Today Foothills introduces its first pepper beer, For Heat’s Sake. It’s available on draft at the pub and tasting room.
You know where the beer comes from. But you probably don’t know where the peppers come from.
About 10 miles from our brewery, nestled by a lazy bend in the Yadkin River, lies a stretch of flood plain land that has been transformed into a unique farm.
It all started as a pet project for our owner Jamie Bartholomaus, on whose land the fledgling farm sits. Jamie is a brewer by trade but a gardener and farmer at heart. I mean, the guy once had over a hundred orchids.
Anyway he moved his family into the house on the property this March, and quickly began to map out a chunk to use for growing fruits and vegetables. Some to eat, some to give away . . . but most, to the delight of Chef Shane, earmarked for the kitchen at the pub.
One problem from the start – running a large regional craft brewery, and daddying three little girls at home, doesn’t leave a lot of time for tractors and tilling. As Jamie puts it, “running a farm is one of the few things that may be more work than running a brewery.” So he turned to longtime Foothills employee Chase Westmoreland, an integral part of our shipping operation but also a third generation farmer from Davidson County.
Another problem to start – the land is a flood plain meadow, a stone’s throw from the Yadkin River. That means it’s mostly river silt, largely devoid of the necessary nutrients to sustain large-scale farming. Jamie says he has yet to see an earthworm anywhere out there.
But that problem had a silver lining – since the land has stood fallow for a couple of decades, it is completely free of anything non-organic – no pesticides, no chemicals.
Jamie and Chase came up with a two-tiered plan – spend the growing season experimenting with different varieties of fruits and vegetables, while nurturing the soil with organic matter for long-term viability.
It was Chase’s job to decide what to plant – a role he took on like Noah preparing for the flood. In other words he planted two of everything – between 50 and 60 varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs. Who knew seven varieties of zucchini even existed?
Oh and there’s bees. Eight colonies of bees.
The results? Well if you’ve had pesto on anything at the pub lately, you’ve tasted the three varieties of basil they grew. If you’ve had a vegetable medley, then you’ve tried some of the seven different squash varieties. The farm yielded a bountiful harvest for the pub this summer – for everything from basics like tomato sauce to more creative applications – like a honey melon hot sauce our Sous Chef Sam recently whipped up for our smoked wings (it was amazing).
Then, of course, there’s the pepper beer – which uses four different varieties of peppers picked fresh from Jamie’s farm the day they went in the beer. It follows in the tradition of our Coffee Porter – which uses coffee home-roasted by Jamie and his wife Sarah.
Eleven years ago, Jamie started Foothills Brewing with the goal of influencing how people in our community enjoy craft beer. The goal of the farm is no different – a sustainable (did I mention the 33 solar panels?), non-GMO, organically grown, farm-to-table operation that influences and enhances the creative menus of our pub and other area restaurants – many of whom have already shown keen interest in our produce.
So look for more from Chase and Jamie’s farm in the future – including some interesting infusions for some of our beers. Maybe we’ll call one Green Thumb.