Hey all, it’s Matty Smooth. We’re here today to talk about the forthcoming Hop Kitchen beer, RyePA. To do that, we’ll have to travel way back (How far you goin’ back?) to 2012.
Asheville Beer Week 2012
In the spring of 2012, we announced the selection of Asheville, North Carolina for our second brewery location. We saw that Asheville Beer Week was going to hit at the end of May, and thought it would be fun to send a few folks out for the week, go to the festival and check the town out from a street perspective. I was lucky enough to be included (I answered this question correctly: “Do you want to go to Asheville for Beer Week?”), along with my friends Grady, Alex and Drew.
We set up some times that we could meet with other beer types in the area: brewers, some beer writers, and these two guys that had just started their own malthouse. It was cool, we had some good beers, and we met some good folks. Saturday before the Asheville Beer City Beer Week Festival (henceforth: ABCBWF) we ran down to the Riverbend Malthouse. What a trip!
Brent and Brian were the two guys, and they were super cool. They wanted to start their own brewery at one point, but thought that the market was becoming too crowded; starting a malting business sounded like a great alternative. They were doing old fashioned floor malting, by hand, in 1,000lb batches (by comparison, one brew in NBB’s Brewhouse 2 uses over 10,000 lbs of malt).
They toured us around, and we were blown away by their knowledge, passion, and unbeatable work ethic. Taking care of the malt was a 24/7 process, and they split the time equally between the two of them, each working 90+ hours every week. They said they would have to shorten up the tour a little bit so they had time to transfer the malt to the kiln. “Can we do it?” we asked. They seemed a little flabbergasted that anyone would want to, but agreed to let us move the malt out. Awesome.
Then, we went to the ABCBWF and saw what beer drinking fun looks like in North Carolina.
We got invited to head back again last summer. A few things had changed in the Asheville beer world: Sierra Nevada broke ground and started building their plant, Oskar Blue built a brewery in nearby Brevard and started brewing, and a really nice Brewpub, Wicked Weed Brewing, had started up in downtown Asheville. The Wicked Weed guys invited us to a fancy Beer Dinner that they were hosting expressly for the “newcomers”: us, Sierra, OB, and themselves. They asked if we could brew a special beer to pair with a course. We procured some Riverbend Rye and made a rye saison here in our Pilot Brewery, in Fort COllins, that turned out a-maz-ing! The rye was the star of the show: the toasty, bready and spice notes of the rye malt really nicely embellished the hop and yeast notes. It’s almost like it would be the perfect complement to a hoppy beer!
Hop Kitchen 2014
When Christian (the other half of the Hop Kitchen brew team) and I were spitballin’ beer ideas for 2014, it was suggested that a beer that could be a little nod to the Asheville area might be something cool to do. Why not Riverbend? We loved their malt and were inspired by the guys that run it, buuut they’re a little limited on capacity. They produce about 5,000-6,000lbs of malt a month, and we would need about 18,000lbs to do a brew the size of a Hop Kitchen Beer – meaning we would take 3 months’ worth of their hard work and blow through it in about 12 hours. Holy Smokes!
I called up Brian at Riverbend, and he was game. They had brought on some additional production capacity and some more people, and could probably pull it off in 10 weeks, maybe less. Piece of cake, right?
It might be weird to base a Hop Kitchen beer on a type of malt, but this malt plays up hop flavors & aromas so well it’s like it’s a mash made in heaven (har!). Or Asheville, which isn’t too shabby.
Be on the lookout for RyePA in the next few weeks.
With you in beer,