By Reed Odeneal, Co-Founder & Brewing Operations Director
Our relationship with Brent and Brian at Riverbend Malt House began before our doors opened when I lived in Asheville where I first heard the phrase “craft malt”. It’s a term that didn’t even exist a decade ago, and for good reason: Before the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919 the relationship between brewer and maltster thrived. Many had a direct partnership with their local and regional maltsters and most were using what was on the farm, in the forest, and doing their own malting out of necessity. Then in the early 20th century new investments in automated, commercial malting facilities resulted in a global malt industry that remains highly concentrated. Yet, small maltsters like Riverbend Malt House are pioneering a malting revolution and giving brewers a new way to introduce a sense of place in their beers and to have a direct hand in crafting the largest single dry ingredient used in brewing. It’s a revolution that we’re proud and excited to be a part of.
The idea for a custom malt began about six months ago as the Summer in Pensacola was ramping-up. The blistering heat and gumbo-thick humidity had arrived and the prospect of brewing a series of frigid fermented lagers with a custom base malt was something we couldn’t resist. We wanted to create a malt that was subtle enough to utilize in an array of delicate lagers yet expressive enough to add a warm, rustic character suited for beers brewed with purpose. The Classic Lager Series is a way to showcase traditional lager styles, staying true to our roots, and to get the chance to tell the story of the craft malt movement to our patrons in Florida’s Northwest Panhandle. Working directly with Brent and Brian at Riverbend’s facility in South Asheville we spent hours sampling hot steeps and combing through sensory notes to find the profile we were looking for.
The end result, our 2.6L Pilsner base malt, will be the foundation of a series of Classic style lagers that we will begin brewing in mid-October. With each installment of this series, we hope to shine a spotlight on a deserving style of lager and to use that as a stage to celebrate the unique terroir born from America’s craft malt movement. It’s not every day that you get to experience a beer that you know exactly where every piece of barley it was brewed with came from, what farm it was harvested from, who handled it, how it was malted, and how it was brewed.
With the continuing emergence of the craft malt movement brewers once again have the opportunity to reach out to their local and regional malthouses and collaborate together to revive a nearly forgotten ecosystem between farmer-maltster-brewer. It’s the hope that opportunities like the one that we took will continue to bring about a renaissance for our respective industries.