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WNC Business

Local ingredient sourcing supports local businesses

May 11, 2024 05:53PM ● By Randee Brown

A professional brewer for seven years, One World Brewing’s Head Brewer Nick Dumont works to highlight local ingredients through his brews.

While Dumont said it is not possible to source every ingredient locally, having local malt and local yeast available is a “logistical dream come true.” It is easy for him to place an order, and some ingredients are available the same day. He simply gets in his car and drives over to pick up small amounts when he needs them.

One of his suppliers is Riverbend Malt House, and Dumont said the quality of their products is very high, similar to that of European malts. He is able to gather more extract, and the malt produces a higher percentage of sugars than some other maltsters. 

“European malts come from a farming system that has been perfected and never affected by prohibition,” Dumont said. “Riverbend’s malts are similar; they’re the best of the best.”

Most malts in the US are a commodity — clean, but nothing out of the realm of expectancy, according to Dumont. They are a generic product, and while some of those are used for One World’s year-round standard products, some beers he produces are made exclusively from Riverbend malt.

Dumont said Riverbend also maintains a local focus on where they source their grains. All of their grains are purchased from farms within a 500-mile radius, and these select farms do a great job of producing high-quality grain of even kernel size. 

“This helps put dollars back into the local economy,” Dumont said. “It impacts business because Asheville is very passionate about supporting local agriculture, and I’m happy about partnerships that can help support the local farming community.”

Trying to give as much business as possible to the local supplier is not only helpful for logistics and the local economy, but the high quality of the malt and the unique heirloom varieties support his goal of creating unique flavor profiles. 

“I’ve recently worked with an heirloom corn malt called Hickory King consisting of white corn kernels that smell just like fresh tortilla chips, and another red variety called Bloody Butcher that creates a candy flavor with an almost Belgian quality,” Dumont said. “You don’t find these heirloom varieties from national maltsters.”

A couple of One World’s signature beers focus on highlighting local malt — Ashevegas Pale Ale and Legacy Lager. Switching to local malt in 2022 changed their flavor profiles, and once the recipes were nailed down, these brews have seen an uptick in sales.

Other ingredients are sourced locally as well. Dumont said he was impressed with the performance of fresh liquid yeast from White Labs for his larger batches, though for small batches a dry yeast provider makes more sense as dry yeast is easier to keep on hand.

A recent small batch of coffee stout was made with Cooperative Coffee Roasters’ beans, and Dumont said the freshness of the locally roasted beans made the brew taste just like a fresh cold brew.

Hops is another important ingredient in beer, and while WNC is not the ideal location for hops farms, Dumont was fortunate to meet a horticulturist at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River who was the right person at the right time to help him acquire some rare local hops. With the help of NC State University, researchers are working to find varieties of hops that are able to grow and thrive in the local climate.

“Farmers want to start growing some of these varieties, but they are not yet commercially available,” Dumont said. “Some varieties may become available as the hops varieties are bred and dialed in, and some varieties may become proprietary and grown on contract for certain brewers. It would be great for local brewers to be able to choose local hops with the specific characteristics they are looking for, and hopefully that will happen in a few years.”

The local hops Dumont was able to acquire may not be reproduced, but he said it was fun to experiment with. While some customers consistently enjoy their usual brew, others appreciate the creativity and are constantly seeking new flavor experiences, and he is happy to be able to offer that through small batches when possible.

“There are a million different things you can do with flavor profiles,” Dumont said. “More heirloom grains are coming back into popularity, and more varieties of more ingredients are becoming available locally. With these options, we can do more in small batch brewing, like creating a specific brew for a restaurant or other collaboration. It’s great to have the flexibility and the availability to be creative in our craft and to work with other local small businesses in that way.”