On the morning of 3/6/14 we kept ourselves busy playing catch up with some writing before driving a couple hours to Kinston for a tour of Mother Earth Brewing. After our detailed tour courtesy of Kevin Graham, we chatted with the Account and Taproom Manager, Sean Maloney, over a flight and also had to opportunity to speak with the brewery founders, Trent Mooring and Stephen Hill. Mother Earth has been making award winning beers since they opened for business in October 2008 with experienced Brewmaster, Josh Brewer, at the helm. Of special note, after three years of renovation and hard work to increase environmental sustainability, in February 2012 they were the very first brewery in the country to become LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) gold certified by the US Green Building Council.
With a name like Mother Earth it was evident that this brewery and its ownership had a passion for our dear planet. With that in mind, they decided to voluntarily undertake the arduous process documenting the reduction of their impact on the environment with a LEED architect. It would take quite a while to list off all the small things they have done to add up to the whole so I will just mention a few: They operate solar panels on the roof to sell back into the grid and help offset their electrical usage, walls are insulated with recyclable blue jean material, the tap handles are made of bamboo, the cold storage space is run on glycol, hot water is heated on demand with a tankless water heater, they utilize reclaimed materials in various ways throughout the brewery, and employees have even forgone driving to work, instead using their own willpower on bicycles. Trent explained that they have certainly caught the green bug and look forward to doing much more in the future.
Trent and Stephen chose Kinston for their brewery because they are both from the area and it provided an opportunity to help revitalize the downtown area of this Eastern NC hub that had been dwindling since the decline of tobacco and textiles. They have even acquired an old metal slide from a local park they had used as kids which was banned on the playground due to being made with heat conducting metal. That slide now serves as fun, easy transportation from the employee offices to the main floor. Additional ties to the region can be seen in their label designs which are paintings done by Trent’s High School art teacher, Dinah Sillivan, which are then converted into labels by a graphic artist. The 5 buildings that make up the brewery have quite a lot of history: The brewing space is housed in a building that used to be a drive through pharmacy in the 50’s, another area used to be a BBQ restaurant, and yet another was a carriage factory in the 1800’s.
When working to establish the brewery and locate a head brewer, Trent and Stephen were blown away by a sample of Josh Brewer’s Munich-style Dunkel Lager and offered him the position. That beer, now called Dark Cloud, was the first beer ever brewed at the facility and even won them their first medal at GABF. Josh has since worked up an impressive line of craft brews. The others sharing year-round availability in keg and bottles with Dark Cloud include Endless River Kolsch-style Ale, Weeping Willow Wit, and Sisters of the Moon IPA. While the 9-head filler Comaq bottling line has been busy churning out 2,000 12oz bottles/hour since the brewery opened, they began canning about two years ago and currently provide cans of Second Wind Pale Ale and Sunny Haze German-style Hefeweizen for those inclined to the outdoors. We also learned that their GABF bronze winning Bohemian Pilsner will soon be offered in cans.
Seasonal limited release beers include the Old Neighborhood Oatmeal Porter, Tripel Overhead (also available in a bourbon barrel aged version), Silent Night bourbon barrel aged Imperial Stout, and the four beers of their Window Pane Series. The Window Pane beers are released staggered throughout the year and consist of different beers barrel aged with local North Carolina fruits. Three of the four are Imperial Belgian-style Wits with the last, but by no means least, a Belgian Dubbel with fig and raisons which is aged in apple brandy barrels. The first wit is aged in a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay barrels with fresh blackberries, the second in Chardonnay barrels is fermented with peaches, and the last in Pinot Noir barrels with raspberries. These limited release beers are sold in 750mL bottles with a cork and cage. The brewery also boasts a 3 bbl brewing system to allow Josh some flexibility and experimentation for beers poured in the taproom or sold only to local accounts. The brewery staples are produced on a 20 bbl, three vessel system with an abundance of fermentation space that has allowed Mother Earth to grow to around 7,500 bbl brewed this previous year and distribute their beers throughout NC, GA and to the Northern VA/DC area.
Now I know the focus of our trip is breweries but it is also important to share that Mother Earth Brewing became a licensed craft distiller this past year. For those of you who enjoy spirits, whiskey, gin, and rum will be making appearances after they have completed their barrel aging regiment. The brewery offers public tours every hour on the hour, Tuesday-Friday 10-am-5pm and Saturday 1pm – 8pm. Keep in mind this is a working brewery so access to certain areas of the brewery may be limited at times throughout the week. The modern styled taproom and beer garden is open for business Tuesday-Thursday 4-10pm, Friday 2-10pm, and Saturday 1-9pm and is also available for those in the community to rent for private special events. Whenever in the Kinston area, certainly stop in to learn about Mother Earth’s green ways and explore the small batch beers, regular offerings, a nitro tap, or cask conditioned ales which are tapped the 1st and 3rd week each month. We really want to express our gratitude to Stephen, Trent, Sean, and Kevin for their hospitality during our visit.
Author: Brandon Wurtz