FAIRBURY, ILL. – Emancipation Brewing Co. installed solar panels last month to continuously power the brewery, homes and other buildings on the farm.
“The brewery uses a lot of electricity. If you’re talking about the environment, breweries require tons of electricity. Too much heat is used all the time. Emancipation Brewing Co. co-owner and head brewer Lincoln Slagel says it takes a lot of energy to heat liquids and run coolers.
“We have five refrigerators and one freezer, one cold room to help cool the tanks, and several water heaters. The electricity system here is taxed to the limit right now, the electricity bill is really high and it sounds like electricity prices are going to go up a lot.
“Over the course of the year, it has to run all the electricity the brewery, house and farm needs, plus a little addition they built. This will be a huge savings on a monthly basis and it will also be beautiful. be under our control as much as possible. “Especially with how much electricity we use here at the brewery, it won’t take long to pay it back.”
Slagel’s Fresh Farm beer, made from hops grown adjacent to the brewery, made it to the tap. It’s about a three-week process from harvest to barrel.
“The first day of the brew, which is the day we harvest, we brewed a double batch that day and basically the next two weeks were for the fermentation process,” Slagel explained.
“This beer has a bit of malty sweetness but it’s quite dry, so it’s a very well-fermented beer, so we wanted to make sure it was completely finished and all the yeasts were doing their job.
“After that we cooled it down a bit and added more of the same hops at that point. So you get a bit of a citrusy, earthy, almost herbal aroma. Then we freeze it and chill it and that kind of helps to condition the beer and make it and add the carbonation that needs to be added to get it to where we want it to be. After that, he is ready to go.”
Fresh Farm tastes like hops.
“This is the healthiest beer we’ve ever made. We go out there and smell it and then taste it and the flavor really comes through. This is not necessarily the case with all styles. It really focuses on this entry. It’s neat for me to have it go through here and into the bottle,” Slagel added.
This year’s hop crop at the farm was one of the worst they’ve had in several years, but Slagel was still able to brew a normal double batch.
“We use a lot of hops. Instead of spreading it over months on beers that don’t taste great, we like to infuse it with that flavor to really show it off. So we use more hops than we need, but the goal is to make this one beer as good as possible,” Slagel said.
“There were a few hops left over this year and we always dry some and we’ll use them in small batches here and there throughout the year.”
He chose not to cut the yeast vines at ground level at harvest to give the plants time to build up some strength in hopes of having healthier plants in the spring.
“We’re going to cut them down in the next few days because the frost we’re having probably won’t help them stay above ground,” he said on October 20.
Slagel teams up with an uncle to use the cover crop to make rye beer. His uncle, Jim Ifft of Fairbury, has been using cover crops on his farm for about 10 years.
“One of the cover crops they grow is rye, and when they got a bunch of seeds last year, it was a special variety that could be used for brewing and distilling. He gave me a couple of sacks of the rye they had gathered. We’ll be brewing a few beers with it soon,” Slagel said.
“In the years to come, if there’s a rye beer that people really like, we’ll be able to buy more of it.”
Slagel was asked what he predicts for the future of the brewery over the next five years.
He said he wants to try “different things like a coating product where we can kind of experiment with what’s available locally.”
“The idea of brewing with a cover crop that’s not even a main crop that people are growing is even more interesting to me because anything you can do to encourage things like that is good for the land or the soil. It is good for farmers to have an additional source of income for themselves.”
He would also like to see more farmers growing malt grains.
“There are some facilities that can do malting and I think it can be a great source of income and diversification for farmers. Moreover, grain is becoming more and more difficult to obtain. I was ordering grain a little while ago and the prices keep going up. So I think in the next few years we’re going to need more farmers in creative places that aren’t necessarily traditional to do some of that,” Slagel said.
“When it comes to the brewery, it’s just a matter of finding more ways to work with local ingredients that make the beer taste better. We try to use local products just for the sake of being local, but Farm Fresh beer, for example, is really unique and I think those hops have a positive effect on the taste. Our first job is always what we can do to improve the flavor.”
In the afternoon, Slagel was going to visit some family friends on whose farms her youngest son grew blackcurrants.
“For the last three or four years, we have been buying them and adding black currants to make beer. Black currants are small black berries. I like to think of it as a cross between a cranberry and a grape. It’s kind of tart like a cranberry, but with a little more juicy character, like grapes or blueberries,” she said.
“They harvest them, vacuum seal them and freeze them, and that kind of softens them up. We make them puree and add to beer.
“He was doing it a few years ago as a small business to raise money. I think we’re getting his whole crop this year. It’s neat to work on things like this. It is a taste that not everyone knows. I have tried blackcurrant from the supplier, but theirs is a really high quality product.
“We want to try to do things like this as logically as we can and in a way that’s good for them and good for us.
“It’s funny because you don’t really think about growing beer ingredients in this area, but there’s a lot of opportunity between blackcurrants, potentially rye, corn, especially when people are trying to find alternative ways to supplement income or income. diversify what you do.”
At last year’s Illinois Craft Brewers Guild conference, there was a discussion with panelists involved in craft malting.
“They said they wished more farmers would be involved in this work. Maybe if people would take the time to learn a little bit about it, I think most of the problem is that no one knows. I don’t know much about the agricultural side other than looking at the number of malted grains. They provide what appears to be a very good value to the farmers who grow for them,” Slagel said.