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Brent Manning is a maltster on a mission. The co-founder of Riverbend Malt House in Asheville, N.C., wants people to be able to taste local grains in North Carolina's beers, just as vino aficionados can identify the provenance of fine wines.
Asheville's beer lovers are "farm-to-table, local, local, local-focused," Manning says. But when he and business partner Brian Simpson opened Riverbend in 2010, "it was almost comical that with so much of this local beer, the only thing local [in the beer] was the water."
Craft malt houses have another benefit for farmers, says Manning: They offer some insurance against the vagaries of the market. Farmers' livelihoods depend on the price they get when they sell their product — and that price can vary wildly. Riverbend's goal "was to get farmers out of that commodity price loop," Manning says.