NORTH CAROLINA LOVED. 2-ROW OR 6-ROW? A majority of today’s craft breweries utilize malt made from 2-row barley, which are referred to as “Spring” varieties, and are typically grown in the Midwest and Northwest regions of the U.S. between May and October. In contrast, the Southeast produces 6-row “Winter” varieties, which are typically planted in October and harvested in June.
2-row varieties are prized for their uniform, plump kernels and moderate protein levels. While 6-row varieties often have higher levels of protein, slightly smaller kernel size, and elevated levels of diastatic power(1). However, modern agricultural breeding programs have addressed these discrepancies over the past 3 decades. Organic farming practices, which typically favor reduced levels of nutrient input, can also produce slightly lower protein levels.As a result of these selective breeding programs and farming practices, producers in the Southeast can now provide a quality product to their local brewing community.
- diastatic power – level of enzymes present that are responsible for converting starch into sugar
North Carolina is the leading small-grain producer in the Southeast. An average 20,000 acres of barley and 700,000 acres of wheat were planted on an annual basis across the state between 2007-2010 (NC Production Statistics). Our farmers produce 6-row barley, soft wheat, and hard wheat varieties across the state, but a majority of the barley production occurs in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
Although these grains provide a significant boost to North Carolina’s economy, the producers remain subject to broad fluctuations in market prices, which can take a toll on the individual. At Riverbend Malt House, we provide these producers with a more stable outlet for their products. By negotiating prices and terms before the growing season even begins, we secure access to raw materials for the coming year and offer the farmer piece of mind. As a small start-up, we can only process a fraction of the grain produced, but we believe that building these types of relationships is essential to creating a local food system for craft beer.PARTNERSHIPS, BOTH BIG AND LOCAL Since the beginning of our development, we have reached out to groups such as the USDA Agricultural Research Service and NC State Agricultural Extension Service, who conduct a majority of the research on small grains within our state.
Dr. David Marshall, research leader of the USDA/ARS laboratory in Raleigh, has conducted plant breeding trials for both barley and wheat for several decades. His work in this field focuses on developing high-yielding, disease-resistant varieties. Through our partnership with Dr. Marshall and his staff, we are developing malting quality varieties of 6-row and 2-row barleys that perform well throughout the Southeast.
Dr. Christopher Reberg-Horton, an assistant professor at NC State University, works with farmers and geneticists to develop varieties that maintain a high yield and are disease resistance under organic production methods. Dr. Reberg-Horton also focuses on weed management through the use of innovative cover cropping practices, which are ideally suited to the chemically sensitive organic standards.
In addition, the NCSU Organic Grain Project staff has guided us in regards to variety selection, storage, and organic certification procedures. We look forward to partnering with them on future organic field trials of 2-row and 6-row barley varieties in the years ahead.BREAKING BREAD The NCOBFP, and their umbrella agency Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, have provided tremendous inspiration and support to us from the beginning. The NCOBFP, headed by Jennifer Lapidus, started with the simple idea of connecting the farmer to the baker through the creation of a community-scale milling operation. This idea expanded to include work with Drs. Marshall and Reberg-Horton to develop hard wheat varieties that thrive in North Carolina’s climate and produce top-quality bread flour. Their organization has now evolved into Carolina Ground, a for-profit business and a non-profit cooperative combined in a way that benefits the bakers and the farmer. Look for their locally sourced bread at bakeries late Summer 2011. Follow their progress here at their blog.