Boston Local Food Festival

Presented by Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts

Four Star Farms Shines in Local Craft Brews

Small-Hops-resized1-300x201The next time you taste a Massachusetts craft beer, consider the fact that an ancient glacial lake may be part of the history of your beverage.

Tens of thousands of years ago, Lake Hitchcock, with its clay bottom and fertile sediment, covered much of the land along what is now the Connecticut River in central Massachusetts. Almost three hundred acres of that rich soil now are cultivated by the L’Etoile family of Four Star Farms in Northfield. Their “Hadley Loam” nurtures grains (including wheat, barley, rye, spelt and corn), beautiful landscaping turf, and, increasingly, hops.

Settlers in the Massachusetts Bay Colony first imported seeds for hops in 1629, and by the late 1700s hops were one of Massachusetts’ principal agricultural products and exports. While hops production eventually shifted north to New York State and then westward as the country expanded, today Four Star Farms is part of what they hope is a resurgence of hops production in New England.

IMG_8611-225x300The L’Etoile family has been farming for more than 25 years, and current owners Gene and Bonnie, with their sons Nate and Jacob, are the “four stars” behind the farm (their surname means “star” in French). Their daughter in law Liz, the farm’s director of sales, brings a fifth star to the constellation. The L’Etoiles diversified into grains after managing a turf farm in the 1970s and 80s, and now manage most of their product on site, harvesting and milling their grains into cornmeal and flours. They sell their products to specialty markets, individual consumers, restaurants, bakeries, local craft brewers and homebrewers throughout Massachusetts. Four Stars’ barley malt and hops are the foundations of craft brews across the state, including products from the Cambridge Brewing Company, Aeronaut Brewing Company, and Wormtown Brewery among othersm some of which you can taste test at the Hyper-Local Craft Brewfest. Liz L’Etoile says that “There’s no feeling that compares to the level of pride we feel when we taste a finished product made with something we’ve grown. Local brewers and bakers are real craftsmen who produce these amazing works of art.”

Four Star currently grows three varieties of hops: Cascade and Nugget, which are primarily used as aromatics in craft brews, and Magnum, which is used as a bittering agent, its flavor counteracting some of the intense malt sugars in craft beer. Four Star is looking forward to its largest hops harvest this year, and if all goes well will produce 3000-5000 pounds of dried hops. The hops harvest will begin in mid-August, and the L’Etoiles hope to be able to maintain their inventory through the calendar year.

Four Star Farms will attend  this month’s Hyper-Local Craft Brewfest to share information about their products and practices. This connection with consumers to promote sustainable local agriculture is part of what the L’Etoiles call their “steadfast commitment” to the environment and the Massachusetts agricultural community.

That commitment helps produce some pretty terrific food and drink, too.

This post was brought to you by Beth Falk of Beth Falk Writes. Go check her out!

Posted by: Beth Falk on June 4, 2014 @ 12:14 pm
Filed under: Beth Falk Writes,Blog,Farms,Hyper-Local Craft Brewfest