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TALE OF MALT & MYSTERY
USING BARLEY FROM ENGLISH FIELDS WHERE CROP CIRCLES HAVE APPEARED, A LOCAL
MAN CREATES A PHENOMENON
By Alan J. Wax
August 27, 2004
Dudley Cates Jr. has two passions: beer and crop circles.
Now, he's married the two in a business.
Cates, 36, of Southampton, is a former ski instructor, ex-taxi driver and
one-time writer who is selling a local brew called Crop Circle Beer. The
drink stems from his six-year fascination with crop circles, the mysterious
shapes, some circular, that began appearing in English grain fields in the
1970s. The main ingredient in his beer is barley from those plots.
"There's something very interesting as yet unexplained going on in those
fields," Cates said.
Some people believe crop circles are tangible proof that superior
extraterrestrial intelligence is at work in our world, others believe there
is a paranormal aspect to their appearance, and some say they are nothing
but grand hoaxes.
Whatever the cause, Cates saw the effect.
"Crop circles carry an aura of mystery," said Cates, who grew up in Locust
Valley and who first became intrigued with the legends behind the designs
while living in Aspen, Colo. "I thought to myself, this phenomenon is real."
Also, said Cates, "I love beer."
Cates has been trying to develop a commercial beer for four years, starting
with a microbrewery in Northern California and later at a Hartford brew pub.
A partnership dispute and his inability to find someone to bottle the
California brew put a quick end to that venture. The Hartford beer, a pale
ale brewed with leftover malt from the California attempt, garnered little
Cates said he is hopeful the third time is the charm.
Now, Blue Point Brewing Co. in Patchogue is brewing his beer, this time an
English-style golden amber ale using the crop-circle grain.
As for merging his interests, Cates said, "Most people think it's very
intriguing. People in the beer business think I'm crazy."
One local brewer thought otherwise.
"It was a great idea," said Blue Point brewmaster and co-owner Mark Burford,
who produces 40 barrels of Crop Circle Beer at a time. A barrel contains 31
Cates and Blue Point bought eight tons of Crop Circle Optic pale malt from
Warminster Maltings in Wiltshire, England. The malt is made from barley
grown in the fields of Wiltshire farmer Tim Carson.
"I know it's really good stuff to make beer," said Burford, noting that he
extracts more fermentable sugars and flavors from the Crop Circle malt than
from the malts he usually uses. That also gives the beer more alcohol, 6.7
percent, compared with about 4 percent in most brews.
Burford is interested only in the beer, not the myths.
"I leave the magical end to him," Burford said.
And the marketing. Cates is selling the beer and mostly delivering it
himself in a white step van. It hasn't been easy.
"It's slow going," Cates said. "I get nothing but glowing rejections: 'The
beer's great, we love it. No thanks.'"
"It has potential," said Joseph Marino, whose American Beer Distributing Co.
in Brooklyn makes sure the beer gets delivered to bars in New York City.
For now, Cates' beer is available only on draft at a handful of bars in the
Hamptons, in Manhattan and at one Long Island beer retailer, Shoreline
Beverage in Huntington, which sells it in gallon jugs to go. Shoreline owner
Stuart Haimes said he sold out a 15.5-gal. keg, one gallon at a time, in two
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