Riverbend Malt House unveils expansion plans

ROOM TO GROW: Riverbend Malt House's new 74,000-square-foot facility in South Asheville will increase the company's production capacity to 3 million pounds per year by late 2017 or early 2018.
ROOM TO GROW: Riverbend Malt House's new 74,000-square-foot facility in South Asheville will increase the company's production capacity to 3 million pounds per year by late 2017 or early 2018. Photo courtesy of Riverbend Malt House

Riverbend Malt House has announced plans for a substantial expansion that will facilitate a 500 percent increase in its production capacity by January 2018 to keep pace with rapidly escalating demand. The company has signed a long-term lease on a 74,000 square foot facility at 12 C Gerber Road in South Asheville and has raised $4.7 million dollars in equity and debt to fund the expansion.

Production is expected to grow incrementally, bringing Riverbend’s capacity to 3 million pounds per year by late 2017 or early 2018. As noted in a November 2016 profile on Riverbend CEO Scott Hickman, roughly 170 million pounds of malt (grains that have been steeped, germinated and dried) are used by the brewing industry within 500 miles of Asheville, but only 2 million pounds are generated within that same radius. Riverbend currently produces 650,000 pounds.

The existing production facility on Pond Road, just off of Brevard Road, will continue to function as Riverbend’s primary malt floor until the end of 2017, with an expected three- to four-month overlap before all operations are transferred to the Gerber Road location. According to maltster Scott Wiemeyer, the new facility’s upgrades include increased automation via germination kilning vessels and a larger dedicated lab area for quality control testing.

While the GKVs will do a good deal of the heavy lifting, traditional floor-malting will still be integral to Riverbend’s process, with the Gerber Road facility expected to feature two 2-ton malting floors as well as steep tanks from Charlotte-based Deutsche Beverage Technology. Equipment is expected to be installed and online by the fourth quarter of 2017.

Beyond the increased availability of high-quality, locally sourced malt for the region’s craft beverage industries, Riverbend founder/head maltster Brent Manning notes that the new facility will allow the company to provide novel offerings.

“With our expansion, we’ll not only be producing more malt, but greatly broadening our product line to include new varietals, 2-row barleys and specialty malts which will enable our customers to brew with a broader range of styles,” Manning says.

Riverbend will be adding roughly half a dozen new employees over the next 12 months, with additional hires expected as production ramps up at the new facility in 2018. Hickman points out that the expansion is in keeping with the malthouse’s mission to support local agriculture and manufacturing, a core value intrinsic to both Riverbend’s business model and its corporate ethos.

“We’ll be buying more grain from regional farmers and creating new manufacturing jobs in Asheville at above living wage levels, with healthcare benefits,” he says. “Our motto is ‘Malt with a Mission,’ and a key part of that mission is to help local farmers and workers participate in the amazing growth of craft beer and distilling.”

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