Subscriber Exclusive

Craft Malt

Taking beer back to its historical roots

Emily Hutto Mar 28, 2015 - 9 min read

Craft Malt Primary Image

In 2014, the Asheville (North Carolina) Brewers Alliance, Sierra Nevada Brewing in North Carolina, and local malthouse Riverbend Malt created a collaboration beer called Tater Ridge, named to embody the mountains in Sierra Nevada’s two locations: western North Carolina and Northern California. It’s a Scottish ale brewed with sweet potatoes and Riverbend 6-row malt, two ingredients native to the Asheville area. This beer represents not just the use of local ingredients, but also the re-emgence of small craft malthouses.

“Over the years, a lot of focus in craft beer has been put on hops, but too often, unique malts are overlooked,” says Bill Manley, the beer ambassador at Sierra Nevada Brewing. “For many years, barley was bred and selected for its agronomic properties (namely yield and pest resistance), rather than flavor. Now the tide in brewing malt is turning, and maltsters are focusing on varieties that can have a different impact on beer flavor.”

Riverbend is primarily malting 6-row barley (often called winter barley because it is planted in the late fall and harvested the following summer), whereas most craft brewers use 2-row (spring barley, which is planted in spring and harvested later that year). Historically, the kernels in the extra four rows of 6-malt barley have tended to be smaller, making six-rowed grain less uniform in size and plumpness, which can create consistency issues in brewing. Over time though, points out the American Malting Barley Association, “breeders of malting barley have increased the grain size in six-rowed types and greatly reduced the gap in kernel plumpness between these types of barley.”

Make & Drink Better Beer

Subscribe today to access all of the premium brewing content available (including this article). With thousands of reviews, our subscribers call it "the perfect beer magazine" and "worth every penny." Your subscription is protected by a 100% money back guarantee.