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Back to our Roots
North Carolina farmers have grown small grains – like barley, wheat, and rye – for many generations. In the Southeast, grain is often grown as a “winter crop”, which is planted in the fall and harvested the following spring. Carolina Malt House is located in western Rowan County, part of an area historically known as Carolina’s “Grain Belt”; many growers in this region specialized in small grains, even when tobacco and cotton were the area’s major cash crops.
Grains are used in many recipes, for livestock feed, as well as, in the production of beer and spirits. Local brewers want to create a more authentic local beer, which starts in the field. Researchers have developed varieties of barley that grow well in our area and make great tasting beer. For the 2016 spring harvest, Carolina Malt House contracted acreage with several of the area’s top grains growers.”
Carolina Grown, Carolina Malt
Malt affects the flavor, aroma, color, and texture of beer, but – more importantly – it enables the yeast to produce alcohol during fermentation. The malting process exposes the grain’s energy source and triggers the production of important enzymes. Malting is an essential step for fermenting grains, as raw grains will produce non-alcoholic beer. Almost any grain can be malted, but malted barley is most commonly used in the production of beer, today.
Malting grain triggers the release of enzymes and exposes the grain’s starchy embryo, which affects its flavor and nutrient composition. There are three main steps of malting, called “steeping”, “germination”, and “kilning”. In steeping, the grain is submerged in water, periodically, for almost two days, to raise the moisture content to around 45%. Steeping tricks the grain into thinking it has been planted and it begins to germinate. The grain is removed from the steeping tank and allowed to germinate for several more days, until it is “modified” to the maltster’s liking. When the grain is modified, the process is halted by adding warm, dry air. Additional “roasting” may be used to produce more unique flavors and other characteristics. Ultimately, the enzymes will break the starch down into fermentable sugars, which the yeast consumes and produces alcohol, during fermentation.
Water, Malt, Hops, and Yeast
There are many styles of beer, with countless variations and blends. The foundation of a great beer is quality ingredients – water, malt, hops, and yeast – and careful attention to detail. North Carolina has the natural resources and talent to produce topnotch brews, which has attracted some of the biggest names in craft beer – Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues, and New Belgium have established production facilities around Asheville since 2011.
Craft beer continues to gain market power and the production of beer has becomes less centralized/controlled by a few major brewers. North Carolina is an influential beer producer in the Southeast and many of our brews are enjoyed nationwide or even internationally. Brewers are some of the biggest advocates of buying local products, and many hope to create a more “authentic” craft beer. Today, only a handful of beers can say they are made with all local ingredients, because the ingredients do not exist or are very limited. Carolina Malt House hopes to join the network of suppliers and offer a local, high-quality option for malt.