Durham, North Carolina: North Carolina is growing twice as quickly as the national average. According to Carolina Demography, the state has had the fourth-largest increase in residents nationwide since 2018. The growing population puts increasing pressure on small farmers who own land in desirable parts of the state. As small farmers cave to this pressure as well as that from international competition and the COVID-19 pandemic, there are few new sources of revenue for those whose families may have been on the land for generations.

But North Carolina’s growing craft beer industry, which created a $2.6 billion economic impact in 2018 according to the Brewers Association, is beginning to favor locally-grown ingredients. Beer requires grain, usually barley, in large amounts — aside from water, malted grain is the most important ingredient in brewing. This culture shift over the last few years is providing a new source of revenue for small farmers. 

“It can’t be overstated how important it is,” Tim Kuhls, a farmer with family-owned Perry Farms in Rolesville, N.C., says. He grows malt-quality barley on the traditional tobacco farm, which his wife’s family has tended for over a century. “To make it today, as a modern farm in Wake County, it’s not any one big thing that you do — it’s a lot of little things that add up. So if you can be 10% better every year, or find a way to grow 10%, that’s how you’re going to make it… so while it’s just a small chunk of what we do, it’s going to be the difference for us.”

Epiphany Craft Malt, which buys grain from small farmers and processes it into brewing-ready ingredients, is a key part of this infrastructure that links farmers to craft breweries and consumers. Epiphany estimates that it keeps $1.8 million in the Southeastern economy and annually adds $442,000 in revenue to local farmers and the community. It also estimates that farmers who work with its maltsters utilize 1,200 acres of farmland for malting-quality grain. And Epiphany isn’t the only one — there are two other regional malthouses in the state.

“All of that money stays in the region,” Sebastian Wolfrum, the owner of Epiphany Craft Malt, says. “So the money that people spend stays at the brewery, in the community, and with the farmers.”  

Although malting barley is harder to grow than feed barley, it is more cost effective and has a greater return on investment. There is also a low barrier to entry for farmers in the Southeast, as much of their equipment and land is already well-suited to winter barley — a type of barley that also has the added benefit of being less susceptible to climate change than other varieties grown in the north. 

“Whether we make it or not is how many little things we can put together to carry on,” Kuhls says. “It’s less for me and more for my three boys. If farming is something they want to do, it’ll be here for them.” 


Potential Sources: Sebastian Wolfrum at Epiphany Craft Malt (, Tim Kuhls at Perry Farms (, Carolina Demography (, Les Stewart at Trophy Brewing Company (

About Epiphany Malt: Epiphany partners with farmers and breweries to produce quality malts. In doing so, Epiphany fills the brewer’s need for transparent local production by enabling the connection between farmer, maltster and brewer. In the process, we support local agriculture, lower the impact on the planet, and keep jobs and money in the region. We are committed to establishing a resilient, sustainable and quality supply of domestically grown malt that is farmed, malted and brewed for exceptional flavor and character.
Contact: Sebastian Wolfrum, Owner & Maltster | 919-699-6733 |