The Power of an Opportunity


Over three years ago, Mother Earth Brewing began making great beer brewed close to nature. Since that time, Mother Earth Brewing has actively searched for opportunities that not only limit their footprint, but also ones that give back to the land, creating a cycle of sorts that benefits us all in some small way. This is a story about one such opportunity.

As you probably know, malt is a main ingredient of beer. What you might not know is that breweries use a lot of malt. In fact, the average 40bbl batch of beer (like what’s brewed at Mother Earth Brewing) requires 2,400 lbs. of malt. Malt arrives at the brewery in 55 pound “malt bags”- picture the modern version of a burlap sack. Once the malt is added to the brew, the bag has fulfilled its purpose and is tossed aside. It is easy to see how those malt bags quickly accumulate. Enter nearly any craft brewery, and in some random corner, you’re likely to come across a disheveled stack of discarded malt bags.

One day, as Josh Brewer, Head Brewer for Mother Earth Brewing, passed that ever-growing pile, he considered what opportunity might be stacked before his eyes- there must be some way to give those bags a purpose again. In an effort to do so, he created a simple post on Craigs List: “Free malt bags.” What happened next truly amazed him. Just moments after making the post, Josh received a response: “I’ll take all the bags you have.” The reply came from James West, of the North Carolina Forest Service. As the Nursery and Tree Improvement Program Head, James knew just how to re-purpose those bags: to help collect some 70,000 pounds of tree seeds. A few emails later, James was on his way from Goldsboro to claim a fat stack of malt bags.

You might be surprised to learn that the North Carolina Forest Service operates a massive “seedling” program (a seedling is a young plant, grown from a seed.) The program began in 1954, and starts about 3 million trees a year from the 70,000 pounds of seed collected across NC. Every county in NC collects seeds (a tedious process done by hand) -places the seeds in malt bags, and sends the seeds to Goldsboro to be cleaned and otherwise prepared for planting. About 50 different species are collected. Once the seeds develop into one year old seedlings, they are used for forest, wetlands and wildlife restoration.  To successfully operate the program, the North Carolina Forest Service has to purchase roughly 2,500 malt bags a year. –Not any longer.

The new partnership between Mother Earth Brewing and the North Carolina Forest Service not only makes that disheveled pile of malt bags disappear, it offers Mother Earth Brewing one more opportunity to give back to the land.

Who knew a malt bag could be so powerful?

Peace, Love and Beer...Trent