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Saskatchewan Company Solves Thirst For New Durum Wheat Opportunities

Southwest Saskatchewan is well known for producing some of the best durum in the world.

Monty Reich, SWT's General Manager says it was a pretty cool experience finding another use for durum other than your typical pasta or couscous.

SWT has been working with 9 Mile Legacy Brewing out of Saskatoon on a Durum Wheat Beer.

"The craft beer industry, especially in the Province of Saskatchewan, has really been taken off the last few years. There's some local guys from the southwest that started their own brewery in Saskatoon, and we thought, hey, there's got to be an opportunity to collaborate. Maybe there's a chance we can sprinkle a little Durum in a beer and see how it turns out."

No.1 Durum Wheat Ale is the result and was developed by 9 Mile Legacy Brewing which was founded by Shawn Moen and Garrett Pederson who are only too familiar with durum.

The pair grew up hauling durum on their family farms where the families have been friends for years and just happen to be nine miles apart in the Cabri-Abbey area, as the company name "9 Mile Legacy Brewing" implies.

Moen says this particular beer has about 20% durum wheat.

"I think that we may be one of the very few, if not the only brewery in North America, brewing with durum wheat. Theres a little bit that I've seen in Italy but we seem to be an outlier in terms of playing around with durum wheat in the brew kettle."

Moen says they started chatting with Monty and his team at SWT about different ways that they could work together.

"SWT shares a lot of our values and is pretty intimately involved in our home communities and so the partnership was natural. And just as a couple of firm kids, Garrett and I have hauled a lot of Durum wheat over the years, it made sense to try to take to take a crack at making a beer out of durum wheat. So we got chatting with Monty and his team and realized there was some real synergy. So we put together a project where we would get that beer in the hands of growers that work with SWT in time for seeding and then we're setting up for a larger more public release of the beer at the end of May."

Garrett Pederson, COO and Co-Founder has overseen brewing operations at 9 Mile Legacy Brewing since its inception in 2015.

He says as a kid that grew up in SW Saskatchewan, we hauled a lot of durum. So I really wanted to make this work as a beer.

"My mind immediately went to ‘what are the challenges of this project,’ because it really hasn’t been used in brewing in North America and seldomly in the world. Its an unmalted product which adds a level of difficulty in the brewhouse.

Moen says they were shooting for a german style wheat beer adding that it will make sense to people who have hauled durum and forgot their lunch and chewed on the kernels in the truck while they were passing time.

He notes its very hazy, it's actually almost more of a light orange color as opposed to a golden color, which is kind of interesting. It has some neat banana notes as a result of the fermentation and interaction of the wheat with the yeast.

"We call it No 1 Durum Wheat Ale. Number one Durum is something you strive for every year as a farmer, sometimes you hit it and sometimes you don't. You know we've been pretty lucky over the years that we often will have Number 1 Durum on our farm, but it's really synonymous I think to people from the southwest with with the concept of excellence, with growing excellence. "

Moen adds he grew up eating, spraying and combining a lot of Durum over the years and, you know, you often see that product processed outside the province. I think when you can create a product that is not only interesting, but excellent, and you can create it in the province, maybe that just starts to change our mentality as to how we do things.

"You know I think there's always obviously a real place for commodity growing and international exports of raw commodities. But you start to add value to what we're doing, and you start to diversify those sales channels so that you end up with really resilient industries. And I think that our craft brewing industry has provided a real lesson in ag value generally, very cool to lend those lessons to a product like durum wheat, which we all know very intimately in the southwest."

He says the beauty of a project like this is in its broader potential.

"I hope that No. 1 Durum Wheat Ale will inspire Saskatchewanians to think creatively about the many different things we can do with our excellent agricultural products. The fact that this project resulted in a delicious beer underscores that any ag-value initiatives we undertake can also aspire to excellence!”

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