Published Sep 9, 2013

Brewing with local small grains — Worth Brewing Co. Field day

By Tomoko Ogawa


Our brewery field day, held in late July was organized in part of our efforts to keep fostering the conversations on new marketing potentials for small grains grown in Iowa.
Peter Ausenhus and Margaret Bishop, the owners of Worth Brewing Company and the hosts of our field day on brewing with locally grown small grains, have been creating and serving distinctive, hand-crafted beers in Northwood, Iowa since 2007.

Currently, Worth Brewing Company uses some hops that are grown in Cerro Gordo County, only 30 miles from the brewery. They also purchase some oats from Grain Millers in St. Anstgar, about 18 miles from the brewery. Worth Brewing company brews about five batches of beer a week—approximately 50 gallons. There are five year-round beers, Dillon Clock Stopper, Brown Ale, Field Trip IPA, Sunderland English Mild Ale and Oatmeal Stout. In addition to these year-round beers, they also brew at least one specialty per month. The Tri-County Rye Ale brewed for field day used honey from Worth County, hops from Cerro Gordo County and oatmeal from Mitchell County. “We try to use local ingredients whenever possible, since we’re so small and value our local resources,” says owner and brewer Peter Ausenhus. “We currenly don’t have many local raw materials, but we’re always searching for local sources.” Peter plans to malt some Iowa corn for use in a specialty beer in 2014. The brewery uses approximately 12 different types of malted barley and other grains from the U.S., Germany, England and Belgium. A similar number of hops come from the U.S., Germany, England and Eastern Europe. One of the most challenging aspects of brewing, Peter says, is maintaining a clean, consistent product, “Fans of our year-round beers expect their favorites to taste the same from one visit to the next.”

Approximately 30 attendees of this field day were split into two groups, to take a guided tour of the brewery with Peter, and to listen to the presentation on growing hops by John Barlow from Clear Lake in the tap room. John talked about the basic roles of hops in beer, which is to provide bitterness to offset sweetness from malt sugars and to preserve beer. There are more than 80 varieties of hops and new varieties are being created. He said one of the most common questions for new hop growers is to know when to harvest them. When hop cones dry on bine to papery consistency and hop resin (lupulin) is visible, they are most likely be ready for harvest. But First picking dates vary by variety of hops. Commercial industry standard for drying hop is 8 hours at 140 degrees, but John found the best time/temperature at 48 – 60 hours at 95 degrees.

During the tour of the brewery, Tom Frantzen posed a great question, asking Peter “What did come first – agriculture or beer?” This question prompted a lively conversation about the very long history of beer in different cultures – for example, how beer was paid as a wage for workers who built the pyramids in Egypt. Tom also recommended a book that sounds very interesting, called “A History of the World in 6 Glasses.”

The field day ended with the networking time over Tri-County Rye Ale and a meal with locally grown ingredients, featuring brats made with pork fed with small grains from our member Trinity Farms in Nevada, potatoes from Grade A Gardens in Johnston, beans and herbs from Onion Creek Farm in Ames. Some people also tried the beer samplers to taste different year-round beers and the specialty beers that were available on that day.