“[The United Kingdom] has been doing solar farms and solar-farm honey for years and years and Fresh Energy worked with beekeepers to import that practice into the U.S.,” says Rob Davis, director of the center for pollinators in energy for Fresh Energy. “We were able to produce honey from these flowering solar farms, and the natural next step is how do we make something even better?”
Craft beer was the answer, and 56 Brewing—which uses locally sourced ingredients in its seasonal infusions—proved to be a compatible partner. Kale Johnson, president/CEO and head of operations for the brewery, already had experience using honey in one of his beers (Northeast Nectar). Using the honey harvested from the flowering solar farms’ apiaries, Johnson created Solarama Crush, a double dry-hopped American IPA that officially launched on March 20, the first day of spring.
Always on the lookout for ways to make the brewing process more sustainable (mainly when it comes to water conservation and using local grain when possible), Johnson used an ingredient in Solarama Crush that had previously thought to be a waste product: kernza hull. Each kernza grain has two parts: the germ and the hull. The germ is used in things like bread, cereals and granola. Rather than toss the kernza hull, Fargo-based Healthy Food Ingredients found a way to separate the kernza hulls from other hulls and supplied it to 56 Brewing; Solarama Crush is the first beer to use kernza in this way.
“What I love about Solarama Crush is that it encourages the practice of renewable energy that is stacked with multiple benefits to wildlife and agriculture. … it gives you the opportunity to drink and celebrate the benefits of clean energy,” says Davis.
In almost perfect coordination with the launch of Solarama Crush, 56 Brewing just expanded its tap room with the addition of its new Barrel Room. “It’s multiuse,” says Johnson, adding that everything from weddings to business meetings are welcome. “We love sharing our space and making it useful for everybody.” 56 can accommodate groups as small as 20, mid-sized as 50 or big as 150.