Over the past 6 months, we’ve worked with several of our customers across the Southeast to brew beers that give back to those in the service industry that have been impacted by COVID-19. A small gesture that we hope demonstrates our support for the community. These projects have kept us connected and energized during these trying times.

We plan to keep things rolling as we head into the next phase of the pandemic. Feel free to reach out if you’d like to work on a project to benefit those in your area!

Stay Home – Hazy IPA

Brewed in collaboration with Bhrarmari, DSSOLVR, Archetype, New Belgium, White Labs, and Twin Leaf here in Asheville. Proceeds benefited the New Belgium Restaurant Relief fund.

 

6ft Never Felt So Far – Hazy IPA

Brewed in collaboration with Good Word Brewing down in Duluth, GA. Todd and his crew were doing some really great work in the early days of the pandemic, transforming their restaurant into a soup kitchen to feed their staff and community. We jumped in to put this beer together with proceeds benefitting Botttle Share, who supports service industry workers in the Atlanta metro area.

 

Stay True – West Coast IPA

Round two of our Asheville focused collaboration. We brewed a larger batch over at Archetype and distributed through local channels. Proceeds directed to the New Belgium Restaurant Relief Fund.

 

Kindred Spirits – Modern IPA

Brewed with our friends at Ancillary Fermentation in Cary, NC. This one benefitted the NC Restaurant Relief Fund.

 

Barley Moon – Heirloom Lager

Brewed with Revelry Brewing Company in Charleston, SC. This one features our malted Bloody Butcher Corn, which contributes some nice spice character to this classic style. Proceeds will be directed towards Pay It Forward Charleston who has been distributing food to service industry workers over the past 6 months.

 

  • Brent

 

 

We’ve heard it since the beginning…..it can’t be local enough!

– Brent Manning

 

We’ve offered locally-sourced malt for almost a decade now. While this practice marks a notable improvement in the carbon footprint associated with producing craft beer and spirits, others want to take it one step further.

That is where contract (aka toll) malting enters the conversation. Toll malting allows our customers to bring grain from their family farm to the malt house and then back to the brewhouse or distillery, allowing for a true taste of home to be infused into their products.

 

We recently completed a project with Pretoria Fields Collective out of Albany, GA that helped them connect the dots between their farm and their fermenters. We worked with their farmer to manage variety selection and crop management during the growing season. Following harvest we worked with their brewer to develop two different malts that could be utilized throughout their product line.

 

“Working with Riverbend on a contract malting project allowed us to utilize our estate grown barley in several special projects over the past year” said Dee Moore Head of Brewing Operations for Pretoria Fields. “Integrating these special malts into our production aligns with our core values of sourcing as much as possible from our local, family-owned farm.”

 

What’s involved in the process you ask? Read on…..

 

Initial Consultation – September

We work with winter grains, so the best time to kick things off is late summer. We can provide guidance on variety selection, required acreage, and handling recommendations.

 

Crop Management – October – May

We’ve forged a partnership with researchers from NC State and Virginia Tech to provide the technical background necessary to produce high-quality grain. Producing great barley doesn’t happen by accident and we’ll do our best to connect you to our network of resources.

 

Harvest – June

After months of watching the crop, it is time to test and evaluate the harvest. We’ll walk you through the finer points of quality evaluation and give you an honest opinion on what is possible with your grain.

 

Malting – August

Assuming quality specifications are met, we’ll take delivery in late summer. From there, we’ll run the batch(es) through our system over the course of seven days. This might produce a great, multi-purpose base malt or something special that is included in annual “estate” offering.

 

We’ve handled a wide variety of small grains and love a challenge. Give us a call if you have a project in mind!

 

  • Brent

 

Each crop year is distinctive and offers a teaching moment. Our intake process remains the same, the results are always different.

In previous years, we’ve seen warm, dry springs drive rapid growth and early harvests. Mother Nature delivered a long, cool spring across the Southeast this year. These conditions supported steady stand growth and maturation. This slow growth pushed harvest back to late June in some spots across our network.

Overall, quality levels are looking good for 2020. Very little issues with DON (vomitoxin), good test weights, low protein, and plump kernels. However, high levels of dormancy were reported in both 2-row and 6-row barley varieties. This was likely driven by the below average temperatures that the crop experienced.

As you may know we work with 2-row Calypso and Violetta barley varieties. Our stalwart, Thoroughbred, remains part of the mix. Modern 2-row barley varieties are typically bred to have little to no dormancy. However, Calypso and Violetta have moderate levels to help weather our summer rain showers.

Dormancy refers to the period of time after harvest in which germination levels are suppressed. This trait can be both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that it will often be ready to plant and grow without issue in the fall. The curse is the potential for pre-harvest sprout damage to occur. When this occurs, the barley begins the malting process in the field and can perform erratically in the malt house.

We gauge the severity of this issue by comparing germination levels from samples that have been “steeped” in 4ml with a sample that includes a small amount of hydrogen peroxide. The peroxide breaks dormancy and shows us how many kernels are viable.

So what do we do with this information?

Quite simply, we wait. We continue to run pilot steeps and 4ml germination tests in the lab until we see 90+% levels. Most likely we’ll be able to work with the 2020 harvest by mid-September. Thankfully, we have enough material from the 2019 harvest to maintain production.

 

PS – Be on the lookout for the return of our Streaker Oats, we just received our first shipment today and will be malting them soon!

 

  • Brent

In lagers, brewers ask the raw materials to do the heavy lifting.

  • Randy Mosher

 

All over the craft beer landscape, we are seeing a steady expansion and exploration of the many classic lager styles and I couldn’t be happier!

 

This Wet Hopped Kellerbier from DSSOLVR and Wooden Robot is my personal favorite combination at the moment.

I'm Not A Robot - DSSOLVR - Untappd

 

This topic is always a fun one to have with our customers. Most have strong opinions on which malts (and which malt house) should and should not be included in the grist for classic Czech Pilsner. We thought it would be helpful to provide some guidance from our perspective.

 

Helles vs. Dortmunder

 

A great Helles puts malt complexity, not sweetness, at the forefront. Hop character is typically muted, taking a back seat to a blend of biscuits, crackers and fresh baked bread flavors contributed from a carefully crafted blend of malts. Our classic Pilsner is a good bet for this style. It provides the crisp, cracker backbone that can be enhanced with a small addition of our Heritage, Vienna or Light Munich. These three malts combine to develop great complexity even at low starting gravities. Our good friends at Arches have recently gotten rave reviews from a similar grist. Article link: https://www.ajc.com/blog/atlanta-restaurants/beer-pick-try-heritage-helles-from-hapeville-arches-brewing/kC4a3o9me0yAXycJOzTkAN/

 

Dortmunders punch things up a bit on the ABV and call upon an additional 10-15 IBUs of noble hops. Southern Select is your go to for this one. More malt character and a little more color provide a great cornerstone for this recipe. Finish the grist with ~25% Light Munich and a dash of our Dark Munich. The two Munichs will deliver pronounce baked bread and honey notes with just the right amount of toast.

 

Czech Pilsner vs. German Pilsner

 

The traditional Czech Pils is revered for its softer, rounder malt character which deftly balances the firm bitterness from the Saaz hops. Color can be slightly darker than the German version which opens the door for our Southern Select to shine as the base malt of choice. The bready notes will play well with the soft water profile, while the green tea/herbal finish will complement the earthy spice from the noble hops.

 

The German Pilsner leans into a more crisp, dry finish where Noble hop character is more of a dominant player. Base Camp Extra Pale is an excellent choice for this style.  We kiln this malt at cooler temperatures than Southern Select, limiting color development while providing just the right amount of grainy sweetness. The cleaner profile of this malt combined with a slightly elevated mineral level in your brewing water will set the table for excellent attenuation.

 

Vienna Lager vs. Marzen

 

A classic Vienna lager should bring greater depth of malt character, highlighting notes of caramel and fresh baked cookie. Noble hop character is present, but malt is definitely the star. For a lighter colored version, try an even mix of our Heritage and Pilsner malts. The Heritage contributes a touch of caramel and toast while the Pilsner adds just the right amount of grainy, sweetness. The color won’t be dark to meet style guidelines, so just keep this one in the taproom!

 

The Marzen takes even deeper into the “malty” rabbit hole. Traditional recipes layer Pilsner, Light Munich, and CaraMunich for a more intense mix of bread crust, caramel, and toast. The trick is balance, if the brew tips into a cloyingly sweet finish then drinkability can suffer. A safe bet is to steer clear of crystal/caramel malts in your recipe.

 

For a 100% local Marzen, go with 45% Base Camp, 45% Light Munich, and 10% Dark Munich. Our Dark Munich is very similar to commercially available CaraMunich, lots of dark fruit and toast.

 

Cheers to all of customers for taking part in reviving and exploring these styles. Can’t wait for the round!

 

  • Brent

After more than two months of quarantine, the good people of North Carolina are gearing up to enter Phase II. I wish I could tell you I’ve had loads of time for deep introspection and reflection on our way of life and what the road ahead looks like for craft beer….it hasn’t happened.

 

I’ve spent the last few months reaching out to our customers throughout the Southeast. Each day brought a mix of good and bad news with no clear trends. With one exception, everyone seemed to be doing something to help out their community. Sanitizer production in the distilleries, participation in the All Together collaboration project, volunteering to help first responders. You name it…the craft beer and craft distilling industries stepped up in a big way during challenging times.

 

As reopening is now allowed, they are confronted with new regulations that will undoubtedly require more staff attending to fewer patrons. Many will be forced to make major shifts in their business models to remain open.

 

So what can be done?

BUY LOCAL.

 

We’ve said it so much, it has almost lost its meaning. We can’t let that happen.

Dollars spent at local taprooms over the next few months will recharge not just that individual business, but the community it worked so hard to support. Remember, dollars spent at local businesses stay close to home. 48% of that tip you leave the bartender will end up in the cash register of the taco place down the street. For comparison, only 14% of the dollars spent at big box stores recirculate locally.

 

This fundamental truth is crucial to restarting our local economies. While more government aid may be coming, the early rounds were not a good fit for many restaurants and breweries. They need us to step up and support them this summer!

 

Make no mistake, it will feel and look different in the taproom when we reconvene.

 

Many may elect to continue to supporting through to-go and delivery options.

 

Either way, spend your beer and spirits dollars with your local purveyors. It will honor their efforts and support the community that we all worked so hard to create.

 

Cheers,

Brent

 

 

Beer, The Pint That Helps Keep People Together:Insights Gained while Studying for Certified Cicerone

Needless to say, due to current world events I am definitely spending a lot more time at home for the good of mankind. Being in quarantine has given me the unique opportunity to start studying for my Cicerone Level 2, so I have begun diving into the study materials. The first book I picked up was Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher and even though I am well into the book there were a couple quotes that have stuck with me from the very first chapter.

Civilization as well as civility thrive where there is a pot of beer. Beer brings people together on common ground, and has been doing so for thousands of years.

It is my belief that squeezing people into cities generates a certain amount of itchy friction, but this can be eased by a social lubricant like beer, served up in that other beloved institution, the tavern, which appeared not long after beer.

Alcoholic beverages have helped civilization stay together in unity practically since nomads settled. The phrase that really hit me the hardest was beer brings people together on common ground. Thinking back on my experience in and out of bars, taverns, and pubs led me to meet an unbelievable wide array of people. Rich or poor, I have been able to sit down and have a drink while exchanging ideas on common ground which have led to some incredible conversations. The tavern may have evolved through the years but its purpose remains the same. Creating a place where people from all walks can come in and just unwind after a long day.

All that being said, it really got me thinking about the unity needed currently as the world struggles through the COVID-19 pandemic. Thinking about how we still need our five o’clock beer at the end of the day to knock the edge off. More than ever, this virus has put us on common ground in the fact we all need ways to cope with more stress and even loneliness. Sometimes a drink is the perfect remedy to combat the stress of what is currently going on in life at an individual level. We as humans are a social species that craves social interaction with others. One way is to plan a virtual happy hour or bottle share. Let the alcohol release some endorphins and serotonin while catching up with some of your friends – everyone needs this at some point. Every Wednesday Riverbend has an employee happy hour that I am extremely grateful for and even though I am most likely the newest member of the team coming on through this mess, getting to know my team and having people to talk to end the day on a good note makes me feel much closer to the team. Ultimately, it’s creating a space that brings different people on common ground, lets us be social, and unwind with some friends after a day of work.

I will end with one last note, beer has helped create a sense of community ever since the concept of community was created. Riverbend will continue playing its part by sourcing the best local grain, malting that grain the only way we know how, and distributing it to our awesome brewery and distillery partners. All so the consumers can have a way to release and enjoy a drink to help keep people close in this time where communities can be fragile. Now, back to my studies!

— Tyler Adams

Are you curious about how we source grain here at Riverbend Malt House?

As the first malt house in the Southeast, we are proud to be a North Carolina company, and we are committed to growing a vibrant grain economy in our local region. How do we define “local”? We consider the Southeast (a roughly 500-mile radius from Asheville) to be our “grainshed”.

We source our grain from this region for three principal reasons:

High-Quality Grain

We place great value on sourcing the highest quality grain available in the region. Year after year, we work with our farm partners to select the best barley and other small grains in the Southeast.

It is vital for our business to work with the best quality grain available to us. We perform rigorous in-house testing and send harvest samples off to a third-party lab at Hartwick College in New York to ensure our raw materials meet our specifications. The Southeast can throw us some curveballs in this area. Some years, we have seen nearly all our contracts meet spec when our farmers avoid storms at harvest. In other years, we have been unable to accept close to half of our contracted amount due to harvest conditions that impacted malting specs. It’s important to us to build a safety net, sourcing from farms throughout the Southeast, to ensure that we have access to high-quality grain despite unpredictable weather and harvest seasons. A big rain event at harvest might lower yield, test weight, or cause pre-harvest sprout. It may also negatively impact many other important specs for malting.

We have also worked with our partners over the years to improve our malting barley stock in our efforts to provide high-quality malt in the styles expected by our customers. While our explorations with two-row varieties go as far back as 2014, it wasn’t until 2018 that we were able to source the volume of high-quality two-row barley needed to add these products to our lineup. It took a few growing seasons of testing out different varieties to discover the ones that are well suited to our climate and can consistently meet our malting-quality specifications.

Our Farm Partners

When we first started out, there was no established market to look to. It was no easy task to find farmers willing to take on the necessary risk involved with growing and supplying malting-quality barley. At first, only a few were willing to make a commitment to us.

Billy Dawson, in the Northern Neck of Virginia, was a pioneer in the production of malting quality grain in the region. He saw an opportunity to work with us and supply high-quality barley, and took on significant risk jumping into this new market with us. Sadly, Billy passed away a few years ago, but we continue to work with his family and business partners at Bay’s Best Feed.

Similarly, we have worked with Billy Carter for several years to source the Wrens Abruzzi Rye we use to make Carolina Rye malt. Billy grows this heritage variety for us as well as for milling companies in the region due to its unique flavor profile and in spite of the low yields and tough growing conditions. We are happy to be able to work with Billy to provide a market for this grain and support his farming operation in Eagle Springs, North Carolina.

We value the relationships we have built over the last ten years and hope to continue growing alongside our partners who have been with us from the start. We can’t thank our farm partners enough for everything they have done to help us produce the high-quality malt we are known for today.

Our network of partners now includes farms in North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and South Carolina. We look forward to maintaining these relationships in the years ahead.

You! Our Brewing and Distilling Customers

We take our responsibility to serve our customers seriously. Sourcing from a variety of sub-regions in the Southeast helps us to ensure we can meet your needs, providing high-quality malt year after year. It also allows us to meet customer demand for grain grown within the borders of the state you brew or distill in.

If you’re looking for a product sourced from your state, get in touch with us! And, of course, if you’re looking for high-quality malt from the Southeast, we definitely have you covered. We’re here to help and we love working with you on your new and exciting projects!

This time of year, we get a chance to take a breather and look back. I spent close to 2 months on the road this year covering conferences, sales, grower relationships and everything in between. A wild ride to say the least!

This year’s list (presented in chronological order) was driven more by experiences than by an individual pint or bottle. Let me explain…

Steinbock – Fonta Flora/Zillicoah collaboration 

I waited patiently for this one to be released. I’ve gotten more into classic German styles over the last year and this Doppelbock project got my attention. Brewed with our Munich malt and boiled with hot rocks, the finished beer was loaded with dark fruit and caramel notes. The finish was balanced and the beer was remarkably drinkable for the 8% ABV.

It was a chilly February night in the Zillicoah taproom and I remember feeling a great sense of pride that our malt could help bring something like this to life. Developing new products on new equipment was a huge challenge for our team in late 2018 and the two Munichs (Light and Dark) represented a breakthrough for us in many ways. The Doppelbock style offered the perfect platform to showcase their unique flavor profile and the guys at Fonta Flora and Zillicoah knocked it out of the park!

The experience reminded me of my friend Sean Lily Wilson from Fullsteam’s quote “There are beers for conversation and beers for contemplation” this one falls squarely in the latter category.

 

Oenobeer – Liberati in Denver

 This was a great meal. Matt and I joined one of my buddies from college for an exploration of oenobeer at Liberati in Denver. We were in town for the American Distillers Conference, giving us the opportunity to explore the city without the foot traffic associated with CBC.

Liberati specializes in wine/beer hybrids and old-world Italian cuisine. Think nut brown ales blended with Viognier grapes and stouts paired with Cabernet Sauvignon complimenting house-made mushroom fettuccine. The grape contributions ranged from a modest 10% to over 40% with varietals being sourced from every region you can imagine. We tasted through each of the 13 offerings which included classic English, Belgian, and American styles. Their current menu features a NE DIPA with Malbec grapes!

Being a weeknight, things were a bit slow and the staff started to turn up their favorite 80’s music to liven up the mood. This set the stage for a serious “name that tune” contest between the three of us, sprinkle in a few college memories and you have the makings of a perfect evening.

 

 

Cultura – Wicked Weed

A long-awaited release from the good people at Wicked Weed. I got an invite to attend a pre-release party at the Funkatorium. Cultura represents a series of three blends of spontaneously fermented beer that have been aging for over three years. Add to that three fruited variants and you have the makings of an intriguing evening!

Andrew and Jen, two of the crew that brought these lovelies into existence walked me through each of the six offerings. We compared tasting notes and reminisced about where we all were when these beers first came to life. The earliest batches were inoculated right there in the Funkatorium parking lot back in 2016. The grist for these brews featured our Pilsner, Appalachian Wheat, and NC-grown raw wheat. Simply put, these beers represent a true sense of place….a 21st century version of a (mostly) forgotten historic style.

I left with a 750ml of Blend 3 fruited with Muscadine Grapes which I paired with my smoked turkey on Thanksgiving. My family loves a good “food story” from Asheville, so I couldn’t resist sharing this one with them!

 

 

Kind of a “blissed out” cliché at this point, spend your money on experiences not things, but these memories will resonate more than any whale that I ever tracked down in my earlier days of craft beer fandom.

Hope that each of you can find similar inspiration in this industry as we enter this new decade.

Cheers to everyone for the love and support during 2019!

 

Brent