Summertime calls for a good, cold craft beer. As I am always on the search for the next new craft beer to try, I started thinking about the process of making craft beer. My inquisitiveness leads me out to Western Rowan County to Carolina Malt House.
Carolina Malt House
I arrived at Carolina Malt House early one morning to meet with Aaron Goss, CEO and Co-Founder, and Steve Bauk, Vice President. I was fully prepared to explore the facility and go on a tour that I knew I’d never forget. I was not disappointed! Aaron made a great point right off the bat saying, “When you visit a winery you are drinking the grapes that come from that vineyard, but seldom can you visit a brewery and drink beer from grains grown locally.” However, here in Rowan County you get that very opportunity!
Aaron’s knowledge of malting was very impressive. While working on his law degree and MBA, Aaron took up an interest in home brewing and even after finishing his degrees, he continued to brew at home. What intrigued him the most was how the majority of malt grains used for brewing were grown quite a distance from the Carolinas.
“We live in the grain belt so why not grow them here? There are stories out there that NC was not capable of producing malting quality barley, but I had just produced beer from it for my wedding and people wanted to invest” he says. The weather patterns and the soil in western Rowan County made for perfect conditions to grow quality barley. Beer is made from malt, and malt is made from barley, so the decision was made to open Carolina Malt House.
Carolina Malt House is quite a sight to behold. One of the first things you may notice from the road is a tremendous propane tank with their name painted on it. Aaron told me they are a registered propane distributor as well, due to all the propane used for their process. On the grounds is a weigh station where grain trucks deliver barley and where they go through seven different core tests to check for quality. Carolina Malt House only accepts top quality barley. Also, on their property are four huge grain bins that can hold two years worth of grain for operations.
The Malt House Process
The tour started in the Grain Room where the barley is sorted into the Clipper. After the sorting is completed, the grain moves into the Seeping Room. An interesting fact about the facility from this point on is that Aaron actually created and designed the equipment. That’s right! He designed the rest of the facility to help produce only the finest and cleanest barley you can imagine. Because of Aaron’s design, Carolina Malt House received third place in the “International Malt Cup” held in Montana during their first year of operation. In this competition, there were 21 entries from multiple countries.
The Steeping Room comes after the grain is cleaned. The barley is moved to the steeping tank which has a perforated internal cone, allowing the grain to remain underwater until drained. During this process, the grain receives water from the well which causes germination (the grain begins to grow a root). Once the barley is steeped for 48 hours, the chitted barley is then moved to the next step.
Aaron took me into the Germination Kilning Vessel. This was quite an impressive piece of equipment. The barley will now sit in a 14-foot deep vessel with air blowing around the grain to help with the drying process. By combining these processes, they can produce malt with protein breakdown, the desired sugar formation, and maillard reactions to produce a variety of malt styles. I was then taken underneath the vessel. Again, a thing to behold because over my head was 38 tons of grains! This room was crafted to have the perfect surfaces for the process of lowering the vessel and allowing the grains to move into bins for bagging. I was lucky enough to taste the finished product. The barley was crunchy and had a nutty flavor.
There are currently 280 breweries in North Carolina with more opening each day. Carolina Malt House has seven employees who produce some of the cleanest and most high-quality malt around! They also use any leftover materials as feed for local farmers. Carolina Malt House serves two breweries in Rowan County: New Sarum Brewing and Morgan Ridge Railwalk Brewery & Eatery.
You can contact Carolina Malt House Monday-Friday at 704.412.9962. They are located at 12969 Statesville Blvd., Cleveland, NC. For more information, visit their website here.
Brewer at Heart
So, now that I learned where the malt was coming from, it was time to visit the local breweries in Rowan County that use this local product.
I decided to start with New Sarum Brewing. Andy Maben, Brew Master and Co-Owner, and I go back quite a few years when he was working at The Salty Caper here in Salisbury. Andy came to Salisbury from Milwaukee, where there was a pub on every corner. His journey here was to attend Catawba College as a theatre major.
While working at The Salty Caper, he helped customers chose the perfect beer through his brew knowledge. Having a great personality and knowledge of beer led to his decision to start brewing at home. He soon wanted to expand. His knowledge of “chemistry, numbers, microbiology, creativity, and the love of cooking” all make for a great beer.
New Sarum’s Process
I was lucky enough to get a tour of the process of producing beer with Andy. I have to say: I truly had no idea how much work it takes to produce that can or pint glass of beer we all enjoy!
Based on the “German Purity Law,” the four main ingredients used to make beer are malted barley, hops, water, and yeast. Andy jokes, “At the end of the day we are glorified janitors that take colored sugar water and babysit the yeast.”
Once the malt arrives, it goes through a grist mill that cracks open the husks of the kernels to help expose the starches during the mash process.
The first step is mashing in the mash tun. This process allows the grist and water to heat and cause natural enzymes in the malt. This breaks down starches, converting them into sugars that become food for yeast to produce alcohol. The sugars and water resulting from mashing is called wort.
During the lautering process, which is separating the wort from the spent grain, there are several steps that are called the mash-out, the recirculation and the sparging. The mash-out is when the temperature rises, causing the enzymatic reaction to stop. This process preserves the fermentable sugars of the wort in return, making the wort easier to work with. The wort is then recirculated, causing the loose grains to be filtered out. This allows the wort to sink to the bottom, leaving a much clearer wort. Sparging occurs next when they rinse the remaining grain to get as much sugar as possible. Any leftover spent grains are used as cattle feed.
The wort is then kettle boiled for sterilization. During this whirlpooling process, hops can be added. Whirlpooling further clarifies the wort by removing protein and hop solids through settling. At the end of the process, a heat exchanger is used to reduce the wort temperature for desired fermentation.
After heat exchanging, the wort is then placed in fermentation tanks, where yeast and flavorings are added to produce the desired product.
A fun fact: New Sarum has one employee whose job is to babysit the yeast once its added. One of these products has just been released! The pilsner malt is 100% from Carolina Malt House and it is called “Yadkin River Lager.”
While I was there that day, they were working on ingredients for their next Griffin Series release. I watched them processing tons of cucumbers, fresh dill, and garlic with spices for this specific beer. The release “Netflix & Dill” in a can will happen sometime this July. I’m told it tastes exactly like pickle juice with alcohol! Apparently, this beer sells out quickly, so don’t miss out!
Coming this August, there will be another exciting release! The Blue Flower Purple Sour Power will be purple in color. I saw the blue flowers in bags, just waiting for the process. I’m sure I’ll be grabbing one of these as well. Their top seller still remains the Hurley Park Blood Orange Wheat.
Why the Name “New Sarum”?
Andy boldly said, “We brew beer for the people of Salisbury.” The decision was made to name the brewery “New Sarum” after Salisbury’s sister city, Old Sarum in England. The logo combines the Old Sarum crest with the City of Salisbury’s crest. New Sarum is known for supporting local charities.
At the end of my visit, I realized how extremely clean the facility is. On the property, they have one of the best canning facilities and a huge Imperial Brown cooler to store their brew. Only the highest qualities of ingredients are used and NO artificial flavors are ever put into any of their products. Andy’s parting words were, “If people keep drinking beer, we will keep making it,” and that is a good thing for us here in Rowan County!
You can visit the New Sarum Taproom any day of the week except for Mondays when they are closed. Most nights you will find live music and food trucks, including their very own food truck, “Mise en Place.” You must try their poke bowls … to die for! The Home Brew Club actually meets there every second Tuesday. New Sarum Brewing is located at 109 N. Lee St., Salisbury, NC. Visit their website here for more information.
Morgan Ridge Railwalk Brewery & Eatery
The next stop on my brewery tour was Morgan Ridge Railwalk to meet again with Owner Amie Morgan Baudoin and Brew Master Jarod Lanam. Jarod joined Morgan Ridge this year with a plan to make some of the best craft beer he can with a unique, flavor forward taste.
Jarod explains, “I’m currently using high quality local ingredients from Carolina Malt House and barrels from Morgan Ridge Vineyards to flavor the barrels of beer. I’d like to use more local fruits in beer to support the community and farmers.” Carolina Malt House is used especially for small batch beers.
One of their top sellers is the Caramel Coconut Cream Ale. They use real coconut puree to make this popular beer. Other top sellers are Boxcar Blonde and Hazed & Confused, a New England-style brew.
Amie wanted to have a brewery initially for her event venue at Morgan Ridge Vineyard. She is always thinking of ways to bring commerce into the local community which is what led her to open the Railwalk location. Because the brewery is located right on top of an actual old railroad track, the name “Railwalk” was the obvious choice.
One of Jarod’s first craft beers was an IPA more than 10 years ago. He came to Morgan Ridge from Cabarrus Brewing Company in Concord. So, he brings a wealth of knowledge and is excited to share it with us here in Rowan County.
Jarod’s experience and background in the hospitality field and in construction have given him a great attitude, concerning teamwork. He wants to instill that same principle in his work ethics with other employees at the brewery. His environmental side keeps him conscious of not wasting water and giving leftover mash to local farmers in the community.
Currently, Morgan Ridge Railwalk has 19 beers on tap and they offer a guest tap, allowing them to showcase another brewery’s product. The day I was there, Pharr Mill Brewing of Harrisburg was occupying the tap. It’s like an extended brewery family! They all want to make the best craft beer out there, but they all want each other to succeed as well.
They have some exciting releases coming out soon. One is called “Patio Time” and I was lucky enough to try it during my visit. Its light and crisp finish is perfect for patio time. I highly recommend it! They will also soon be releasing a Farmhouse Ale, Carolina Malt, Hard Water (Lime and Tonic). In August, be on the lookout for a Sour Wheat and Barley and a Grapefruit and Plum.
Jarod and Amie want to make beer that uses local ingredients and is of the highest, freshest quality when the consumer drinks it. As always, Morgan Ridge wants to give back to the community by creating jobs in Rowan County that promote a strong valuable team.
Morgan Ridge Railwalk is located at 421 S. Lee St., Salisbury, NC. They are open Tuesday-Sunday. Morgan Ridge Railwalk Brewery & Eatery is also trying to combat some of the health problems that our community faces. That’s why every Wednesday at Morgan Ridge and Railwalk Brewery & Eatery, SoFul Yoga hosts a yoga class at 6:30 p.m. For more information on catering and rental space, visit their website here.
All this beer talk had me more than ready for a nice cold beer. As I enjoyed a Yadkin River Lager, I looked at my pint glass a lot differently than I had in the past. Now I know just how much work and effort goes into making that liquid perfection. It makes me enjoy and appreciate it just a little bit more.
Not in the cold beer drinking mood but still thirsty? You should check out some of Rowan County’s must-see wineries! You can easily make a day-cation out of all these adult playgrounds.