Barley, Too, Taking Root in Jersey Soil

A sixth-generation farmer, Brett Bullock suspects his is the only brewery in New Jersey currently growing its own malt.

Behind the brewery on his farm in Cream Ridge, with pumpkin fields in the distance and an affable golden-lab mix beside him, Brett Bullock is showing off his field of barley.

On this early winter day, it looks an awful lot like grass—green, about five inches high—but get close to the blades and it’s clear they’re growing in defined rows. This, Bullock explains, is Wintmalt barley, a variety grown through the winter. He’ll harvest 10 acres of it in July, when it’s about two feet tall and golden-yellow, with tiny seeds and fluffy ends.

For the beer he makes at his farm brewery, Screamin’ Hill, Bullock tries to stay in his own acreage. He has a small hop plot. He uses his own pumpkins to make a pumpkin ale and his own hot peppers for a habanero beer. But he says the barley has been the toughest ingredient to grow.

Bullock started with a Midwest variety of barley that just wasn’t right for Jersey weather. “Hopefully this one works,” he says of the new crop. “But I won’t really know until I harvest and get it malted.” In the malting process, grains are soaked in water to germinate, then dried.

When he harvests Wint- malt this summer, Bullock will send it to the closest malt house for processing: Double Eagle Malt in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania. Malting will turn it into the tan kernels that brewers use to instill color and flavor in their beer.

A sixth-generation farmer—his family has tended Bullock Farms since 1860—Bullock suspects his is the only brewery in New Jersey currently growing its own malt. He’s planning to release a beer this year with every ingredient grown on his farm, including the hops.

“It’s a modern way of farming,” he says of growing hops and malt barley together, “but also an old way of brewing. Back in the beginning of our country, almost everyone was a farmer, and they all brewed beer with whatever they had from their crop that year.”

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