Farmer Ray: A Vision for a More Sustainable Pint

We’ve been brewing our Rooftop Hop series for four years now, exclusively using hops grown on our very own roof. Along with hops, depending on the season, we have a limited selection of dragonfruit, pomegranate, pineapple, lettuce and mint. But this downtown garden oasis wouldn’t be what it is today without the vision and care from Farmer Ray, an Angel City legend with a belief in a more sustainable hop-to-beer and beer-to-glass experience. To learn more about the man behind the garden, we sat down with our Head Brewer Layton Cutler and Reliability Manager Brewing Operations, Joe Moakley, who have been working closely with Ray throughout his time on the Angel City rooftop.

How did farmer Ray start coming around and why?

Joe: Back in 2012, I put a posting on craigslist for “free spent grain.” I mentioned that it was good for composting and supplemental livestock feed, and received several replies like “will you be around on Saturday?” and “I’ll gladly take a bucket full!” I was quickly discouraged by the lack of follow through, but then came an email reply from a man named Ramutus Narcivicious that read: “I can come now and take whatever you want to give.” Ray came down within the hour to take the supply and inquired when we would be producing more (For a 3k bbl/yr brewery, a free spent grain pickup is an amazing find), thus beginning our relationship with Farmer Ray.

How did the rooftop project come about?

Joe: Ray, one of the friendliest people in the world, quickly became friends with Alan Newman, who ran Angel City from 2012 to 2017. Ray made these detailed drawings of his vision for a nutrient-recirculating system, which were real works of art (I wish we still had them). He shared these with Alan along with a proposal for a rooftop garden that he himself would grow and manage. Alan loved the idea and connected Ray with Gardeners Supply in Vermont, who sent a bunch of equipment to help ray get it setup.

I’d like to highlight some of the beers we’ve made using the ingredients in the garden. Can you tell me about the rooftop series? What Hops do we grow on the roof?

Layton: We’ve been working on the Rooftop Series for 4 years. 3 of those years we made the Rooftop Hop Ale and made a Grisette in 2019. We used the hops in the whirlpool for the Ale versions but preferred using our rooftop hops for bittering instead for the Grisette. We grow mostly Columbus, but have some Chinook and Nugget as well.

Is there any other interesting info that may be neat to add to the Legend of Farmer Ray?

Joe: Ray is considered one of the best mechanics for FedEx, where he works full time. No plane leaves the hanger without Ray’s blessing – according to a mutual friend he works with (something Ray was too humble to brag about). I have been fixing and fabricating things my whole life, but every once in a while I get stuck on a problem — the first person I call is Ray. Ray is quick to offer a solution and lend a helping hand. Also, as quickly mentioned above, Ray is a gifted freehand artist. You would agree if you ever get a chance to see his work!