For Learn To Homebrew Day 2022, we asked Tom Hardinge to guest blog for us about his latest batch made with Riverbend! Here’s his story. 


Homebrewers are experimenters. 

Who else would take a perfectly good pint and say, “I could make that!” and then proceed to invest most of their free time and hard-earned money attempting to reproduce something that’s readily available in bulk for $19.99 at Costco? Well as it turns out, there are a lot of us… including myself.

My homebrewing journey began more than ten years ago when, after having four children in less than two years, my wife thought I could use a hobby. For most of those years, my local homebrew shop (RIP Beer Crazy!) was the go-to place for ingredients, equipment, and advice. However, like countless small businesses around the country, online competition and the need-it-now consumerism has made life difficult for many local homebrew shops. The burden became increasingly insurmountable, and by late 2019 Beer Crazy had closed its doors for good. 

Homebrewers are also innovators; we see opportunities instead of obstacles.

The closure of my local homebrew shop meant that all my ingredients now needed to be sourced online. National retailers like Northern Brewer offered name recognition and suppliers I was already familiar with. Yet because I was procuring all of my brewing components from scratch, I thought “why not see what else is out there?” even if that meant starting an entirely new process.

Which is how I found myself in the world of craft malt.

I discovered an online retailer located in Asheville, North Carolina, called Asheville Brewers Supply. ABS has an extensive selection of ingredients, including locally sourced craft malt. For my first brew using craft malt, I selected Riverbend Base Camp pale malt to use for my base malt. Per the maltster’s description, this malt is kilned at lower temperatures to create a slightly sweet, grainy profile meant to compliment hoppier offerings. 

It sounded like the perfect pairing for my fresh-hopped IPA.

The ingredients arrived quickly, and soon I found myself back in the kitchen brewing up a fresh batch of beer. Admittedly, my brewing rig is far from sophisticated, but even so… no additional modifications needed to be made for using the craft malt. By the time I had gathered my first wort running, I knew this was going to be a great batch. Light, sweet, and slightly bready, this malt would provide a delicious “backbone” for the fresh hops.

After three weeks of fermentation and packaging, the reviews were unanimous: the combination of fresh hops with this flavorful new base malt made for an irresistible beer. I’m already planning my next batch this fall, potentially a low ABV table beer using Riverbend Heritage Malt and Bloody Butcher Corn, perfect for pairing with the holiday meals that will soon fill our tables.

The loss of local homebrew stores also signals the decline of local brewing expertise outside of the professional brewing industry. Fortunately, there are resources available online to help the new brewer understand the complexities of making your own beer at home, including the benefits of using craft malt And much like supporting your favorite local brewery benefits your local economy, supporting your local farmers and maltsters by using craft malt helps create a more localized supply chain and an increasingly sustainable brewing future. Not to mention more flavorful and fresher tasting beers!

I for one am looking forward to continuing my homebrewing endeavors by utilizing craft malt.


Follow along Tom’s homebrew journey on Instagram at @dsmbrewster, and stay tuned on @riverbendmalt for updates on his holiday ale!  

The Riverbend Malt House 11 Year Harvest is cut, and we’re pleased to report that we have a tremendous amount of high-quality, locally-sourced barley to offer our customers on a consistent basis.

Here’s Our 2022 Harvest Report.


Crop Conditions 

While the spring started off cooler than normal, temperatures rose quickly throughout May and into June. Some isolated areas reported mild drought conditions due to below average rainfall during the same period. Growing degree days, a measurement of the amount of growth and development that can take place at a given temperature, increased by 10% over 2021 levels.  

Thankfully, we didn’t have to endure a lengthy rain event in late May or early June. In years past, these events have lingered for three to four days and brought several inches of rain. This combination can be disastrous for grain quality, lowering test weight and triggering pre-harvest sprout damage. 


Avalon 2-Row Barley Is Here.

The major headline from 2022’s harvest is undoubtedly the success of the new Avalon variety from Virginia Tech. This variety has been painstakingly developed over the last ten years and this summer marks the very first commercial harvest. We’ll be pulling in a limited amount of this variety as we wait patiently for additional seed stock to be grown. This year’s crop was marked by strong test weights of over 50 pounds per bushel and plump, bright kernels. 

Initial trials in the malt house have yielded exciting results, with those plumps kernels contributing to a rich, milky sweet wort. Thus far we’ve experimented with Pilsner, Pale, and Vienna recipes. Brewing and distilling trials are happening now, and the first beers made with Avalon 2-row barley will hit the taps soon. 

Read more about the Avalon variety in the Craft Maltsters Guild Field To Bench series, and our Combining Efforts blog. 

Meet A Few Of Our Farmers.

The connections between Riverbend and our farm partners is stronger than ever. We were fortunate enough to visit several of them in 2022. 

The first of our 2022 barley yield was harvested at ASR Grain Co. in Shelby, North Carolina. We got to see it with our own eyes right before it came out of the ground back in May during our farm tour. Several fields of 2-row Calypso with low protein and high germination levels from ASR will become a key part of every batch of our Southern Select and Base Camp varieties. 

We also got to visit Bay’s Best Feed in Heathsville, Virginia (pictured above) to see Violeta and Avalon 2-row barley days before cutting this spring— and it looked incredible. It was an honor to stand on Avalon Lane on Billy Dawson’s farm. We’re beyond excited about the opportunities that this varietal will yield. 

Teeter Farm & Seed Co. in Clarksville, Tennessee successfully grew Calypso and Avalon 2-row varieties for us over the 2021-22 crop year. This farm is located in one of Tennessee’s grain growing hubs just north of Nashville, an area of the state that consistently produces high-quality wheat and barley. Above average test weights and kernel sizes were observed in both varieties. The Calypso barley will be utilized in our Cumberland Pilsners, part of our single origin Pilsner series. Stay tuned for more information on the Avalon. 

2022 marked our ninth successful harvest with Carter Farms in Eagle Springs, North Carolina. True to form, this year’s crop of Abruzzi rye crop looked beautiful. Strong test weight, low DON, and solid protein levels. We got a chance to see the crop right before harvest, standing tall in the spring sunshine.

Pro tip: keep an eye out for Carter Farms’ u-pick strawberries announcements on Facebook. This part of NC gets some of the earliest berries every year. 

Lastly, we visited Long Vue Farms in Allensville, Kentucky from which we received some beautiful soft red winter wheat, with strong test weights and plump kernels— perfect for the upcoming batches of Appalachian Wheat. 

We believe that building these types of relationships is essential to creating a local food system for craft beer and spirits. We’ll take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude for their commitment to sustainable practices that make for quality malt– and eventually value added beverages. 

Learn even more about the growers in Riverbend’s network here.

Farm to Tap

Summertime in Tennessee means fresh fruit and vegetables, and lots of them at Farm to Tap. Harding House Brewing Co. in West Nashville celebrates this bounty with an annual green tomato Saison, Proleptic, that boasts fresh green grape flavors and bright effervescence. “I dare you to try it,” says brewery owner Nate Underwood. “It sounds crazy, but I love this beer because it represents our practice of looking to our area for ingredient selection. Our passion for brewing comes from agriculture, and green tomatoes are a big part of the agriculture in the South.” 

Underwood’s ag passion is helping to put Tennessee beer on the map. He’s one of the driving forces behind Farm To Tap (FTT), a partnership launched by the Tennessee Craft Brewers Guild and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture in 2021 to encourage Tennessee brewers to use Tennessee sourced ingredients in their beer. Underwood is so involved in this initiative, in fact, that you can’t really talk about this concept without including Nate in the conversation.

That’s what Sharon Cheek, Executive Director of the Tennessee Craft Brewers Guild, says. She credits Underwood with helping launch the program and for his advocacy around it, including speaking at the 2022 Tennessee Legislative Session to secure the program’s second year of funding with an increase from $350,000 to $400,000. 

In year one, Farm To Tap kicked off with three events at Guild member breweries— at Harding House Brewing Co. in Nashville, at Printshop Beer Co. in Knoxville, and at Soul & Spirits Brewery in Memphis — aimed to engage the public in this initiative by offering flight tastings, brewery tours and panel discussions. Additionally more than 1900 tickets were sold for three FTT festivals that also took place in Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis. “The festivals brought together farmers, brewers and consumers for these interactive half-day events that included beer tastings, music, food trucks and other Tennessee vendors to enjoy,” says Cheek. “Additionally, more than 30 Guild member breweries showcased beers utilizing Tennessee grown crops and several local vendors also attended and offered their products for sale.” 

For Riverbend, a proud Tennessee Craft Brewers Guild member, festivals that showcase beer lists full of local ingredients are our kind of festivals. These exceptional showcases of Tennessee-grown ingredients and family farms are perhaps some of the largest compilations of craft malt the Volunteer State has ever seen. 

“We’re honored to have Riverbend’s partnership from the very beginning,” Cheek adds. “From “what if” chats over beers, to informative calls about malted barley, the entire team has made themselves available to help the Farm To Tap mission succeed.”

Thanks are in order to Cheek and her team, to Nate and his crew at Harding House, and to all of the breweries involved. It’s our honor to participate.

Cheers to another year of Farm To Tap! Stay tuned and get involved at

Malt Whiskey

Largely influenced by petitioning from the American Single Malt Whiskey commission, the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is proposing to establish a standard of identity for American single malt whiskey. Like a lot of craft malt, beer, and spirits distillers we’ve been advocates of this style of whiskey for years now. 

It’s a game-changer for the craft malt community because for the first time there will be a minimum qualification for single malt produced in the United States, says Will Goldberg, the Founder and Head Distiller at Oak & Grist Distilling Co. in Black Mountain, North Carolina. 

Under this Single Malt Whiskey proposal, to designate this category the product must be distilled entirely at one United States distillery. It must be mashed, distilled, aged in the United States, and sourced from a fermented mash of 100% malted barley, at a distillation proof of 160° or less, and stored in oak barrels not exceeding 700 liters. 

“At this point it doesn’t look like there is going to be an age requirement,” Goldberg says. “It also doesn’t look like there will be a requirement for the beer for the whiskey brewed at the same facility that is distilling the whiskey; which are two things that the Scottish definition has in place.” 

Designated Scotch whiskey is aged for a minimum of three years. “That’s why our Single Malt Whiskey is aged a minimum of three years,” Goldberg adds. “We’ve taken that approach from the get go, whereas our Malt Whiskey doesn’t meet that age requirement.” 

Oak & Grist’s American Single Malt batches have all been expressions of single origin, custom pale malt varieties grown in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. We’ll get into the nuance that these barley varieties made in each Single Malt in a future post, but for now we’ll say that berry is a core note across batches, complemented by long maturation in used bourbon barrels. The resulting whiskey is smooth and balanced. American Craft Spirits Magazine put it well when this spirit first debuted in 2020: “Goldberg left this custom-abiding single malt alone for three years to draw complexities that only come with age. The drinker’s reward is a rich mouthfeel and delicate, grassy flavor brimming with chocolate, dried berries and a smoky seaside finish.” 

Spirits like Goldberg’s contribute to a diversity of flavors in the marketplace. Each region of North America supports the growth of different barley varieties which maltsters utilize to create distinctive, fresh flavors for their distillery partners. Accordingly, craft maltsters are uniquely positioned to make positive contributions to this new category. 

As the name suggests, this category is driven by malt, marking a notable departure from bourbon which is comprised of a majority of unmalted corn. This departure frees the maltster from the responsibility of delivering a high enzyme, low color malt to his or her customer. Warmer kilning temperatures that are responsible for the lush, sweet aromatics found in Munich-style products are created in an environment that often results in lower enzymatic levels than bourbon distilleries can accept. American Single Malt producers do not require these high enzyme levels because they don’t have to convert the large starch reserves present in raw corn. The end result is a much higher concentration and diversity of flavors ranging from fresh baked bread to ripe fruit that carry over from the malt to the finished distillate.

That’s our two cents. What’s yours? 

The TTB invites public comment on this proposal, due September 27, 2022, and on the specific questions listed in Notice No. 213

”Any single malt whiskey producers make sure to give support to this if you believe in it,” says Goldberg.

We couldn’t agree more.


The arc of our malt variety development begins with Heritage Malt, the aptly named OG variety to come out of what we fondly call Malthouse 1.0. It’s not a Pale or a Pilsner, nor is it a Vienna or Light Munich-style malt; rather a malt expression all its own. Heritage Malt represents the experimentation and troubleshooting that went into those early batches, and has been the most challenging product to replicate in our new, larger vessels. We’re proud to say that it’s stood the test of time in our portfolio.  Taste it across the Southeast in these mainstay recipes.


Leiper’s Fork Distilling Co. Tennessee Whiskey – Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee

Tennessee law defines this style of whiskey as a spirit distilled in Tennessee from at least 51% corn that has undergone filtering the new-make spirit through layers of charcoal before barrel-aging in charred oak barrels. Leiper’s Fork Distilling Co., located Southwest of Nashville, crafts a beautiful Bottled In Bond expression of this whiskey style using our Heritage Malt. The resulting flavors are reminiscent of milk chocolate, roasted coffee, ripe plum, dark cherry and honey.  


Weathered Ground Brewing Co. To The Place I Belong Saison – Ghent, West Virginia

Heritage Malt is a favorite character malt at West Virginia’s Weathered Ground Brewing Co., where this malt appears in many of the lager recipes. You can also taste a touch of Heritage in To The Place I Belong Saison, an ale characterized by softer mouthfeel and body from the use of our malts (Heritage, Chit, Rye, and Pilsner) for as dry a beer as it is. 


Fullsteam Brewery Road to Nowhere IPA – Durham, North Carolina 

Fullsteam Brewery adds flavor depth to their Road to Nowhere IPA with Heritage Malt. Released annually for release in the fall, Fullsteam calls this beer “a love letter to the old worn mountains of Western North Carolina… the perfect pale ale for fall and winter.”


On September 3, 2022 the Georgia Bulldogs will play the Oregon Ducks at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. StillFire Brewing in Suwanee, Georgia and Ninkasi Brewing in Eugene, Oregon have collaborated on a beer for the occasion.

You guessed it— that beer is #madewithRiverbend malt! Meet Duck Duck Dog. It’s an easy-drinking American Pale Ale that each brewery crafted with ingredients grown in Georgia and Oregon. Georgia peach wood wheat to be exact, to help the beer embody a sense of place via ingredients. Our malt complements the complex berry meets grapefruit in the woods character of the Strata hops selected to represent the Pacific Northwest in this collaboration.

Flash back to the early 2000’s. Memories are hazy on exactly when Founding Brewer at Ninkasi Jamie Floyd and Brewmaster at StillFire Brewing Phil Farrell met; it could have been judging homebrew competitions, maybe golfing in the annual Sasquatch Brew-Am, pouring at Oregon Brewers Festival, or perhaps hanging out at the Horse Brass Pub in Portland. “We always seemed to find each other and hang out when events happened.” says Floyd. “We also both love judging and helping with beer competitions, so we got to do those events together as the years passed.” 

Flash forward to the kickoff of the 2022 college football season, three years after Farrell launched StillFire across the country, and this continental craft beer relationship has flourished into a collaboration brewed to feature regional ingredients.

“We decided to brew a beer that would be very quaffable during the early weeks of football season and all the associated Labor Day weekend tailgating, and an American Pale Ale with a distinct hop profile fit the bill perfectly,” says Farrell. “We wanted to include ingredients that represented the home states of the two breweries.” 

In Oregon, taste Duck Duck Dog on tap at The Ninkasi Better Living Room, where you can watch the big game on the large projector screen.

Catch Ninkasi Co-Founder Jamie Floyd during his halftime simulcast from the stadium on September 3. 

When Riverbend Malt House first got started, many of our small batches were used in seasonal and one-off brewing projects. Craft brewers and distillers were still treading lightly when it came to using craft malt. But Todd Steven Boera of Fonta Flora Brewery was different; he was all in. 


Todd reached out to us before he started Fonta Flora in Morganton with the long-term goal of sourcing all of the malt from local sources. As our relationship grew, an exciting opportunity came into focus. Riverbend was working with Echoview Estate in Weaverville, North Carolina (just north of Asheville) to grow some ultra-local barley for malting. Echoview was also growing several varieties of hops on their farm, which led to an estate beer project in 2013.

The resulting expression became what we called an Appalachian-style Tripel to which Fonta Flora also added local honey and lemon balm additions. We named it Echoview Estate Ale, and we’re proud to say it went down as the first ​​Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project-certified craft beer

“This was the first beer of its kind. Certainly one of my proudest moments, to be able to tie everything together to make a beer with all the ingredients that came from one place,” says Todd. “I don’t think it gets better than that as a producer.”

Riverbend’s collaborations with Fonta Flora continued, and yielded incredible terroir stories behind beers like Great American Beer Festival – Field Beer Category gold medal winner Beets, Rhymes, and Life, and our #Riverbend10 celebration beer Biere de Riverbend

Flash forward seven years from the crafting of Echoview Estate Ale, and Brent finds a bottle stashed away in the cellar. Out of curiosity about the development of its flavor, and to celebrate 10 years in business, we cracked this bottle in the Fonta Flora barrel cellar on the Whippoorwill Farm last fall. “Was a Tripel; turned into a Belgian Golden Strong,” Todd jokes. “And it only took seven years,” Brent adds. 

“We wouldn’t have grown into the brewery that we are without that partnership,” Todd says more seriously. “Something that has always separated us from the crowd is our use of local malt, from day one. Fonta Flora was founded on this commitment, and with Riverbend Malt House being the only player in the game for a long time I felt even more intrinsically linked because my ability to create beers that I’m able to talk about as ‘local’ is completely reliant upon their success.” 

Todd’s not quite done. “Supporting your local brewery is all fine and good,” he says. “But also support your local brewery that supports other local entities, and agriculture.”

Get a peek at this cellar tasting session in our #Riverbend10 short film, and don’t miss Fonta Flora’s upcoming 7th annual State of Origin festival. Many of the beers at this festival in Morganton on August 6 will feature Riverbend malt, and craft malt from across the region. Get your tickets today!

Read Part 1 of this 2022 harvest series here

After a multi-year hiatus driven by the pandemic and site flooding, I’m pleased to report that malting barley field days have returned to the Mountain Horticultural Research Station in Mills River, North Carolina.

This year, participants were treated to presentations from Dr. Angela Post, Dr. Kristin Hicks, and Dr. Ryan Heiniger. Dr. Hicks and Post covered the preliminary results of their five-year study on nitrogen management for malting barley quality and yield. Their findings point to the importance of soil type and crop precedence in the rotation schedule.


The conversation around corn management was particularly interesting. Early on we advised growers to avoid following corn with malting barley to avoid disease and fungal pressure that is typically found in the corn stubble that remains in the field following harvest. Preliminary results suggest that disease pressure is no longer a major concern, and that following corn could actually save money in fertilizer usage. This occurs as a result of the increased residual nitrogen remaining in the soil following the intensive management of the summer’s corn crop.

This data also supported lower overall usage rates of fertilizer to achieve proper protein levels and high test weight grain. This is excellent news given the current prices for these amendments.

Dr. Heiniger covered the results of the Official Variety Trial (OVT) program that is orchestrated across the state. OVT assists both public and private breeders by testing new varieties across a wide geographic range using a standardized methodology. This approach allows researchers to study newly developed varieties, such as Avalon 2-row barley from Virginia Tech, against more established varieties like Calypso and Violetta.

Also of note was the performance of the super plump 6-row variety called Hirondella. We’ve been watching this variety closely as it continues to be a class leader in yield and overall crop quality.

Conditions are shaping up for another strong harvest this summer. Stay tuned for more news and notes from the field!

-Brent Manning

As the temperatures warm and the barley starts to dry down, I know it is time for a gathering in the fields. Annual field days offer the perfect opportunity for researchers to share their latest work with an audience of interested growers and maltsters. A few weeks ago, we met at the Eastern Virginia Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Warsaw, VA for just such an occasion: Virginia Small Grains Field Day I’m always impressed by the size and scope of the work conducted here— more than 200 acres devoted to a mix of malting barley and red winter wheat research.


In true barley geek fashion, I was super excited to learn more about the release of Avalon, the first 2-row malting barley to be “born and bred in the South”. 

I still remember our first meeting with Dr. Carl Griffey and Wynse Brooks from Virginia Tech back in the early days of Riverbend Malt House. We had a lively discussion about malting barley in the Southeast, which was basically non-existent in 2012. We asked about the potential for a 2-row winter barley variety that could match specifications from the more traditional growing regions. We also pitched them on the dramatic growth of the craft beer industry, which was growing at double digit rates back then.

They offered a window into their work, helping us to understand the process of crossing different varieties (aka germplasm) with the goal of improving yield, disease resistance, and a host of other factors. Combine that variety development work with nutrient and fungal management studies and you have a robust program perfectly suited to support the craft malting industry

But wait… there was a catch. They politely told us we’d have to wait up to 10 years for a 2-row malting variety to make it to production. I remember thinking What? I have to wait? I just told them how fast the industry is growing! 

Flash forward to 2022, and the first commercial harvest of Avalon is here! Check out this Virginia Tech article about how the Extension Center is leading an effort to establish Southwest Virginia as a top producer of malting-quality barley to boost the state’s craft beer industry.


What can we expect from this variety, you ask?

Early pilot malting revealed some beautiful flavors. Notes of rich fruit, freshly baked cake, and honeysuckle were all detected at a fairly low SRM. Commercial-scale runs will give us an even better idea of the flavor options available to us as either a Pale Ale or Vienna-style malt.

I’m happy to report that Avalon also shines in the analytical department. We have seen consistently high extracts, low beta glucan levels, and strong enzyme performance.

This release is a fitting crescendo to the long and successful careers of both Dr. Griffey and Brooks, both who have announced their retirement plans. The craft malting community of the Southeast owes much to their efforts and wish them well in the years ahead!

— Brent Manning

Supply Chain

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, one thing is clear… the global supply chain as we know it is crumbling. Russia and Ukraine are among the largest global producers of wheat, threatening countries around the globe with severe near term shortages as a result of sanctions and port blockades.

Following market prices for wheat only captures one small portion of the unfolding drama. Market prices have a cap that manages the rise in global price per bushel, much like our stock market can only fall so far per day. Rapidly rising costs for inputs such as fertilizer and herbicide further exacerbate the volatility seen in the market. Meanwhile, sharply higher fuel prices mean that the cost of transporting grain has risen significantly.

Before diving in, let’s lay some groundwork.
  1. Prior to the February 24th invasion, Ukraine and Russia produced about one quarter of the world’s export wheat (and a similar amount of the world’s barley).
  2. Ukraine grows and exports a significant amount of winter wheat which is harvested in June, as does Russia. Time is an issue.
  3. Russia has suspended exports of wheat to the EU until August 2022 and exports of wheat from Ukraine by ship through the Black Sea are being blocked.
  4. Differences in railroad gauges and other infrastructure issues severely impede volume exports of grain by land from Ukraine to the rest of Europe.
What does this mean for the North American grain market?

Time will tell. If harvest is disrupted in Ukraine, global prices will continue to climb steadily. This will present an opportunity for U.S. growers to plant more spring wheat in May, potentially displacing and reducing acreage of malting barley. Simply put, malting barley prices will be forced to mirror wheat prices or lose out on acreage.

Our friends at Root Shoot Malting are paying attention to these price increases, too. Get even more resources in their latest Field Notes.

What does that mean for the grain market in the Southeast?

While typically isolated, Southeastern grain growers will be able to access international markets as a result of supply chain disruptions. If strong wheat prices persist, growers will also shift acreage away from malting barley as we approach the October planting window. This will drive up contract pricing for malting barley bushels, which could trigger higher malt prices in 2023.

Where do we go from here?

Times like these are when we rely on our long-term relationships with our suppliers. Paying premium prices during periods of market stability builds trust. That trust translates into an honest and open dialog during periods of instability. Crop inputs, diesel fuel, and labor all enter the conversation as we work together to arrive at a fair price for a bushel of grain. Our mission has always been to pull growers out of the “hamster wheel” of geopolitical events, and this approach always bears fruit.

Stay tuned here on our blog for more industry news, and a field report about the 2022 harvest.