Locale: Athena Vintage: 2017
Farming Partner(s): Johns Ranch
Malting Partner(s): Palouse Pint; Skagit Valley Malting
Barley: LCS Genie (85 ac)
Certs & Attributes: Salmon-Safe Certified; Dry-Farmed
Status: Harvested 8/7; Preparing to Malt
Availability: reserve your finished malt today
Johns Ranch knocked it out of the park with their 2016 Salmon-Safe Certified and dry-farmed malting barley. That LCS Genie 2-row became the sole malting barley lot for our 2016 Vintage malts. Lucky for all of us, Bob Johns and Chris Williams are back at it for 2017. Same barley variety, adjacent field, different vintage. And since this variety is being grown in each of our distinct locales, it's a great setup for experimenting with place-based flavor.
Right off the bat, we're looking at a much different vintage than in 2017. Winter '15/'16 was short-lived and ended in February, allowing us to get Athena's spring barley in the ground on March 19th. The '16/'17 winter, on the other hand, brought loads of persistent snow and early spring rains have been relentless. Seeding this year took place over a month later on April 21st.
The late seeding this year pushed this crop's maturation much further out into the summer. With dryland farming, there's no way to moderate the effects of hot and dry weather. This crop was fully exposed to the elements and that meant a significant dose of drought stress this season. And honestly, we're very excited about that dynamic. Mimicking the dry farmed wine tradition, we want to see how it shakes out in terms of finished malt quality and flavor. Signs are pointing in the right direction.
April 21, 2017
A narrow seeding window allowed us to cover about 85 acres of a 92 acre field. 2016 crop residue was mulched and sized with a vertical tillage implement, followed promptly by placement of seed and starter fertilizer using a precision no-till air seeder. The rains returned the following day. For now, we keep our fingers crossed that the moisture keeps coming.
May 8, 2017
This barley has come on strong! Periodic rains and nighttime dew have been topping off soil moisture. Periodic doses of sunshine and warmth enable the vigorous growth. It's shaping up to be a beautiful stand of grain.
June 20, 2017
Spring storms continue to track through the Blue Mountain foothills, and this field is almost always first in line for a soil moisture refill. The barley is in boot stage, which means it's just about to pop out its little seed heads. One gets the feeling that the storms are tapering off to transition us into the typical summer drought. Winter wheat is ready for that. The barley could use an extra rain or two in the coming weeks, to plump out its developing kernels.
July 16, 2017
We were on to something with that June 20 feeling of tapering moisture. We had one more storm come through on June 26 and then it shut off. Not the best timing, given the relatively high moisture requirements of barley during the concurrent grain fill stage. That said, the majority of the field has deep enough soils to buffer short-term water shortage. The barley in these areas continues to look very healthy, while barley in areas with shallower soils have cured out prematurely. A higher percentage of premature, "thin" kernels will likely need to be separated from the choice barley after harvest, making for some excellent animal feed for our local small farmers. We anticipate that what remains will be a very rich, flavorful malting barley.
August 7, 2017
The Athena 2-Row crop is off the field and into the grain bin! The yield and plumpness were both higher than we had been bracing for, which was great to see. Please stay tuned for more information on yield and quality of this grain lot.
August 31, 2017
Our QA results are back from the lab and compiled. All six 2017 vintage grain lots across our three locales are malt-worthy. Brewers and distillers can now reserve grain from these lots, in craft malted form, for delivery through 2018.