August 29, 2013

Appalachian State's "Ivory Tower" Brewery Creates 100% NC Beer

all north carolina beer hops kettle
NC hops go into the kettle at ASU's
Ivory Tower Brewery.
Day by day, brewers around the country are embracing local ingredients in their beer making, whether malt, hops, honey, produce, or yeast. Now, as a new generation of brewers prepares to enter the workforce, that commitment to local suppliers is top of mind. I recently spoke with Rusty Kuhfeld, Lab Coordinator for the Appalachian State fermentation science program, to get the scoop on a beer made with ingredients sourced entirely from North Carolina.

Ivory Tower Brewery is the pilot brewery at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. ASU's fermentation science program is an increasingly popular course of study, allowing future brewers and winemakers to earn a four-year fermentation science degree that will give them a significant leg up when they're ready to enter the industry.

The program recently purchased a 3-barrel brewing system, allowing them to produce upwards of 90 gallons per batch. The plan is to sell the beer produced by the students in order to help fund research and supplies. Unfortunately North Carolina law prohibits the sale of alcohol produced by universities, but they hope that the state will revise its laws so that they can raise money for the program, clear out capacity, and allow the students to gain more experience. The fermentation science program also offers lab services for professional craft brewers to receive analysis on things like IBUs and alcohol content, color, and clarity.

ivory tower brewery appalachian state
Malted grains from Riverbend
Malt House and Farmboy Farms
await their destiny.
Eager to experiment with local products, the students of Appalachian State's fermentation science program have created beers as part of a "Local to Global" series. Past brews have used hops from the Mills River agricultural research center's hops yard (see A Hops Industry Grows in North Carolina).

Last summer, students harvested yeast from a North Carolina vineyard. They've now isolated the yeast strain and performed experiments, determining that the yeast is viable for brewing.

For this semester's Local to Global brew, they decided to go the extra mile by brewing a beer made with 100% North Carolina ingredients. Asheville's Riverbend Malt House provided Heritage and Pilsner barley malts, while Pittsboro's Farmboy Farms supplied North Carolina wheat. Hops were collected from various sources, including six ounces of Cascade hops from Farmboy Farms, and Columbus and Sterling hops from Beuttell Farms in Avery County, NC.

The beer has been described as a Belgian-style pale ale, which reminded me of Lost Rhino's Native Son, a 100% Virginia ingredient pale ale served at the VA Craft Brewers Festival. Is this the beginning of a new regional style? Blue Ridge pale ale? Southeast farmhouse ale?

The beer will be served at this weekend's High Country Craft Food & Beverage Festival, which is an annual fundraiser for the ASU fermentation science program. I'll be there and I will report back on the All NC Beer.

Students swab a sample across a growth medium to
isolate a yeast suitable for brewing.
A yeast starter allows the yeast cells to grow and multiply.
riverbend heritage malt
Riverbend Heritage Malt is grown in
North Carolina and malted in Asheville.

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