Skagit Valley Malting Barley Bonanza

The annual Skagit Valley Barley Bonanza is on Friday July 14th! Join Skagit Valley Malting at its malthouse for a day of all things barley. Hear from Washington State University BreadLab researchers, tour a test plot where new varieties are being grown, and tour the facilities; while enjoying food and beers with other folks who are interested in local ingredients.

It’s a one-day event that is an excellent opportunity to meet some of the folks responsible for craft malt and barley in Washington State.

  • Date: Friday July 14th
  • Time: 11AM – 6PM
  • Location: Skagit Valley Malting Granary

Please RSVP by sending a message to


Skagit Valley Malting Wins Major Award

Skagit Valley Malting is proud to announce its Bronze at The 2022 RMI Brewing Supply Awards. These awards recognize excellence in the supply of malt products to the brewing industry through transformative innovations, sustainability initiatives, and supply chain agility.

The award was given for Category B:

“Maltsters who have an operational plant capable of outputting less than 50KT of malt annually and who have implemented over the past 3 years projects and/or programs which have either essentially transformed the agricultural, manufacturing and/or sales & distribution characteristics of the malting industry as recognized by their customers & industry peers.”

Highlighting increased diversity in product line-up by offering Gluten-Free Malts while working towards full Gluten-Free certification, along with a deepened commitment to sustainability. By adding on-farm anaerobic digesters, and increasing the number of Salmon-Safe, Organic, and other third-party certified growers, Skagit Valley Malting generated very positive feedback from the panel of judges.

Combining new processes and diversified sustainability practices, Skagit Valley Malting was the only American malthouse and the only member of the Craft Maltsters Guild, to be honored at the awards gala that took place on March 30th, 2022 in Antwerp Belgium. Other award winners included – Category A: Muntons, Bairds, Malteurop; Category B: Castle Malting, The Swaen/Birdies.

Dave Green, CEO of Skagit Valley Malting on the award, “It means a lot to our team to be recognized for the work they’ve put in over the past couple of years, as we’ve made changes to our company and moved toward a more sustainable supply chain. We’re also proud to be held up alongside these other companies who are helping to move our industry in a great direction.”

2020: The Year of the Pivot for Skagit Valley Malting

by Skagit Valley Malting

2020 will be remembered by many as the year of the pivot. As challenges presented themselves, we adapted, pivoted, and overcame. We went into the year with high hopes of smashing our numbers from our 2019 Year-End and ended the year with new ideas and strategies to continue to support our customers, growers, and goals.

2020 Accomplishments

  • Announced our Salmon-Safe Malt Program with the addition of two of our growers getting Salmon-Safe certification
  • Launched our Webstore to offer products direct to homebrewers, including 5lbs bags that better fit their way of purchasing
  • Built out a Gluten-Free product line by retrofitting a machine to handle Millet and standardizing our SOP to hit numbers for FDA approval
  • Donated 43,390lbs of malt to be made into hand sanitizer
  • Donated Oregon-grown Wintmalt Pale to be used in beers benefitting the Oregon Brewers Guild
  • Sponsored Washington Pint Day to support the Washington Brewers Guild
  • Pushed towards deeper ties with the Craft Malt Guild with 8 customers joining the guild and becoming Craft Malt Certified
  • Further developed our Talisman Barley line by adding True British Ale
  • Collaborated with 20 breweries in San Diego to launch and build our footprint in the market
  • Created and developed staff sensory training to increase base knowledge during state-mandated lockdowns
  • Learned the ins and outs of Instagram Live while shipping over 500 sample bags of Smoked and Peated malt to build a unique experience with our friends at Westland Distilling

While no one knows what 2021 will bring, we are confident that the lessons we learned this year, the new products and lines we were able to build, will offer us a strong year and provide more value to our customers.

We also have some incredible projects that we can’t quite announce yet, but they include new varieties, grains, and collaborations! Let’s do this 2021!

Farmstrong Brewing Now Using 100% Skagit Valley Malt


News Release

Three years ago, Farmstrong Brewing opened its doors in Mount Vernon, WA. Within that time we’ve seen amazing growth, both in the industry we love and the place we call home. The Skagit Valley is home to not only some of the country’s most fertile farmland but also to an incredible community. Our focus has always remained on showcasing our county’s bounty and using as many local ingredients as possible. For years we’ve strived to create “truly local” beer, and while most of our creations could hold that title, we were unable to bring our two flagships under that banner…until now.

As of March 1st, 2019, all our beer is now made from local grain. We’ve spent the last year working hand-in-hand with local farmers and maltsters to transfer the entirety of our recipes to 100% Skagit Valley Malt. Every glass of Farmstrong beer now comes from grain that was grown, malted and brewed within a 10-mile radius. This “estate brewing” aspect allows us to do something incredibly unique in the beer industry: showcase the terroir of our land. Crafting award-winning beer while remaining agriculturally-independent is no longer a dream, but a reality.

Head brewer Thane Tupper has spent months reworking our recipes over to Skagit Valley Malting. Using expertise gained from years brewing at Mac & Jack’s, Elysian, and most recently, Pfriem, Thane has made sure to keep our classics tasting identical to what our fans have come to expect.

“It’s been a lot of work but it was worth it,” says Thane. “As a brewer, I’m excited for new challenges and this one was very important to me and the rest of the team.”

When Thane joined the team back in 2017, Farmstrong already had a growing reputation in the industry with two Washington staples under their belt: Cold Beer Pilsner and La Raza Ambar. These two beers were their best-selling by a large margin but were also the only ones not utilizing local malts. When we canned and released Valley Gold it was Farmstrong’s first canned beer to brandish the “Grown Here. Malted Here. Brewed Here” slogan, and at that time a decision was made to ensure that that mantra encapsulated all of our beer.

So, the next time you taste a Farmstrong beer, know that it’s the freshest, most “truly local” beer we can brew. We’re proud of that, and we hope you are, too.


Know Your Beer Farmer

Usually when imbibing your favorite Indie Beer, you are drinking a combination of 4 ingredients: water, malted barley, hops and yeast (if drinking Budweiser add some rice and if drinking Coors or Miller add some corn).  Of these 4 ingredients, barley leads the pack in importance as barley gives beer its color, underlying flavor, sweetness, body, head of foam and mouthfeel.  Today I had the opportunity to ride along with Dave Hedlin, third generation farmer, of Hedlin’s Family Farm in La Conner, WA.  Hedlin’s Family Farm is located less than 10 miles from Skagit Valley Malting where the barley will be malted when harvested in late August.  Today Dave was planting organic Skagit Copeland Barley.

Skagit Copeland Barley is a two-row spring variety which has distinctive regional flavors, such as honey and graham biscuits.  The Valley’s remarkably plump kernal size and proteins make Skagit Copeland distinctive and more intense than typical Copeland grown in the North American Great Plains. What also makes this barley remarkable is Dave the farmer and the maltsters over at Skagit Valley Malting.  Knowing the region where your barley is grown and recognizing the values of the farmers and maltsters, will only deepen your appreciation for your love of drinking beer with Skagit Malts.


Dave met me this afternoon at the red barn behind the family farm house.  After asking me to not fall off the tractor and giving me some basic tractor safety tips, I hopped on the back of the grain drill above the harrow.  Growing up in Iowa, living in La Conner for the past 22 years, hiring the band The How and the Harrow for Skagit Farm to Pint FEST, you think I would know what a harrow is.  Nope. I thought Dave was saying arrow.  The harrow’s purpose is to cover the seeds once they are metered by the grain/seed drill. Dave carefully watches as he plants the organic Skagit Copeland Barley.  He only looks up to wave at another farmer, to point out a unique bird (Killdeer) and to smile at the crew working in the fields.

I will be following this beautiful field with the Skagit River Delta on one side and the town of La Conner on the other side (which includes the Salish Sea/Swinomish Channel, museums, boutiques, a brewery and some great restaurants) throughout the summer and will ride along with Dave again at harvest time.   “What kind of ice cream would you like?”,  Dave shouts out to the crew before driving me back to my car.  Now that’s the kind of guy I want tending the most important ingredient in my beer!


Farmland Remain Farmland

Farming roots run generations deep in the rich, fertile Skagit Valley, 80,000 contiguous acres of rich farmland, tucked in between the North Cascades and the Salish Sea. Over the years, the Skagit Valley has been recognized as having some of the most agriculturally productive and valuable farmland in the world—ranked in the top 2 percent of soils. However, located between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., Skagit County has faced, and continues to face, growing population, development and regulatory pressures. Farmers confront additional economic pressures from unpredictable crop prices, competition from corporate agriculture and climatic uncertainties.

The challenge to preserve this unique, irreplaceable agricultural valley came to a head in 1989. Spurred by an unsuccessful attempt by the Trillium Corporation to develop a 280-acre theme park on prime farmland, known as Hollyhock Farms, five local farm families and their supporters joined together to found Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland (SPF).

Even with Skagitonians fighting development pressure, the toll on Skagit agriculture can be measured by the loss of farmland: More than 150,000 acres were farmed in the 1940s; today, only 108,500 of the county’s 1.1 million total acres are farmed, by an aging population of farmers. The average age of farmers is 57 years. Skagit’s exceptional farmland faces such intense development pressure that the American Farmland Trust designated the region the fifth most threatened agricultural region in the nation. Because of these pressures and the aging population of farmers, The Viva Farms Incubator started in 2009. The Port of Skagit leases 33 acres to Viva Farms that are subleased to new farmers to launch and grow their businesses. Viva Farms minimizes prohibitive start-up costs by providing access to shared resources: education, training, equipment, technical assistance, capital, land, and markets.  Besides being home to Viva Farms, The Port of Skagit is also home to Skagit Valley Malting, Cairnspring Mills, Chuckanut Brewery, Garden Path Fermentation, the Skagit Valley Brewing Academy and the Bread Lab.

The Bread Lab was the starter to this now growing innovative zone at the Port.  “The valley’s farmers were losing money because what they had was a commodity competing with 50 million other acres of wheat grown in the United States,” said Stephen Jones, Ph.D., one of the nation’s premier wheat breeders and director of the Bread Lab at Washington State University (WSU). “They’d grow it, bring it down to Portland and sell it at a loss. Then it would leave the country to be used in various generic baked goods. Any potential added value to the Skagit Valley was lost.”  Jones works with area farmers, the Bread lab breeds and helps farmers test new and forgotten varieties of wheat, barley, buckwheat and rye.

Skagit Valley Malting malts the grain and our Skagit Farm to Pint breweries use the malt in their beers.  YOU drink these beers on the Skagit Farm to Pint Ale Trail.  Come out to the Port of Skagit for the Skagit Farm to Pint FEST and meet the brewers, the maltsters, the farmers, the millers and the bakers!  CHEERS!


Farmstrong Brewing – A Good Idea Gets Better

At first take, one might not perceive the founders of Farmstrong Brewing as visionaries. Upon deeper inspection, though, it’s easy to conclude that may be exactly what they are.

Todd Owsley and Mike Armstrong present a casual take on their current business, but underlying the farm boy cool exteriors are a couple of astute business partners who know their stuff and are savvy enough to stay ahead of the curve.

Owsley, with a twenty-year background in distribution and marketing, and Armstrong, with twenty years under his belt as a brewmaster, stumbled upon their business idea doing what a lot of people do – musing about what they would do if they won a lottery. “Open a brewery!” said Owsley. A couple of weeks later, Armstrong came back with a sincere “let’s do it.” To his way of thinking, they didn’t need to win the lottery to realize their dream.

The name Farmstrong apparently popped up as a humorous take on Armstrong’s name, with a reference to the Skagit Valley, where Armstrong has lived for 24 years. Owsley, with a background in sales, thought it was actually a good name. With their third partner-Dan Cameron-being a fourth generation Skagit Valley resident who still owns farmland his ancestors once farmed, it made even more sense. Armstrong immediately secured domain names for a web site. Just in case.


Farmstrong Partners (left to right): Dan Cameron, Mike Armstrong, Todd Owsley | photo credit:

So, with a name and an idea, the three partners set to work. First, they secured a location – a 10,000 square foot warehouse next to the freeway that had been recently vacated by Sears. (Armstrong saw Sears moving out one day and immediately investigated the possibility of renting the space.) Then they set up shop. Armstrong took care of the beer part of the business, Owsley set up distribution and Cameron, recently retired from Operations at the Tesoro plant in Anacortes, and with an MBA, provided partial funding as well as solid business advice.

Although the story as told by the partners sounds a little serendipitous, as with most successful business ventures, they had years of experience behind them, a solid vision, and the wherewithal to make things happen. Less than a year after securing a lease they opened for business. Their pace hasn’t slowed since. According to Owsley, while they set modest business goals, they are a full two years ahead of their plan.

They started with 11 styles of beer. Why? “Because that’s how many taps we had!” jokes Armstrong in his self-deprecating manner. They also started with a notion to keep things local. A tagline the company uses a lot is “grow something!” When asked about this, they respond quickly with many takes on the slogan. It’s easier to grow something than to buy it. It’s important to grow relationships. Everybody should grow something.


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Keeping It Local

What they have grown most is relationships. Take the relationship with Skagit Valley Malting for example. One could call this local networking at its best. Armstrong, because of his long history as a brewmaster in the Valley, heard about the concept for Skagit Valley Malting from Will de Remer, who is the head maltster at Skagit Valley Malting and one of the original crew members involved in producing their patented technology.  Armstrong liked the idea of being able to use malt from grains grown in the fields around him, so he kept abreast of developments as the company moved from concept to reality to producing product. Today there is a strong and mutually beneficial relationship.

Owsley points out that going local isn’t just a ‘feel good’ concept. It makes economic sense, in many ways. Many brewmasters get their specialty malts from Europe, so having access to a local malting company presented a unique opportunity. Using local ingredients reduces transportation costs so that the higher cost per pound of local custom malt products ends up being just as cost efficient as products made by larger companies that have higher transportation costs. In other words, the price per pound for custom malted grains may be more, but being able to drive the company truck over and pick up the malted grain for just a few gallons of gas more than compensates for the difference. It also keeps money in the Skagit Valley. And one of the core principles of Farmstrong is to be an asset to the community. What better way to do that than to contribute to the local economy, not just take from it?


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Taste of the Valley

With the availability of local grain varietals, Farmstrong works directly with Skagit Valley Malting to experiment with custom malt batches. When he got a bug to try something new, Skagit Valley Malting needed little convincing to help Armstrong test what he calls his Fiery Theory. It’s a concept that hadn’t been tried since 1890. Armstrong arranged with Skagit Valley Malting to pick up freshly malted NZ 151 grain that was still 150 degrees warm. Most beers are made with malted grain that has been cooled because the theory is that the hot temperatures will prohibit the malt from being extracted, as the grains won’t separate properly. Armstrong tasted the hot grains to see if they would release the flavor instead of becoming gummy and thought they were fine, so he created his first batch of Fiery saison. And he liked it. So did others. Now he’s planning to try his Fiery theory on multiple styles of brews.

That’s just one example of how Farmstrong is working with Skagit Valley Malting to create something original to the valley.

While tasting multiple beers from their taps, Owsley explains that he doesn’t have the sensitive palate of the brewmasters in the company, but he noticed a taste in every beer that, as he puts it, “tasted like the valley.” It was a certain terroir, to use a wine tasting term, and everyone agreed they wanted to make that a signature of their beers. So much so that nine out of 11 beers currently on tap are made exclusively with Skagit Valley Malting products.


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Ultimately, the company would like all their beers to be made with locally malted grain. Just as there are wine regions that have a distinctive flavor, Farmstrong believes their beer is distinguished by a specific regional taste. Having a strong partnership with a local malting company, as well as the farmers who grow the grain, gives them a distinct advantage in creating their own, unique brews.

Currently Skagit Valley Malting offers three core base malts (Copeland, Alba and Skagit White Club Wheat), five exploratory varieties, seven specialty series and has the ability to produce custom malts in small and large batches. In other words, there’s more than enough available to keep the flavors interesting.

Community Support

Armstrong is such a respected community member that he was asked to assist in the designing of the curriculum for Skagit Valley College’s Craft Brewing Academy. Since that program started, Farmstrong has hired two of its graduates as assistant brewers. Farmstrong sees it as a great place to spot new talent and says all the local microbreweries benefit.

Farmstrong gives back to the community in other ways as well. Recently they created Zeek IIPA at the request of Seattle’s PCC markets. For the Zeek IIPA, Armstrong is using Skagit Valley Malting’s Pilot Pale and Dark Munich malts.  For every bottle of Zeek sold, .25 cents will go back to the Skagit Valley community to as a contribution to fund a beginning farmer scholarship through Viva Farms. Viva Farms is a non-profit business incubator that not only trains up-and-coming farmers, but also helps experienced farmers establish their own business while minimizing initial start-up costs. Not surprisingly, Viva Farms is a favorite non-profit of Farmstrong to support. With foresight, they understand that it’s critical to continue to support farmers to keep the Skagit Valley a successful agricultural area.

“We want to be more than just a beer maker,” says Owsley, “we want a deeper connection to the community.”


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What The Future Holds

The partners are a little cagey about their future. They talk in general terms about wanting to take care of their employees (there are 11), about making their space a gathering place for locals, and about gauging the trends in the beer industry.

This is where years of experience is evident, as they pay attention to what’s trending and can respond quickly with their own take on things. For example, many brewers feel IPAs have peaked in popularity since the revolt to big American corporate breweries’ bland lagers has been the only option for years. Lagers are one of the best beers to showcase the flavor derived from malts and microbrews are proving they don’t have to be bland. Without the heavy hops, one can start to taste the different flavors of all these interesting grain varietals. Astute beer lovers are following this trend, causing the popularity of lagers to rise.

As the beer-consuming public becomes more knowledgeable, it’s likely consumers will begin to understand the subtle differences in flavors the way wine consumers’ tastes have grown over the years through exposure to better and better wines.

Armstrong, who had two grandparents who were chefs, and has a daughter who is a pastry chef, is the artist who defines the taste. It’s clearly in his blood. He’s very articulate about what he likes and what he wants and, as he describes it, he has a rolodex of recipes in his head from years of experience. A little of this, a little of that, and he creates the flavor he wants. Then he hands it off to Lead Brewer, Thane Tupper, who determines the exact recipe, gathers data, and does the testing to recreate the flavor again and again.


Mike Armstrong | photo credit:

This combination of artistry and chemistry is exactly what’s propelling Farmstrong Brewing to the forefront of successful microbreweries. Owsley and Armstrong are quick to compliment the 10 other microbreweries in the Skagit Valley, and they express a lack of interest in acquiring awards, except for the sake of helping the business. But make no mistake, behind their easy-going, good guy, just want to make good beer exterior is a fierce dedication to their craft, their business, and their employees. They already have many awards under their belts. They are two years ahead of their business goals. They have established and grown local relationships that spread out across the Skagit Valley. And earlier in 2017 they launched their latest beer, Valley Gold, grown here, malted here, brewed here.

Maybe they won the lottery after all.

Cardinal Craft Brewing Open Every Friday!

Cardinal Craft Brewing is now open every Friday from 4-8!  In addition to eight beers on tap, Cardinal Craft Brewing is now selling their new merchandise just in time for the holidays.

Currently on tap and ALL featuring Skagit Valley Malt is the Blonde, Viva Farms Strawberry Blonde, Brown, Oktoberfest, Session IPA, Amber, Dunkelweizen and their first nitro Nitrock Dry Stout.  Pints are $5 and you can experience a flight for only $7.  Also, growler fills are available.

Stop by to support the Skagit Valley College Brewing Academy and taste new brews made by Skagit Valley College students.  Feel free to bring your own food and snacks to enjoy and families are welcome.

Cardinal Craft Brewing is one of the more challenging Skagit Farm to Pint stamps to get and definitely worth it!

Skagit Valley Malting Barley Field

Going for a tractor ride on May 8th, 2017, Susan Welch of Skagit Valley Malting interviews Dan Gunderson while he is planting their first barley field of the year named NZ-151. NZ-151 (two row spring variety) was bred by Washington State University breeders. “The flavor has almost a rye note, nice clean finish and was also bred to encourage clarity, minimal post-refrigeration hazing,” say Susan.

Skagit Valley Malting Showcase – 2018

Have you experienced the Fresh Hop Festival? The Skagit Valley Malting Showcase takes beer tasting to the next level! The goal of this event is to showcase the grains that are growing here in the Skagit Valley as well as the amazing things going on with Skagit Valley Malting right here in our backyard.