Islander Jacob Green (right) and Cliff Goodman of Vashon Brewing Company (left) use a combine to harvest barley last Thursday. Goodman is planning to incorporate the locally grown barley into his existing beer recipes and eventually experiment with other varieties that thrive in Western Washington. (Anneli Fogt/Staff Photo)

Brewer, farmer grow barley on Vashon

Weeks after announcing plans to open a pub in the spring, island beer brewer Cliff Goodman has harvested his first crop of island-grown barley.

Goodman, who was perched on the side of a bright red combine last Thursday, was accompanied by island farmer Jacob Green. The two harvested just under 2 tons of the golden plant off Green’s 5 acres at the center of the island.

“It’s a little bit, but it’s a good start,” Goodman said before further explaining that the amount will likely last him two or three months.

Barley is one of the main ingredients in beer and is processed after harvesting during a process called “malting.” The grains are germinated and then dried in preparation for mashing at the brewery. The Vashon barley will be sent to Eastern Washington to be malted before being sent back to Goodman to be turned into beer.

The operation is unique as there is no other barley being grown on Vashon, and it is rarely seen west of the Cascades. In North America, malting barley is grown primarily in the upper Midwest — Alberta, Canada, and the Dakotas — though there are some small concentrations in Eastern Washington. Worldwide, Russia and France produce the most.

Goodman, who owns Vashon Brewing, said he was inspired to try the crop on-island when he discovered Skagit Valley Malting was working with local farmers in northern Washington to malt barley. So when Vashon farmer Nathan Green, Jacob’s father and owner of Olympic Island Farm, introduced himself to Goodman at the Farmers Market earlier this year, the two got to talking barley.

“I said I’d been researching barley west of the Cascades, and he said he’d be open to trying it,” Goodman said. “He bought a combine from China, planted some acres in the spring and now we’re harvesting.”

The wet spring complicated the process early on. The barley was planted in April amid pouring rain and Jacob said a few tractors nearly got lost in the deep mud. The crop also went in later than both he and Goodman hoped and the two are already planning how to improve the yield next year.

“There’s so many varieties that all like different climates,” Goodman said. “Some actually like our maritime climate. That’s the next step, to hone in on what does well here. The long-term goal is to make better beer and do it locally and partner with local farmers to do it.”

Preview party

The community is invited to celebrate the upcoming launch of Vashon Brewing’s Community Pub at a preview party from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, at The Lodges on Vashon. A six-course small plates dinner and Cliff’s Beer will be served.

Space is limited. Tickets are $99 and available at tinyurl.com/yaalujot.