Skagit Valley Malting (SVM) is doing something different — but you might have already known that. The northwest Washington maltster has made a name for itself already in the beer industry by giving the same care and attention to malts as vintners do with grapes, selling its Skagit Valley-grown grains to Seattle-based powerhouses like Fremont and Pike Brewing as well as Westland Distillery, to smaller operations like nearby Farmstrong and Foggy Noggin in Bothell.
What you might not know is that beginning in January SVM started a new sponsorship program where the company teams up with a partner brewery each month of the year to brew a charity beer in which SVM donates all the malt for the base.
THE TRUTH ABOUT MALTS
The tendency to overlook malts for hops is something that SVM is working to slowly change and a program like this helps to get the word out with a cause. “Beer is barley, that’s what makes a beer,” says Adam Foy, SVM vice president of business development. “Most of all beer creation is the fermentation of malted barley. Everyone got the same variety… what we’ve been able to do and why this is important is we were the first craft maltster out there.”
As it has grown, SVM has cemented itself into the Northwest beer industry, supplying malt to breweries all over the region. In creating this fundraising platform, Foy and the team wanted to move away from the discounts they were offering and instead find a way for breweries to be incentivized to work with each on creative projects and collaborations.
“We’re an active part of the community and we know that breweries are a big part of the Northwest,” Foy says. “If we’re supporting what they care about then that’s a better, more authentic way to be a supplier in this environment than to just offer cheaper rates. Let’s go all the way in and really benefit the greater community for it.”
INAUGURAL COLLAB BREW
SVM’s first collaboration involved a handful of local businesses including Gruff Brewing, The North Fork Brewery and Northwest Hop Farms in Chilliwack, British Columbia. The farm, like SVM, donated the hops to make the special brew. Proceeds for this first release benefitted the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC), a nonprofit collaborative effort between the US Forest Service Northwest Avalanche Center and the Northwest Avalanche Center, with a mission to save lives and reduce the impacts of avalanches in Washington’s Cascade and Olympic Mountains.
In line with the mountain theme the two breweries bring to the table given their Whatcom County location that is subsequently popular among those who like to hit up Mt. Baker in the winter, the appropriately named Tips Up! IPA was released last month. A nod to the skiing community, this first beer was celebrated by inviting beer lovers to go up to nearby Mt. Baker on the “Mt. Baker Brew Bus” for a drink and then head to Gruff and North Fork for another.
“It was a great promotion and then NWAC is going to get all the benefit out of the beer because everyone sponsored their time and the materials,” Foy adds. “It’s important to us because we feel like it’s our best expression of being like a local neighborhood grain supplier to these breweries and distilleries, too.”
THE FUTURE IS SUDSY
SVM has most of the calendar penciled in with collaborations for the year, upcoming team projects include Stoup Brewing and Loowit Brewing to be released soon. The breweries choose the cause they want to support, SVM supplies the malt for however many batches the brewery wants to do.
“What [the breweries] care about, we care about,” Foy says. “We want to partner in on things that are special to them.”
Foy hopes this program will be able to last beyond 2019 and to continue these collaborations and support for charities the breweries are passionate about.
“I think this is a more authentic expression of how to get people engaged and… combining our efforts into something meaningful like a charity beer or getting a bunch of breweries together to do a collaboration beer,” Foy says. “Those things are important to us and I know they’re important to the brewers and so that’s what we’re kind of doubling down on.”