Rustic Brew Farm: Drink Beer Grown Here

Written by on September 15, 2016 in Beer - 1 Comment


If you are familiar with the Ohio Craft Brewers Association, you’ve probably heard the slogan “Drink Beer Made Here.” A fourth generation Central Ohio farmer is upping the ante with his slogan, “Drink Beer Grown Here.”

Matt Cunningham is the man behind the Rustic Brew Farm, located just a few miles outside of Marysville. Traditionally, he has planted his 2600-acre farm with soy beans and corn, but last year, he parceled off part of his property to support the local craft beer market. He now has 100 acres dedicated to barley plus a small patch of hop bines, and is also one of the very few maltsters in the state of Ohio.

Cunningham started his malting operation last year with a small system that was limited in both capacity and capability. In order to grow the business, he is already expanding his operation with the installation of a new, larger, automated two-ton malting system. This new malting equipment will allow him to more than triple his output, enabling him to produce 10,000 pounds of malt per month beginning in January. The new system will also include greater heating capacity, providing the capability to produce roasted malts for the first time. While last fall he planted only barley, this fall he will be planting both barley and wheat in response to requests from local brewers.

While Cunningham has harvested 400K pounds of barley thus far, his hops operation is considerably smaller. He started with only 100 bines of hops which includes Cascade, Columbus, Centennial and Willamette. He hopes to grow that number to 1000 bines as he gains experience with the crop. This year’s harvest is currently being tested and pelletized by outside contractors.


Being on the leading edge for both malt and hop production in Ohio is a challenge, but fortunately, the OSU Agricultural Research and Development stations in Wooster, Piketon and Bowling Green provide education and support. Cunningham is also a member of both the Ohio Hop Growers Guild and the Craft Maltsters Guild, and describes a “fraternity” of growers in Ohio who share their experiences and lessons learned, much like craft brewers do.

“It’s a collaborative atmosphere, not a competitive one,” said Cunningham.

A critical part of the learning curve is to understand the germination process of the barley during the malting operation. Cunningham also has to worry about things like protein content, color and germination rate, in addition to disease, rain, weather and yields.

The “local” movement is a powerful tool in Rustic Brew Farm’s ability to attract customers to his products. Already, seven brewers have begun using his barley malt to brew ‘local’ beers, including Restoration Brew Worx in Delaware, Ill Mannered in Powell, Mother Stewart’s in Springfield, and the brand new Grove City Brewing. Frank Barickman, Head Brewer at Restoration, recently brewed a Pale Ale that exclusively used Rustic Brew Farm’s 2 row Harrington malt. Frank reported that the malt “had a nice cracker like flavor with a touch of grainy sweetness”. He added that the Ohio Pale, as it was called, sold well and left customers asking for more. Look for additional beers using Rustic’s malts at Restoration.

Once Rustic Brew Farm’s malt and hop production is in full gear, it will be exciting to see all-Ohio beers that are both made here and grown here.

Rustic Brew Farm malt is available for home brewers at Barley Hopsters in Delaware or online

About the Author

Bill Babbitt is a retired engineer, beer lover, and freelance writer for Beer Advocate Magazine.

One Comment on "Rustic Brew Farm: Drink Beer Grown Here"

  1. Truddy September 15, 2016 at 8:05 PM · Reply

    Great article Matt! Wishing you much success in this new endeavor.

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