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2015 Planting Update

Streaker oats being planted in Lenoir County, NC

Streaker oats being planted in Lenoir County, NC

As summer fades into fall, we shift our energies from analyzing crop samples to planning for the future. Winter grains are planted in October and harvested in May or early June throughout the south. Orchestrating the harvest, cleaning, and planting of these grains requires a tremendous amount of communication between the malt house and our network of growers. Working on a contract model helps us secure our raw materials for the upcoming year and gives the farmer peace of mind that he will adequately compensated for his harvest. This year we were able to expand our network to include new growers in Western North Carolina, Virginia, and Kentucky. See below for some highlights.

Carolina White Wheat – Hickory, NC  

We partnered with our friends at Carolina Ground to sustain production of this newly developed white wheat variety. To our knowledge, it has never been malted before and we are eager to see how it performs next summer…maybe the perfect addition to an all NC bourbon recipe?!

Streaker Oats – Kinston, NC 

We got a chance to experiment with this hulless oat variety in 2014 and fell in love with the flavor…think toasted almonds and top shelf oatmeal! After talking with several of our brewer friends we realized this ingredient serves as a “secret sauce” in everything from export stouts to Belgian farmhouse recipes. We were able to secure over a ton of certified seed and will hopefully have a strong harvest in 2016.

Endeavor Barley (2-row) – Heathsville, VA  (Mantua Farm)

While we have several farmers planting Endeavor for us this season, this farm is something special. This bicentennial farm is located in the Coan River watershed, a major tributary of the Potomac and was considered as a potential site for our nation’s capitol. The property is amazing, beautiful rolling land with a Colonial mansion that dates back to 1790! Our farmer has really done a great job of managing this land. Crop rotations, not till practices, and vegetated buffers all serve to limit nutrient and sediment runoff into the adjacent estuary.

This picture doesn’t do it justice, but the stand was already well established by early November, which will hopefully translate into a high yielding, disease resistant crop.

 

Mantua-2015-Endeavor

 

Craft Brewers Conference Recap!

“Lotta talking, lotta drinking….lotta talking about drinking.” – Brian Simpson

That quote from Brian pretty much summed up what I was expecting when I first filled out my application for CBC 2014. I knew a few of my maltster friends would be there for our presentation as well as a large contingent of brewers from North Carolina. Beyond that, I had no idea what the week had in store for me.

However, as the conference drew nearer, something completely different began to unfold. The emails starting popping up…Mark from Deer Creek, Joel from Blue Ox, Curtis from California Malting, and many others were all planning to attend! Next came the meeting requests from the Craft Maltsters Guild Board of Directors. Before I knew it, the week was booked with committee meetings, dinners, and, of course, plans for brewery visits.

As the conference began and the meetings fell into place, an even larger cast of characters began to assemble. Our initial meeting on malt analysis and barley variety development was attended by an amazing array of researchers from North Dakota State University, the American Malting Barley Association, and the National Barley Growers Association, which was more than humbling. Better yet, they all arrived with a willingness to help the guild tackle our lengthy project list.

This initial meeting set the tone for the rest of week. The message was clear: the craft beer community supports the mission of the Maltster’s Guild and will foster its development in any way possible. Michael Pollan even plugged craft malt in his CBC keynote address!!

Craft Malt Sensory Workshop

On Thursday morning, the Craft Maltsters Guild held the Craft Malt Sensory Workshop. We were very pleased with the turnout – some 500 brewers came out to sample single malt beers made from five different craft maltsters! Pretty impressive given that the seminar was at 9am!

craft malt samples

Lining up for samples at 9am...

We were honored to have John Mallet introduce the workshop. Mallet is the head of brewing operations at Bell’s Brewery and author of the upcoming book Malt: A Practical Guide from Field to Brewhouse. To have his vote of confidence at the world’s largest beer conference really helped give some weight to what we were doing.

Christian Holbrook, Brewing Materials Manager at New Belgium, kicked things off by explaining some of the reasons why malt is so important: not only is it a big part of beer flavor, but it’s also an imperative requirement for yeast health. Brewers and maltsters should pay attention to malt size and assortment, DON, flavor, and a variety of measurable characteristics when selecting grain and malt.

Holbrook also encouraged brewers to connect with their local farmers and maltsters, to learn where their raw materials come from, and to “tell a story with your beer.” We hope to be part of that story!

Josh Cody of Colorado Malting Co. addresses the CBC crowd. See Brent?

In the presentation, we each (Brent plus our colleagues from Colorado Malting Company, Malterie Frontenac, Grouse Malting, and Valley Malt) introduced ourselves and our beer. Each beer was noticeably different, very lightly hopped so that the grain could shine through. As Bruno (Maltarie Frontenac) put it, “beer is made with grain; you should be able to taste the grain in your beer.”

Several different two-row varieties joined our six-row Thoroughbred and a Colorado-grown millet at the workshop. Several people we talked to were impressed with Grouse Malting’s millet beer. Valley Malt pointed out that depending on their source of barley, their malt may exhibit a faint strawberry or orange flavor. The strawberry notes were certainly noticeable in their sample.

Though we’re biased, we felt our pale 6-row malt did very well in the trial. It had a slightly spicy, grassy character that allowed the hops to come through nicely. Most importantly, it performed well in the brewhouse with a 79.7% extract, 9.5% protein level, and sufficient yeast nutrients (Free amino nitrogen) to assist with proper fermentation. All samples had good clarity.

craft malt analysis

Malt analysis from each of the five craft maltsters (plus Simpson's Maris Otter as a control).

Did you attend the Craft Malt Workshop? What were your impressions? Share in the comments!

 

The Craft Maltsters Guild First Annual Meeting

In a dark, smoky room in an old warehouse, a small gathering of rebels met for the first time to discuss their plans for world domination…

No, it wasn’t a meeting of anarchists, it was the first ever Craft Malt Guild meeting! Representatives from the malt houses mentioned above, plus several researchers and industry veterans met at Our Mutual Friend Brewery in Denver. John Mallet made another appearance, as did Tom Nielson, raw materials handler for Sierra Nevada. Again, we can’t tell how exciting it is to have these big-time brewers in our camp!

The Malt Guild discussed plans for the website, outreach, and ideas for using a $2,000 grant from the Brewers Association. We’ll keep you posted on that front! In the meantime, you can check out the Craft Maltsters Guild website and follow the organization on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. For breweries and malt houses interesting in supporting the maltsters guild and gaining access to members-only resources, please also consider joining the Craft Malt Guild as a regular or associate member.

1st Annual Craft Maltster Guild meeting at Our Mutual Friend Denver

1st Annual Craft Maltster Guild Meeting at Our Mutual Friend, Denver

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All of the energy and support from the Craft Brewers Conference served to validate everything that Riverbend and our fellow maltsters have been striving for over the past few years. We all seek to revive the grain growing economies of our respective regions and to give craft breweries new and distinctive malts to work with in the brewhouse. The result will be a more robust local economy and an expanded audience for craft beer.

It was quite an exciting week in Denver! Between our presentation at the Craft Brewers Conference and the very first meetings of the Craft Maltsters Guild, we’re really looking forward to where the craft malt movement is heading! Cheers!

 

 

Headed to the Craft Brewers Conference!

Colorado Convention Center blue bear

The famous blue bear is a great landmark when trying to find the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver.

Brent is taking a break from our busy production schedule and heading out to Denver this week to speak at the 2014 Craft Brewers Conference. CBC is a week-long event attended by some 9,000+ brewing industry professionals and it’s jam-packed with seminars, meetings, tastings, demos, and events. Brent will be doing a presentation with the Craft Maltsters Guild at the Craft Malt Sensory Workshop, Thursday at 9am. While in Denver, the board of the Craft Maltsters Guild will be meeting to organize the various arms of the newly-formed non-profit and help plan out the future of the organization.

The Craft Malt Sensory Workshop (Thursday at 9am, Four Seasons Ballroom 1 & 2) is bound to be an informative seminar and an engaging tasting experience. Representatives from five North American malt houses will be on hand talking about their journeys into the world of craft malting.

Each of the five North American malt houses presenting at the workshop (Riverbend Malt House, Grouse Malting, Colorado Malting, Valley Malt, and Maltarie Frontenac) sent malt to be crafted into a beer specifically for the workshop. Each of the five beers were brewed using the same recipe at the New Belgium pilot brewery, but each feature a different  pale malt from the five malt houses. We’re looking forward to tasting how the terroir of our NC pale malt differs compared to malts from Colorado, Massachusetts, and Canada!

Will you be in Denver for CBC? Come on out to the Craft Malt Sensory Workshop or give us a shout on Facebook or Twitter to meet up!

Cheers!