Everything You Wanted to Know About Wheat Harvest

Is wheat harvested the same way as grass seed? How long does wheat harvest take? What machines are used? Is your wheat harvest the same as one in the midwest? Keep reading to find out more about what a typical wheat harvest for Mecca Grade Growers looks like!

Wheat harvest begins shortly after grass seed harvest is finished on the farm. The typical waiting period is due to the machines being switched over. The same machine that is used in grass seed harvest is used to harvest wheat, a combine,  however the header is different. It is changed over after grass seed harvest and is twice as wide, featuring a large wheel with teeth that rotate around cutting the wheat. Only two combines are used on our farm during wheat harvest since you can go twice as fast and harvest twice as much, as compared to grass seed.

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Wheat harvest header on a New Holland combine. 

The combines go back and forth in straight lines cutting the wheat. Wheat is cut and combined all at the same time as compared to grass which has to be swathed then combined. The large header cuts and thrashes the wheat kernels from the stalk and the grain goes into the storage bin. 

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Wheat being harvested with a New Holland combine with Mecca Grade Estate Malt in the background. 

Once the bin is full, it is dumped into the semi trailers. The tank becomes full much faster than with grass seed since wheat kernels are significantly larger and the drivers are going much faster. The grain trailers are then taken to the malt house to be unloaded. Some wheat will go into town to be stored until it is ready to be sold and then exported out of Portland, Oregon to go overseas. It will most likely be freighted to China, as Oregon wheat makes some of the best ramen noodles in the world.

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New Holland combine dumping wheat into semi trailers to be transported to Mecca Grade Estate Malt. 

Weight slips have to be filled out and used each time a truck is weighed. Whether it is for grass, grain or hay. The beginning weight is taken when the trailers are full and then they are weighed after to see how much grain was brought in. Then the truck heads to the dump pit.

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Weight slip being printed after the semi trailer brought in a load of wheat to be dumped. 

Each trailer has a contraption on the bottom that opens and closes to release whatever is in the trailer. The wheat is emptied into the pit where it is then gravity fed up into the storage silos. Before the wheat is bagged or malted, it is cleaned through a series of screenings to get rid of the chaff and debris. Each silo can hold one million pounds of grain! We have four at Mecca Grade, all for your delicious drinking pleasure!

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A load of wheat being hauled into Mecca Grade Estate Malt to be dumped into their grain silos. 

Once wheat harvest is over, then the fields are burned through our smoke management program and planted into Kentucky Bluegrass Seed fields for the next year. 

Greek Barley Salad

Everyone loves a good greek salad and this recipe is no exception. The pearled barley serves as a great protein source and also makes this salad extra filling. Do not be intimidated about cooking with barley if it is your first time, it is a hearty grain that you cannot really mess up, just make sure you do not undercook it! This salad comes together in a breeze and I can almost guarantee that you have most of the ingredients already on hand in your kitchen and pantry. 

If you are looking for a new side dish to take to a summer BBQ or potluck or want to stand out from all of the mayo-based salads that clutter the potluck table; look no further than this delicious and refreshing Greek salad, made with pearl barley. CLICK HERE for a free printable recipe card and keep scrolling to view the full recipe. 

Greek Barley Salad

Serves: 10-12

Ingredients:

1 c. Pearl Barley

1 Can Garbonzo Beans

1 c. Diced Cherry Tomatoes

1/2 c. Diced Red Onion

12 Kalamata Olives

1 c. Chopped Cucumber

1/4 c. Chopped Fresh Basil and Parsley

4 oz. Crumbled Feta

1/4 c. Red Wine Vinegar

1/2 c. Olive Oil

1/2-1 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

1 tsp. Basil

1 tsp. Oregano

1 tsp. Dill

1 tsp. Garlic

2 tsp. Salt

1/2 tsp. Pepper

1 tbsp. Dijon

Directions:

Cook pearl barley according to package directions, set aside and let cool. Drainand rinse garbonzo beans. Dice and add: tomatoes, red onion, olives, cucumbers, basil and parsley. Softly fold in barley and feta. For dressing whisk together: vinegar, olive oil, seasonings and dijon. Whisk until emulsified. Pour over salad and mix thoroughly. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. 

Chocolate Stout Cream Pie

Chocolate cream pie is good any time of the year and any time of the day. Thanksgiving? Sure. Breakfast? Even better. The flavor of this chocolate cream pie is elevated with the addition of dark, stout beer and strong brewed coffee. Topped with freshly, sweetened whipped cream and chocolate shavings, it is just fancy enough to impress your friends, while still having the comfort of a homemade cream pie.

And bonus, it makes TWO! One for you and one for a friend, or keep both for yourself, that's what I would do. 

CLICK HERE for a free recipe card and keep reading for the full recipe. 

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Chocolate Stout Cream Pie

Serves: 2, 9" Pies

Ingredients:

PIE

2, 9" Baked Pie Shells (Cooled)

2 Squares, Unsweetened Chocolate

2/3 C. Sugar

1/2 C. Flour

1 C. Milk

1 C. Stout Beer

2/3 C. Cream

1/4 tsp. Salt

1 tbsp. Butter

4 Egg Yolks, Beaten

1 tsp. Vanilla

1/4 C. Strong Brewed Coffee

WHIPPED CREAM

2 C. Heavy Cream

1 tsp. Vanilla

1/4 C. Powdered Sugar

Directions:

Bake and cool pie shells according to directions. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat in heavy bottomed pan. Add sugar blended with flour, milk, cream, beer and salt. Stir with whisk until this. Cook uncovered, 10 minutes longer. Add one cup of mixture to beaten egg yolks to temper. Add mix back to pot, cook another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and coffee. Let cool slightly and pour into baked pie shells. Cool completely. To make whipped cream, beat together cream, vanilla and sugar. Top with whipped cream and serve. 

Pancetta Stout Fettuccini

Although the weather is hot, fettuccini is always in season. This pasta dish is kicked up a notch with pancetta, fresh garden peas and a touch of stout beer to add extra richness you won't find in other run of the mill fettuccini alfredo recipes. This easy weeknight dinner comes together in less than 30 minutes and is guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser. 

CLICK HERE for your free recipe card and keep reading to make the full recipe. 

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Pancetta Stout Fettuccini

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:

1 lb. Fettuccini Noodles (Fresh or Dried)

4 oz. Diced Pancetta

1 tsp. Garlic

1 C. Diced Onion

1 C. Peas (Fresh or Frozen)

1 Stick Butter

2/3 C. Heavy Cream

1/3 C. Stout Beer

2 C. Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese (More for Garnishing)

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and place back in pot. While pasta is cooking, in a large pan, sauté pancetta until browned. Leaving pancetta drippings in the pan, add onions and garlic and continue cooking until caramelized. Add peas and cook until just warmed, set mixture aside. In the same pan, melt butter and add heavy cream and beer until warm. Once warmed, stir in the pancetta mixture. Sprinkle half of the parmesan cheese over the pasta and pour cream mixture over the noodles, stirring until incorporated. Top with the remaining cup of cheese and continue mixing. Serve with extra grated parmesan if you wish and enjoy. 

Autumn Fall to Table Dinner at Mecca Grade Estate Malt

On Saturday, September 22nd, Mecca Grade Estate Malt hosted their first Farm to Table Dinner in collaboration with Wild Oregon Foods. The evening started off with guests gathering under the twinkle of the barn lights to enjoy passed appetizers of sautéed long red beans from Paradise Produce with a crispy garlic sesame ginger vinaigrette and cocktails, Grand Pappy's Penicillin, made with Home Base Spirit's Bourbon.

Next guests enjoyed a four course plated dinner created by Chef James Fink of Wild Oregon Foods with ingredients from Jefferson County farmers and ranchers, paired with beers brewed with Mecca Grade Estate Malt. Many of the brewers were able to attend the dinner and talk about their beers along with Chef James presenting the food he had prepared. The dinner and drink menu included:

To Sip

To Savor

  • Mini bacon wrapped meatloaf with bacon from Hill Meat Company and beef from Symons Beef Company.

  • Heirloom tomato, grilled red onion from Paradise Produce and Oregon PNW peaches with a sherry orange vinaigrette.

  • Grilled tri tip from Symons Beef Company, spanish tortilla made with potatoes from Casad Family Farms and sautéed kale and chard from Seed to Table.

  • Mini tart trio- vanilla lavender, lemon meringue and chocolate espresso.

The evening ended with full stomachs, happy hearts and great conversations around the bonfire under the starry night central Oregon sky. Stay tuned for our next Farm to Table Dinner that we will be hosting this spring, we would love to see you there! 

Also, thank you to Amanda Photographic for capturing the evening wonderfully! Please enjoy her photos!

Historic Malting as Told By Seth Klann

Some of you might already know, but I’m a big history buff. In middle school, I traveled to Washington, DC to represent Oregon for the National History competition with my display and research on Nikola Tesla and the integrated circuit. I originally entered Oregon State University as a Political Science major because I wanted to be a high school history teacher.

Even on the farm, I am surrounded by the ghosts and hard work of all my ancestors that have come before me. It’s a bit daunting at times, but always rewarding. Eventually my love of history blended with my obsession for home-brewing and home-malting had pushed me to question the status quo of modern malt.

Which brings me to one of my biggest pet peeves: making “historical” styles of beer using modern malts.

Case in point: I just picked up a new book about brewing historic German beers. Malt is mentioned at the very beginning of the book, namely that we don’t “really know what historic malts tasted like”…and that…”subbing in continental pilsner malt is probably ‘close enough.”

This would be like me saying I could build a Model T using Toyota Camry parts.

I’ve seen countless recipes offer up “replacement” malts to replicate the beers of yesteryear, but, who are we kidding? If malt is the soul of beer, we honestly have no clue what beer tasted like a hundred years ago because we aren’t growing the same grains and malting using the same processes.

This is a problem that has bugged me since I first started malting in my garage: can we even get close to recreating what malt might have tasted like long ago? “Gateway,” our under-modified wind-malt, is my attempt at answering this question.

“Wind-malt” is a long-forgotten style of Belgian malt that was allowed to air-dry in very shallow beds (2-4”) in the lofts of barns. I’ve had a difficult time finding much information on wind-malt other than it was an essential ingredient in many styles of beer - including wits and lambics. I’m also not sure when it disappeared overseas, but to my knowledge, it has never been produced commercially in North America.

One of the main and often-repeated qualities of historic malt is that it was “under-modified.” Modification is the term we use to describe the degree to which the protein-starch matrix of the endosperm is broken down during the malting process. Most importantly, there seems to be an unspoken acknowledgment that taste panels prefer beers made using under-modified or less friable malts. If you want to venture down this rabbit hole, check out the work of our friends at the Oregon State University Barley flavor project HERE. 

Why then, do we believe that historic malts were under-modified? Hang with me folks, it’s going to get geeky.

Heirloom varieties of grain are an untapped wealth of unique flavors but can be a real challenge to sprout and grow consistently…whereas modern barley breeding has developed varieties that sacrifice flavor for super-charged yields both in the field and in the malthouse. For example: we can perform a basic germination test by applying 4ml of water to 100 kernels of any given grain/variety. After 72 hours, the sprouted seeds are counted. Most modern varieties will have more than 98 seeds sprouted, while heirloom varieties might be anywhere from 60-100.

Even with current varieties, modification can be a challenge. One of the tricks modern maltsters use for ensuring consistent modification is the use of gibberellic acid to treat germinating grain. This hormone is used accelerate modification and squeeze as much extract potential out of the malt as possible…it’s also one of those things that “just isn’t talked about.” That being said, the only ingredients historic maltsters used were water and grain. Fortunately, most craft maltsters (including us) follow this same logic and process.

With Gateway, we begin by using a notoriously difficult variety to malt: Full Pint. We use Full Pint for 100% of our barley malt because it best replicates the challenges (and flavors) that historic maltsters would be faced with. There’s no reason for us to malt conventional varieties of barley (such as CDC Copeland, AC Metcalfe, etc.) just because everyone else does it; and we already know the results would be flavor-neutral. We’re not in the business of merely making “okay” malt…but quick! Let me get down from my soapbox.

I was able to induce natural under-modification of the grain by shorting the normal amount of steep water. This forces the kernels to not imbibe a sufficient amount of water, leaving un-solubilized starch granules that will never become modified. Because our mechanical floor-malting process is so consistent, each kernel of Gateway has a speck of un-modified grain, as opposed to the mixed bag of over-modified and dead kernels you might find if someone else were to attempt the same process.

This steeping regime prolonged germination, but also allowed the grain to enter kilning at a lower moisture content. Finally, we used shallow grain beds (6” deep) and 90˚F air over the course of a couple days to replicate the breeze of warm air blowing the loft of a barn. The result is a malt bursting with the flavor and aroma of fresh-cut hay...and, because such low air temperatures were used, the resulting wort is nearly colorless.

This is but one of many smalls steps we’ve taken in blending old world methods with modern technology. I’m so excited to share this labor of love with you all and am thrilled with the final results. To purchase yours click HERE. 

Hopefully we’ll be able to not only answer “what did beer used to taste like?” but discover together how much better beer can be.

2018- The Year of Homebrewer

2018 was a big year for Mecca Grade. I thought about putting together a list of my favorite beers, events, or even predictions for 2019, but figured your inbox might still be flooded with everyone else’s. Instead, I’ve been reflecting on the past year (beer helps), and what made it so awesome. The common denominator? For me, 2018 was the “Year of the Homebrewer.”

While we’ve seen a surge in use of our malt at the commercial level, the excitement at the homebrew level has been off the charts and deserves to be noted. I think it’s fair to say that many of us got our start perched over a propane burner on the backporch. Homebrewers can afford to be more experimental, make styles of beer that aren’t “commercially viable,” or even resurrect historic methods of brewing and fermenting.

One trend I especially enjoy is the toppling of sacred cows: Carapils for head retention, anyone? This past year, I’ve really enjoyed growing our relationships with Denny and Drew of Experimental Brewing as well as Marshall and the crew of Brülosophy …fantastic examples of brewers not beholden to the party line.

From the very beginning, I’ve wanted to get our malt into the hands of as many people who can experiment with it as possible. To be honest, I do still cringe a bit when Brülosophy uses our malt in their “Short and Shoddy” experiments…but…if I didn’t truly believe in our malt, I wouldn’t put it out there to be ran through the ringer. I’m proud that our malt is a wildly unique product. As I’ve said before: there is no reason to be growing the same varieties and malting the same way as everyone else. Period.

We had a blast at the National Homebrewers Convention this year in Portland, OR. We met so many new and old friends and were overwhelmed by the amount of both support and curiosity in our malt. To cap the week off, our friend Greg Young won the coveted Ninkasi Award for accumulating the most amount of wins at the national level. Follow Greg on Instagram @brickandironbeerworks and check out this link for his Gold-winning Mexican Lager recipe which uses 2/3 Pelton and 1/3 flaked corn. 

We’ve also been proud to sponsor the Oregon State Homebrewer of the Year Award (OSHBOTY) going on three years now. The goal OSHBOTY is to promote PNW-based BJCP-sanctioned beer judging events and award the Oregon and SW-Washington homebrewers that regularly win them.

When the winners were announced this year…and I knew that 4 of the top 5 brewers used our malt…I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t want to seem like I was tooting my own horn. Well, the cat’s out of the bag now. We appreciate your support and honestly couldn’t do what we do without it - I doubt that I would want to either.

Finally, I think I am the most excited about our inaugural “Brewing Man” retreat (May 25-27, 2019). We are working with a fantastic group of brewers and distillers to plan a fun, educational, and hands-on experience like no other. Stay tuned as we roll out more information on it, and again, thank you for your support and patience.

2018 reinforced for us that, yes, while the best beer is made using the best ingredients…it needs those willing to take a chance on estate malt to make it happen. Let us never lose this curiosity, and in 2019, let’s push the envelope on how great beer can be.

Cheers,

Seth Klann