Nile Zacherle is the brewer behind Mad Fritz Brewing, a minuscule Nappa Valley operation making what he calls "origin beers." He sources almost all of his ingredients from the region, including locally grown heirloom grains and multiple wells and reservoirs for water. At some point, it all touches wood—puncheons and barrels from wineries. He then sells it all through a membership club, and a few kegs to local Michelin-star restaurants like The French Laundry.
And he's expanding, but not in the conventional way. Instead of adding capacity and focusing down-market, he's swimming upstream into the agriculture. He convinced a local vineyard with some fallow land to plant barley he can source and malt himself. Next door, he showed me the beginnings of a floor malting setup in a little strip mall with just enough square footage for about 10 bags at a time.
"The craft malt industry is in its nascence," he says. "And is offering us as brewers what I call the winemakers' lens to beer making, or 'origin beer.'"