OUR PLEDGE Riverbend Malt House pledges to provide the area’s craft brewers with locally-farmed, artisan malts that bring depth and character to their passion, while greatly lessening the local industry’s impact on the planet.
OUR PHILOSOPHY Currently, the malted products market is dominated by large‐scale producers located in the western United States and Europe. They ship millions of pounds of two-row and six-row barley on an annual basis to clients on every continent. These mass operations require grain to be purchased on a global-commodities market and shipped thousands of miles. As a result, an enormous amount of fossil fuel, water, and petrochemicals(1) are used to produce a majority of the craft beer currently consumed throughout the world.
We are the alternative to these practices. We have personal relationships with local farmers and regional brewers. By supporting the local farming economy, we provide guaranteed returns on an annual basis. We work closely with our farmers to implement best management practices (BMPs) that reduce sediment and nutrient loading to the adjacent streams and waterways. As a result, the average number of food miles(2) associated with each batch of malt will be reduced from 3,000 miles to 300 miles. This equates to a reduction of 4.5 tons of carbon emissions for every truckload of grain(3).
- Petrochemicals – any chemical derived from petroleum sources including a large number of pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides commonly used in large-scale farming operations.
- Food miles – the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer.
- Calculation based on 40,000 lb capacity of a typical 18‐wheeler averaging 6 miles per gallon.
In the beginning, the learning curve was steep. We dove into agriculture production schedules, variety trials, malting procedures, and the global commodity market to wrap our arms around all the facets of creating locally produced malt. Thankfully, we were able to reach out to the North Carolina Agricultural Extension Agency, United States Department of Agriculture, and Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, who connected us to farmers, grain brokers, and researchers. After we established these invaluable relationships, we focused on malting techniques and production methodologies currently in use throughout the United States. This led us to Rick Wasmund and the Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, VA.
Rick, his mom, and business partner, Sean, produce malt for their award-winning whisky using traditional floor-malting techniques. They worked with researchers at Virginia Tech to select Thoroughbred barley, a locally sourced, six-row variety as the primary grain for their production. During a training session at their facility, we learned the logistics of malt production and storage. We left there determined to produce high-quality malt the old-fashioned way – on the floor. We came back from that Virginia trip with 200 pounds of smoked malt, which we used in a number of homebrew trials. While the smokiness proved a bit overpowering (think liquid cigar!), the body, mouthfeel, and overall brewing efficiency observed during these trials helped propel us closer to developing the concept of a local malt house.
As we moved into to 2011, we spoke to a number of local brewers to gauge interest in the use of six-row barley. Positive feedback from these conversations proved invaluable and we began to recruit investors.
As of this writing, we’ve expanded from our original, 1500 lb. system to producing 12-16 tons of hand-crafted malt every month. Follow the Kiln Blog for the latest news from Riverbend Malt House! Follow the Kiln Blog for the latest news from Riverbend Malt House!
Like Brent, I spent quite a bit of time getting degrees and working in the consulting world. After a stint helping to operate a biofuels business, I realized that starting my own sustainable business was where my passion was evolving. The burgeoning beer boom in Asheville seemed like an obvious draw for many reasons – the most important fact being that it was an opportunity to help local craft brewers stand apart from the rest of the country by offering a locally-sourced product. When I am not working with malt, you might be able to find me out running on one of the many trails in Western NC.
Production Manager – When I’m not raking, vacuuming, palletizing, or cracking whips, I basically do the same thing at home (minus the whips part). I have a wife and one-year-old son who make him laugh and keep him very busy. I love to create, so aside from malting and homebrewing I also run a mean kitchen. Just be warned, don’t get me started on the state of Mexican food from any place outside of my native San Diego. Once the dust settles, and all is quiet in the Weitzel household, I usually pour myself a nice beer, relax in my office chair…and slay dragons on my Playstation. All while listening to obscure European metal!
Assistant Maltster – I assist in all aspects of the malting process and will be involved in our online sales department. My background is in Environmental Studies with a specialization in Agricultural Policy. I was drawn to Riverbend as a way to integrate my interests in beer and local agriculture. When I’m not raking, I can be found on a nearby trail, river, or at the pub with my dog Manny.
Assistant Maltster- After 18 years in Belgium and a stint in Virginia I came to Asheville after college seeking education and adventure in the brewing industry. To your surprise, besides assisting in the malting process, one would say I am a Belgian (and American) of many talents. With a background in business management, home brewing, beertending, and beer drinking I’ve seem to of found my calling here at Riverbend. Outside these hallow malt house walls, you might have the fortune of finding me sipping on a crafty beverage, cooking seriously good food, or keeping it real with fellow maltstress/sibling, Kim Thompson.
Assistant Maltster – I began working at Riverbend in August 2015. I studied in AB Tech’s Brewing, Distillation, and Fermentation Science program and at Appalachian State University. At Riverbend I assist with all areas of the malting process. I have always had an interest in the craft beer industry and enjoy being able to experience all the aspects behind producing a good beer. When I’m not at work you can find me outside hiking up the side of a mountain or playing disc golf, reading a book, enjoying a cold drink, or spending time with my fiancé, Alexandra, and my dog, Paisley.
Assistant Maltstress – I’ve moved through life collecting pursuits, addresses, and professions. From carpentry and baking to a United States Marine and a degree in Religious Studies from the College of Charleston. I’ve done all this with one thing in mind. I want to master the vastly underrated art of shadow puppetry. Actually, I’d like to raise zedonks. And eventually swim with Narwhals. But, in the meantime, I’ll settle for working with a group of people who inspire me, and learning a craft that keeps me connected to a perfect blend of creative and physical work. I’m really proud to be a part of the Riverbend mission, and to work in the industry. When I’m not busy learning the ropes at the malt house, I’m most likely checking out the live music scene, cooking or baking, hanging with my pups in the mountains, or hitting up a local brewery.
OUR FARMERS Riverbend works with an ever expanding network of growers within North Carolina, Virginia, and Kentucky. Our goal is to source 100% of our raw materials from within a 500-mile radius of the malt house. Each year we select the highest quality grains from this network as the first step to creating a local, artisan malt.
We invite anyone interested in joining our network to contact us directly to learn more about our requirements. The small grains we purchase meet specific criteria for protein content, size, disease, moisture, and germination rates.