HOMEBREW KITS NOW AVAILABLE!

Once we built up some inventory in the malt house, we turned our attention to developing all grain homebrew kits for the holidays!

 

Our first batch of kits!

HOMEGROWN PALE ALE

This kit blends our freshest, artisan malt with a classic West Coast hop schedule to create a nicely balanced ale.  Our Pale and Heritage Malts account for 99% of the grain, with just a pinch of Chocolate Malt added for color adjustment.  IBU’s are equally balanced between early and late additions to create a beer with just the right amount of bitterness and plenty of aroma.

ROLLING STONE HEFEWEIZEN

This kit features our Appalachian Red Wheat Malt.  This malt utilizes an heirloom variety of wheat dubbed “Turkey Red”, which has been grown in the South for hundreds of years!  The grain bill is topped off with our experimental Pilsner malt and a bit Heritage Malt to create a light bodied beer with complex malt character.  Subtle bitterness is provided by 2 additions of Hallertauer hops.

KIT CONTENTS (5 GALLON BATCH SIZE)

All of the grain (with the exception of the Chocolate Malt) is malted by hand and uses North Carolina grown, organic barley and wheat.  All of the malt and hops included in our kits are shipped in nitrogen-purged, vaccum-sealed bags to maintain optimal freshness and flavor.  All of the grain has been milled to our specifications.  Each kit also includes a dry yeast packet (Danstar Munich Wheat or Safale 05), so you have everything you need to brew!

Vaccum sealing the freshly milled malt.

COST

$39.95 (plus NC Sales Tax, shipping, and handling costs)

PAYMENT METHODS

Cash, Check, or Credit Card

PLACE AN ORDER:

brent@riverbendmalt.com

 

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BUSY SUNDAY IN THE UPSTATE

My Sunday began MUCH earlier than I care to talk about….up and out the door by about 7AM!  Why the early wake up call?  I was scheduled to take part in a roundtable discussion at the Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Greenville, S.C.  This discussion featured our friends from the NC State Organic Grains program in addition to Jennifer Lapidus from Carolina Ground, L3C and a representative from Organic Valley Cooperative.  We touched on the basics of grain farming in the Carolinas as well as some of the emerging markets for these products.  In short, the market potential is tremendous as NC/SC are net importers of grain from around the globe!

After the conference, I met a buddy for lunch at The Trappe Door, just down the street from the conference site.  This place was an incredible find!  Great belgian beer selection featuring  the appropriate glassware…always a plus for me!  The food was also well done, although I’ll stick ketchup for my fries (although the array of flavored mayonnaises were interesting).  Be sure to check these guys out the next time you are in town.

My third, and final stop was Grape and Grains for a “Meet the Maltster” event.  The owners, Ken and his wife Jennelle, operate SC’s only licensed brewery/winery/homebrew shop and are big fans of our malt.  I brought in one of my favorite recipes for the event, a beer I call “Bottomland Brown”, which features our Carolina Rye, Heritage Malt, and sorghum molasses.

Soon after my arrival, the place filled up with interested homebrewers, aspiring professionals (Will and Meredith from Brewery85 and Don from Quest Brewing), and some yeast researchers from Clemson University.  Plenty of beers were offered up for tasting and comment..some pretty incredible stuff all around!  Here is a partial list…

Ginger Cream Ale, Dr. Pepper Stout, Belgian Dark Strong, Belgian Golden Strong, Imperial ESB, Oak Aged Barleywine, local hard cider, and a wild yeast IPA.

A vial of yeast slurry harvested from a local nectarine.

The yeast for that IPA was harvested from a nectarine grove (?) in SC and gave the beer a really interesting tart cherry flavor.  Not brett driven or bacteria driven, but very approachable.  So much so that we decided to use the same strain to ferment 5 gallons of our Bottomland Brown.  We used a standard Northwest Ale yeast strain for the other 5 gallons.  This should make for an exciting East Coast vs. West Coast comparison in a few weeks!

Many thanks to Ken and Jennelle for hosting me for the afternoon.  Stay tuned for details on the release date for Bottomland Brown.

 

 

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CIRCLE ‘ROUND THE SUN…

Wow!  Hard to believe we’ve been malting for over a year at this point.  Over the past 12 months we’ve encountered all of the typical “start up” problems, cost overruns, permitting headaches, inefficient supply chain issues, etc. all of which contributed to a roller coaster ride.  Aaah, but now we’ve hit the sweet spot.

Now, you are probably asking yourself, what is the “sweet spot” for a malt house?  Well, it has a lot to do with climate control.  Our barley likes a cool, humid space to germinate.  While we knew this was important on day 1, we did not achieve full control over our germination room’s climate until many months down the road.

This penchant for climate control extends into the kilning process.  When we started, we had insufficient heat and air flow to kiln large batches.  This meant that our output was far below what it takes to “break even”.  The only solution was to spend more money….new fan, more heaters, more duct work.  The end result is a 10’x10′ that works like a Swiss watch.

Together, these pieces of the puzzle now contribute to a (relatively) smooth running machine that kicks out 7-8 batches of high-quality, artisan malt per month!

Where are these batches heading?  To several local breweries around Asheville this fall!  Stop by the Wedge for an NC Pale Ale (featuring Echoview Farm hops!) this weekend and raise a glass to your local grain farmer, hop grower, and maltster….we’re working hard to create a new craft beer economy throughout our state.

A delicious, dry hopped NC Pale Ale...now available at the Wedge

 

 

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WHO GOSE THERE?

Catawba Valley Brewing!  Todd and his staff took our malt in a new direction last week by developing a German Gose recipe with 100% Riverbend products.  This style dates back to the 1700’s and is a classic summer sipper for Germans.  While somewhat similar to a Berliner Weisse this style commonly incorporates salt and coriander in the boil for an interesting finish.

Brewing this style takes patience….it begins with a sour mash that allows naturally occurring bacteria on the grain to rapidly multiple over a 24 hour period.  The following days includes the more traditional mash/sparge/boil processes.  Expect low hop flavor and bitterness along with a session friendly ABV.  Read more about the style here.

Hopefully this will be on draft in Asheville sometime in September…we’ll keep you posted.

 

A classic style with a southern twist

 

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THERE’S A NEW MALTSTER IN TOWN…

 

Meet Craig...the latest addition to the Riverbend team

 

 

In order to handle the recent influx of orders, we’ve recently hired Craig Weitzel as assistant maltster.  Some of you may already know this gentlemen as a member of the Bruisin Ales team here in Asheville.  His interview and subsequent job offer stem from a casual conversation at the shop and within a few short days he was helping us rake the malt!

Craig hails from the west coast beer mecca of San Diego and has a fairly exhaustive knowledge of America’s craft beers and a true passion for the industry.  As with many of us, he jettisoned his degree (in Accounting) to work in the craft beer world.  Also an avid homebrewer, we have plans for him to assist in the R&D side of the business as well.  His Rye IPA will be available for sampling at this year’s Asheville Food and Wine Festival along with a Belgian Saison that I’ll bring along.

We are really thankful to have him on board as we work to meet the demand for fresh, locally produced malts.  Please welcome him to the NC beer community!
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NEW BELGIUM VISITS RIVERBEND!

So this is pretty special…a few weeks before AVL Beer Week we got an email from Matt at New Belgium requesting a tour of our humble establishment during their stay.  Naturally, we obliged.  On paper, our two businesses are a great fit…both committed to sustainability and maintaining a high quality of life for their employees.  We just weren’t expecting our meet and greet to occur so soon after their big announcement.

It worked out beautifully.  We hit it off immediately with Matt, Grady, and Drew over a few beers and locally sourced malt balls from French Broad Chocolate Lounge.  We took them through the tour, highlighting our swanky new kiln controls and old-school malt rake.  I’m not sure what they were expecting, but they seemed genuinely impressed with our process and finished products.

 

Brian discusses germination with the guys from NBB

During the tour we happened to mention that the kiln needed to be loaded sooner than later as the malt had completed the germination phase of the process.  They offered to lend a hand, and we took them up on the offer!  We dusted off the wheelbarrows and went to work shoveling green malt off of the floor.  Too fun!

After the tour, we spent some time talking shop….when will Le Terroir come back?  Is Clips of Faith returning to AVL (yes, September 7th!)?  All in all a great morning of beers and conversation with some great down-to-earth guys.  I’m sure you’re wondering…will Riverbend Malt make its way into a New Belgium brew?  Stay tuned, we’ll let you know!

 

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GETTING OUR DUCTS IN A ROW…

Over the past few weeks we’ve been hard at work making some much needed improvements at the malt house. The main focus (as always) has been the kiln. This little room has caused many a sleepless night for us, as there is no “textbook” method of designing, building, and operating these things at our scale. Our first design/build worked well, but didn’t give us the capacity we need to meet demand (or turn a profit!).

As the orders started to stack up in early March, we knew it was time to take to the next step forward. We enlisted the help of our friends Andrea and Christian at Valley Malt.  After speaking with numerous engineers across the country who just didn’t “get it”, it was a welcome change to have an in-depth discussion with Christian.  These discussions generated several upgrades to system…better ventilation, more air flow, etc.  All of which will translate into larger, more consistent batches of locally grown malt!

Game plan in hand, we purchased a new fan/motor and scheduled our subcontractors to install the new duct work.  Installation of all of this new equipment halted malt production for several weeks, but we are back online and moving fast!

The next phase of improvement will involve the installation of process controls.  These gadgets will allow us to program temperature and fan speed settings for each style of malt we produce.  We’ll even be able to adjust humidity and temperature from our smartphones…pretty cool, huh?

New duct work and fan assembly

 

 

 

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BEER RELEASE UPDATE – MARCH 2012

As any musician will tell you, there is a sweet spot where you are “in the pocket” and things just start to click……I think we are getting there!  We’ve been actively producing malt just about everyday this year and the orders are starting to pile up.  We’ve also got several great beers heading out to the market with our malt in them.  Check it out…

Pisgah Brewing Company (Black Mountain) – Riverbend Brown available in growlers, kegs, and at the brewery this week.  Our Heritage Malt comprises >80% of the total grain bill for this beer!

Fullsteam Brewing Company (Durham) – One Hop Rye IPA available at the brewery.  This ones uses our Carolina Rye Malt which is made using a variety of rye called Wrens Abruzzi.  This variety has been grown in NC since the 1800’s.

Weeping Radish Brewing Company (Grandy…Outer Banks) – Smoked Hefeweizen available at the brewery.  A new twist on a classic style that features our Appalachian White Wheat.  If things go well in the tap room, this one might get bottled and distributed later this spring.

We’ve also got a few projects in the works with our new friends at Nantahala Brewing Company and Mystery Brewing Company down in Hillsborough.  We’ll keep you posted as things develop.  Cheers!

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WARREN WILSON TOUR

Last week we gave a tour to a group of students from Warren Wilson College.  The students were part of an ethnobotany class taught by Jay Bost.  This was a new audience for us, but it gave us a great opportunity to focus on some of the sustainability aspects of our work that are often omitted during a typical tour.  We started with a brief overview of the commodity markets that control the price of grain and transitioned into the “day in the life” of a maltster routine that Brian and I have been perfecting over the past several months.  We also covered some of the basics of brewing beer, just to get them in the mood for spring break!

 

Professor Simpson lectures on the importance of steeping intervals...

The student were engaged in our discussions regarding fossil fuel consumption, development of local food systems, and brewing quality craft beer from 6-row barley.  We also got a chance to learn about several of their class projects, like growing mushrooms on compost material and brewing beer from moss!  Needless to say, this was much different than my college experience….they’ve got a great thing going out there in Swannanoa.

 

 

 

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MALT RAKE 2.0 – GETTING MEDIEVAL!

As with most things in life, everyday brings a new set of challenges in the malt house.  One of the major issues we’ve been dealing with is grain raking.  Specifically, how to accomplish this task without breaking our backs.  As the batch sizes got bigger over the first few months, we quickly realized that our first rake had a tendency to float to the top of the bed after just a few feet of travel leaving the germinating barley relatively undisturbed.  This was primarily due to the lightweight design which utilized stainless steel.  Since the rake was now relegated to the “finesse” portion of this process, we were forced to use a grain shovel to manually turn over the bed.  Trust me, shoveling 800+ pounds of grain on a Saturday night ranks right up there with root canals in my book!

Given the futility of this effort, we went back to the drawing board.  Scouring old textbooks, magazine articles, and the internet to fine-tune our design.   Information in hand, we went back to our friend Stefan at Steebo Design to build us the burly ass rake you see below.  She clocks in at a hefty 35+ pounds and rips through the grain bed in 10 minutes flat!

Let me take a minute to walk you through some of the design features and process.  The 3 triangles are welding together to form a solid plow.  During our raking, the grain slides up the triangle and is “split” by one of the 3 tines.  This process untangles the rootlets from the individual kernels and introduces fresh air into the grain bed.  The rake also has an adjustable gear located at the top of plow.  This allows us to adjust the approach angle to our different heights (I’m 5’7″, Brian is closer to 6′) and grain bed depths.  A HUGE improvement over that grain shovel!

Call us to schedule a tour…maybe we’ll let you take her for a spin!


 

 

 

 

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