PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Grain and Malt Symposium, a unique regional convening of grain and malt value chain stakeholders behind products like beer, bread and whiskey, returns to Philadelphia on March 1 and 2. The organizers invite farmers, millers, maltsters, brewers, distillers, bakers, chefs, restaurateurs and consumers to join them in networking, educational and tasting sessions designed to strengthen the small grains value chain in the Philadelphia region.
“Developing a strong value chain for grain and malt is really important, but processing, the middle of the value chain, is behind in a lot of ways,” said Mark Brault, founder of the symposium and owner of Deer Creek Malthouse, the first maltster to operate in Pennsylvania since Prohibition.
“Farmers have been growing grain in this region for a long time, and there are lots of brewers, bakers and distillers here using malt, but it mostly comes from outside region,” Brault said. “Now, regional millers and maltsters are trying to fill the gap.”
Millers and maltsters provide an essential service to growers as well as producers like brewers, distillers and bakers by processing grains in accordance with the high quality and food safety standards necessary to create the best quality consumer products.
The symposium, now in its third year at University of the Sciences, originated in 2012 as an informal group of stakeholders talking grain and malt over craft beer. In addition to networking, this one-of-a-kind event includes technical and educational presentations and the opportunity to taste the products made by skilled food and beverage artisans utilizing local grain and malt in the Philadelphia region.
A luminary of Pennsylvania agriculture will kick off Saturday’s sessions. Hannah Smith-Brubaker, former Pennsylvania Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and current executive director of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, will deliver a keynote address titled “Farming for Our Future.”
While symposium sessions always aim to provide valuable information and insight to stakeholders across the small grains value chain, this year’s programming was designed to appeal to farmers in the region after a very wet growing season in 2018 that was especially hard on small grains producers.
“No matter where you are downstream in the value chain, it was a bad year for farmers in general, including small grains producers,” Brault said.
In recognition of this hardship and to build excitement for the coming season, the 2019 symposium is offering discounted tickets at just $25 to farmers. Sessions include producer-focused topics such as guidance on how to grow barley for malting, how to connect directly to processors or food and beverage producers, information on working with the state’s PA Preferred program to promote products locally, and market development opportunities for small grains throughout the Mid-Atlantic.
The 2019 Grain & Malt Symposium begins with a networking social from 6 to 8 p.m. on March 1 at New Liberty Distillery in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood, where attendees can enjoy cocktails, snacks and distillery tours in addition to connecting with fellow stakeholders.
Symposium sessions begin on the morning of March 2 with a day of workshops on market and value chain development and breakout sessions on malting, farming, brewing, distilling, milling and baking. Saturday afternoon’s Local Product Showcase provides attendees with an opportunity to sample food and drink made by area producers working with local grain and malt.
Tickets range from $25 to $95 per person, classified by the attendee’s role in the value chain. Ticket types are available for the full two-day symposium, Friday evening’s event only and for Saturday’s Local Product Showcase only. All two-day tickets include lunch on Saturday made with local grain and malt and access to the Local Product Showcase. Prices go up at the door, so organizers recommend purchasing in advance.
— Philadelphia Grain and Malt Symposium