Group seeks incentives for Nebraska breweries

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Farm Forum

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Some Nebraska craft beer brewers and farmers are asking state lawmakers to offer incentives for breweries that use primarily Nebraska-grown hops, barley and other produce.

A few Nebraska beer brewers have used locally-grown hops and malting barley, but say not enough is grown in Nebraska to accommodate all the local brewers needing those ingredients, the Lincoln Journal Star reports.

That means most local brewers must import grains from Wisconsin and hops from the Pacific Northwest.

Nebraska has just 12 acres of hops, but enough demand exists for hundreds, says Shad Rhynalds, who farms about two acres of hops near Prague and is president of the Nebraska Hop Growers Association.

Scott Kinkaid, of Hartington, is the only known grower of barley commercially for malt, he said.

Kinkaid recently reaped a crop from the 80 acres he planted this year. It’s the first harvest of malting barley in the state for as long as most can remember.

His crop is going to Nebraska Malt, owned by Brian Podwinski, who also co-founded Lincoln’s Blue Blood Brewing and is seeking a permit for his distilling company, Salt Valley Spirits.

Podwinski is working with Blue Blood’s neighbor, Norland International, to develop a custom malting system for smaller operations. Since most malting systems are made for larger malting companies, many upstarts are stuck using dairy equipment or other converted parts, he said. A grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development is helping pay for the project.

Once Nebraska Malt is up and running, Podwinski plans to sell its product to Blue Blood along with “any local brewers that want it as well.”

Several Nebraska brewers testified on Sept. 26 before the Legislature’s Agriculture and General Affairs committees for a hearing that’s part of an interim study sought by Sens. Russ Karpisek of Wilber, Colby Coash of Lincoln and Ken Schilz of Ogallala.

It’s unclear what form any incentives might take, but some brewers noted that Nebraska wineries that get 75 percent of their agricultural products from within the state are given a beneficial tax rate.