Mar 7, 2022 - Food and Drink

Farm to tap: breweries team up with farmers

Illustration of a hand pulling up a bunch of beers from the leafy tops, as if they were carrots.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Local breweries across Tennessee are collaborating with the state Department of Agriculture on a farm-to-tap initiative that hooks up Volunteer State farmers with beer makers.

Why it matters: The goal is to build a pipeline of locally grown ingredients to be used in Tennessee-made beers.

  • And similar to the farm-to-table craze that swept restaurants several years ago, the hope is to use the partnerships as a marketing tool to convince consumers to drink more Tennessee beers.

What's happening: Farm to Tap launched with a $350,000 state grant included in Gov. Bill Lee's budget last year.

  • Kyle Hensley, a business development consultant with the state Department of Agriculture, says the agency made sense to lead the grant program because it regulates the brewing industry.

What they're saying: Farmers can't commit to adding a new crop if they don't know the market for the produce, Hensley says, while brewers can't bank on a Tennessee-based supply chain unless they know the produce quality and that farmers can meet their demand.

  • "We can do a lot to help farmers to supply the inputs that go into craft beer," Hensley tells Axios. "It has not really been a thing to this point."

Details: Experts say Farm to Tap is well-positioned to help farmers because Tennessee has an ideal climate to grow barley, one of the baseline ingredients in beer.

  • "We started exploring what brewers are already using that's grown in Tennessee, while also looking at what farmers are already growing that could be used in Tennessee beer," Sharon Cheek, executive director of the nonprofit Tennessee Craft Brewers Guild, tells Axios.
  • One example of a farm-to-tap partnership that has worked is Nashville's Southern Grist Brewing, which Cheek says uses sugar baby watermelons grown locally in its beers.

Driving the news: Farm to Tap is in the midst of hosting beer festivals across the state. The next festival is Saturday at TailGate Brewery on Charlotte Pike.

  • More than 30 in-state breweries that utilize Tennessee-grown crops and products will be showcased at the event. Tickets are $50.

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