Jimmy Carbone of Beer Sessions Radio has taken a major interest in craft malt over the past year. From university research to farmers and producers of craft beer and spirits made with craft malt all over the country, we’ve been loving his thorough coverage of what’s happening across the industry.
Earlier this month, Jimmy hosted Brent to chat about Craft Malt Week, relationships with farmers, our recent expansion, and what the heck a GKV (Germination Kiln Vessel) is– among many other topics. Listen in on episode 639!
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
We love Arches Bohemian Riot! Uproxx recently asked us about our favorite easy-sippers, and this craft lager made the cut among some other world-class craft beers like Bibo Pils by Creature Comforts and La Petite Prince by Jester King.
This Pilsner first crafted by Arches Brewing in Hapeville, Georgia in 2019 has grown in popularity and availability over the years, reported Beer Street Journal. Great news for Georgia craft beer lovers: This spring seasonal is sticking around through August.
It’s not every day you find a functioning brewery in a museum; no less one that utilizes craft malt.
Brew Your Own Magazine just profiled our customers The Carillon Brewing Company at the Carillon Historical Park in Dayton, Ohio. Carillon uses our base malt to produce their own toasted and crystal malts in-house.
Click here to read about their toasting regimen, and so much more.
New Belgium’s Old Tuffy Premium Lager made in collaboration with North Carolina State University continues to make headlines. A portion of sales of this light lager supports the university’s fermentation sciences program. According to New Belgium’s COO Joe Davis, using our malt in this beer deepens the “connection with the university and the state.”
Read on about Old Tuffy and more craft beer and university collaborations in this Vine Pair article by our friend Joshua Bernstein.
In episode 95 of the Good Beer Matters podcast, our very own Brent and Jesse Bussard of the Craft Maltsters Guild had the opportunity to dive into the importance of craft malt in craft beer production with host Jeremy Storton.
Jesse and Brent touched on how important community and connection were in getting interested in craft. Brent described that “ethos” as key in his decision to get started.
“We’re really looking back to the roots of beer production,’ Brent explained.”In the early days, the malthouse was inside of the brewery, it was all a part of the process chain. We’re unlocking a lot of those old historical scales and flavors when we talk about this.”
Brent and Jesse went on to explain the Guild’s Craft Malt Certified Seal program. Jesse described how the seal itself is a vehicle to tell the story of local craft malt. With so many breweries throughout the country, the seal is a differentiation point, even for larger breweries like New Belgium. It was intentionally designed to key people in to the fact that beer is an agricultural product.
“Drinking is an agricultural act. We want people to make that connection.” — Brent
The Guild and craft malt have expanded, both literally and in the craft beer consciousness. From Denver to Asheville, to Belize (where maybe the Craft Malt Conference can take place one day, just sayin’) the Guild has connected customers to their products in an authentic and delicious way.
We’re proud to be a part of it, and we had a blast being a part of this podcast. Thanks Jeremy!
We’ve been busy in The Sunshine State! From recipe development around our #Riverbend10 Sunset Wheat malt to beer projects that involve full cake additions to the mash, we’ve been collaborating with some super creative breweries and people!
In Episode #92 of the Florida Beer Podcast, Brent chatted with host David Butler to talk about some of these projects. They also dove into a masterclass on craft malt, the malting process, and what’s new at Riverbend.
The podcast kicks off with the Riverbend odyssey to answer “the question of whether or not people care about where their malt comes from,” says Brent. We found the answer to that question in our early partners; craft breweries and distillers who cared about the terroir and regionality of their beer.
With that mission in mind, Brent went on to break down the malting process from farm to glass, ie: steeping, germinating, and kilning, and how all of it center’s on our locality and commitment to sourcing from within 500 miles.
That local sourcing was brought into the spotlight during the pandemic, and coupled with recent droughts, maltsters all over the country had to think creatively to get their products sourced, produced, and distributed. Brent explained how we had to shift to longer lead times to ensure loads were picked up and delivered on schedule, but that the malthouse is currently stocked up with quality, local malt, and things are in great shape for us to continue bringing quality, craft malt to our partners.
It’s that closeness with our partners that has cemented Riverbend in the craft malt world. David touched on that closeness, noting it’s something unusual in the industry, but a major benefit. Branching off of that, they talked about our recent trip to Pensacola, Florida to visit Perfect Plain Brewing and brew an oyster Saison brewed in part with Sunset Wheat, our celebratory 10 year harvest variety.
Brent closed it down with some big picture thoughts about the industry. He’s excited about the where malt is going, and gets great joy from seeing different people from different backgrounds all collaborating to create a maltier world.
We caught up with Joshua Bernstein via SevenFifty Daily to make predictions for craft malt 2022.
The big takeaway: supply chain snafus continue to turn the industry toward adding value to their products via craft malt. Props to our friends at Mainstem Malt in Walla Walla, Washington who also weighed in, and cheers to shorter supply chains going forward!