more can be pulled from the thicker, hardy barley,” explained Ryan Hamilton, Maltster at Pilot Malt House.

A two-row barley is a popular choice for breweries and fills the Becker Hop Farm’s fields.

“It isn’t the most exciting crop, but there are a lot of variables that go into growing the crop.  Only a certain amount of it can be grown at a time to give a good product.  There are a lot of unknowns right now when it comes to barley,” said Becker.

Attendees witnessed RPM Machinery demonstrating the combine harvesting the field for barley.  Every single person had their phone out witnessing the moment, awestruck by the movement of the massive machine.  After the combine harvested the field, people climbed on and under the machine to see its inner workings.  When customers are given the opportunity to touch a product and create an experience for themselves, a stronger connection is made which has a higher percentage of gaining customers than just telling them about a product.

“We are here to learn more about the crop,” said Brewer Todd Henert of Kitzingen Brewery (a brewery opening soon in Wyoming, MI).

All in all, the event was a way for current customers of Pilot Malt House to learn more about specifics that go into their beer, as well as educate those that will hopefully turn into new customers.

“This year we held the event only for industry people but in the future we hope to have one for the public,” says May.

The farm tour ended back at the Pilot Malt House with refreshments of the beer kind, a food truck, live music and new clients for Pilot Malt House.

Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery