COLFAX, Wash. — The first time Bill Myers celebrated the special barley variety he grows, it drew 20 people, including the crew.
Four years later, he's expecting 500 people to attend his Baronesse Barley Harvest Day on Aug. 17. The private event is RSVP only.
Brewers and distillers will pour beer in the middle of one of Myers' fields outside Colfax, Wash. — the same field where Baronesse barley currently grows.
Myers hopes the event will help celebrants connect the crop to the finished product.
"They can actually see the next year's crop, what they'll be drinking, and actually watch it being harvested," he said.
The breweries will also offer products featuring the Baronesse variety.
Myers plans to harvest the field the third week of August. It was planted the first week in May, a little later than usual due to the late winter weather.
Myers grows only Baronesse, although he says he's open to trying Washington State University's Lyon, or other barley varieties.
"It's a strong finish," he said of Baronesse. "The actual treat in the flavor comes at the end. A lot of other beers have similar flavors upfront. That's where Baronesse announces itself — for dessert."
He raises barley in rotation with wheat, lentils and chickpeas. They are sold as whole grains, flours and kitchen mixes under the Joseph's Grainery label.
About 10% of the "couple hundred" acres of Baronesse that Myers grows go to malting or a distiller. The rest is sold as feed barley.
He'd like to see the business grow to the point where all of the barley is malted.
Nordsaat, a German company, bred the variety for malting in the 1980s, but European and U.S. maltsters weren't interested.
Myers first grew the variety in the 1990s.
LINC Foods and LINC Malt co-founder Joel Williamson later contacted Myers about getting 20 tons of it for malting.
Malting and distilling now drive the farm's growth, Myers said.
He invites every brewery and distillery in Washington and Idaho to the event.
In the future, Myers hopes to turn about 36 acres of leased ground outside Colfax into a facility for cleaning the barley.
"I'm going to grow it and I'll clean it," he said. "But I'm not going to malt it, brew it, distill it, (or) bake with it. Other people are going to do that."