Thursday, March 21, 2013

Equal Exchange Biosphere Reserve Coffee

by Shane Smith, Outreach Coordinator
In our past newsletters we have highlighted one of our unique coffee choices in the bulk aisle. The biosphere reserve series from Equal Exchange showcases coffee from some of the most wondrous and wild places on the planet. Equal Exchange sources coffee from three national parks that are ecological powerhouses in different corners of the globe. Coffee is an important part of how communities buffering the parks preserve the protected ecosystems. This series highlights coffee from each park - one at a time, over the course of a year. At the Co-op, we are currently on our third coffee in the series, which is available now until May.

CECOVASA (The Organization of Agrarian Coffee Cooperatives of the Sandia Valleys), was founded in 1970, when a group of Peruvian coffee farmers in the Lake Titicaca region came together to avoid selling their beans to exploitative middlemen, and instead process and export their beans collectively. CECOVASA now includes eight coffee co-operative communities that are comprised of mostly Quechuan and Aymara indigenous peoples near the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park and the Tambopata-Candamo Nature Reserve. These communities are very remote, 10 to 15 hours by truck from Juliaca, the nearest city.

On a recent trip to the CECOVASA an Equal Exchange employee described her experience this way. “Most farmers that work the land in these remote places live in or near their village for their entire lives. Their commitment to the environment is not just a backdrop that can be easily altered to be more comfortable; it is an integral part of every moment of their lives.  They constantly meet the direct challenges of this environment, whether it is landslides, poisonous snakes or precariously cut dirt roads into the side of mountains. These everyday challenges directly impact the things they depend on for their livelihood: growing coffee.”

Equal Exchange's mission is to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers and to demonstrate, through their success, the contribution of worker co-operatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic and sustainable world.


Friday, March 8, 2013

Canterbury Ale Works

by Shane Smith, Outreach Coordinator
The Brewery
I like beer. I have never brewed it myself, but I’ve enjoyed the beers that many of my friends have brewed with home brewing kits over the years. My co-worker Brad and I had been to the Canterbury Ale Works several times since its grand opening in November to fill our growlers (refillable 64-ounce glass jugs), but when we learned that Canterbury Ale Works beer would soon be available in bombers (22-ounce bottles), we knew the Co-op must offer these locally made beers on our beer section.
We arrived at the Canterbury Ale Works a little early for our appointment for our interview with Steve Allman, the owner and brewer. So we let ourselves into the tasting room on the bottom floor of his barn at Hidden Wonders Farm. As we waited for Steve, we heard classical music emanating from the fermenting room. When we asked Steve about the music, he explained that playing Beethoven’s 6th Symphony – the Pastoral Symphony – helps agitate the yeast to the correct levels for optimal carbonation and fermentation... in this case for an India Pale Ale. This was the first of many curiosities about the Canterbury Ale Works and its unique beer brewing process that caught our attention.
CAW has 10 taps for sampling
Canterbury Ale Works operates as a “nanobrewery,” which is defined as a very small brewery operation. Steve says it’s important for him to remain a small-scale brewery so he can continue to manage the operation holistically as an extension of his organic farm. Steve explains his brewing philosophy this way:
“I am frequently asked, `What are your plans for growth?’ or told, `You could be the next Sam Adams!’ The reply is simple: No one mourns the loss of a Walmart store the way we keen the passing of the third-generation, creaky-floored, downtown hardware store with jumbled boxes of everything you need actually IN an old kitchen sink. No, no one is going to buy fancy cars and beach houses running a nanobrewery, but we can all commit to a more human future by building and engaging in our own, unique, local beer community.”
To that end, the Canterbury Ale Works hosts tastings Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, which are usually attended by locals who love good beer and are eager to share knowledge – whether it’s brewing, HVAC, refrigeration, or a host of other things that go hand in hand with running a nanobrewery.
Allman's homemade rocket stove
Steve as a brewer must be part mechanic, alchemist, and mad scientist. Steve heats his brews in a wood-fired boiler in small batches. He built this “rocket stove” himself because it was important to keep the wood he used for the boiling process from his land, and he didn’t want to use fossil fuels. He also laid the coiled copper pipe cooling system which quickly chills the wort with cold water from a recently drilled well on the farm. The cooled wort then can be put into the fermenter where yeast is added.
Last summer, Steve planted hop nurseries where he is experimenting with 26 varieties of hops – including some locally discovered heirloom varieties – which he hopes to soon transplant to other plots on his farm. He eventually hopes to drastically reduce or eliminate the need to buy hops for his brewing process. There are many challenges to growing hops in New Hampshire, however, which includes the threat of mold developing on the hop plants because of the high humidity of our summers. Hops are typically grown in the western United States where the climate is dryer, although prior to Prohibition, there were many varieties of hops cultivated in New Hampshire that supplied breweries throughout New England. Steve will also be incorporating elements from his on-going permaculture farm practices by running his A-frame chicken tractors up and down the hop rows for insect control, fertilizer, and preventing mature hop plants from spreading.
Steve with his fermenters
He hopes that Brookford Farm, just down the road from him in Canterbury, will be able to grow much of the grains needed to make the critical wort in the future. The first step in wort production is to make malt from dried, sprouted barley. The malt is then run through a roller mill and cracked. This cracked grain is then mashed, that is, mixed with hot water and steeped, a complex and slow heating process that enables enzymes to convert the starch in the malt into sugars and eventually alcohol. Even if Brookford is able to grow and supply Steve’s barley, the grain will still need to be sent to Hadley, Massachusetts for malting. New Hampshire currently has no facility for sprouting barley for wort.
As I write this article, Steve still needs to overcome some minor bureaucratic hurdles and paperwork to bring his brews to stores like the Co-op. However, we hope that by the time you read this, Canterbury Ale Works will be tucked away on our shelves in several varieties. Look for the Ale Man logo.
Learn more about Canterbury Ale Works at