Arizona's first malt house helps keep the Verde River and local beer flowing

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Customers at the Wren House brewery in Phoenix might not realize it, but when they draw a draft here, they are helping make sure water still flows some 100 miles to the north in the Verde River.

That is because at Hauser and Hauser Farms in the Verde Valley, they have now started growing acre after acre of barley, grown all spring long and replacing the traditional summer corn they usually grow.

Kevin Hauser says that means more water will stay in the river. 

“We are starting out in January, in February we are getting rain. And you know there is tons of water in the river and creeks then.”

But Hauser needs more than green fields to keep farming. He also needs to bring in another type of green. 

“My banker he cares, so I really have to make a profit. And that really is what it boils down to.”

And that is where the creation of Sinagua Malt comes into play. Working with the Nature Conservancy, Sinagua Malt is the first malt house in Arizona and critical to making locally grown barley make money.

“If there is no place to sell it there is really no reason to grow it,” says Hauser.

Sinagua owner Chip Norton adds, “Someone needs to convert that product (barley) to a malt.”

At Sinagua, just down the road from the farm in Camp Verde, Norton cleans the grain, seeps it in water and in a climate controlled tank, brings it just to the point of germination. 

“It is loaded with sugar and starch to support that sprout,” Norton said.

He says that is exactly what brewers need to make beer.

“It is basically just this grain is a little packet loaded with sugar and starch and it is prime for fermentation,” Norton said.

And it has brewed up a lot of interest among craft beer makers, like Preston Thoeny at Wren House. 

“It is the real deal the fields of barely, the mountains in the distance and the river is right there.” Norton says, “Doing this you are supporting a rural community, you are supporting a farmer. And it is local, local, local,” said Thoeny.

All the while keeping nearly 1.5 million gallons of water in the Verde River every day during the summer. 

Which Hauser says really is something to drink to.

"So that is a lot of water and we just don’t need so we can leave it in the river and it just keeps flowing and hopefully everyone is happy.”

So far, Wren House has used the local barley for a special edition canned beer. It hopes to add more selections this summer.

Another local brewery using Sinagua Malt is Arizona Wilderness.  

Arizona Wilderness  721 N. ARIZONA AVE. #103 GILBERT, AZ 85233(480)-497-2739

Wren House 2125 N. 24th Street
Phoenix AZ 85008

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