Cash Crop: Michael Waltrip using Southwest Virginia grains to craft local brews

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BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) — A two-time Daytona 500 champion is working toward bringing more local brews to the region by using grains grown in Southwest Virginia.

The Michael Waltrip Brewing Company debuted 3 Ranges Appalachian Ale, a brew born from grains out of three major ranges of the Appalachian Mountains: Allegheny, Blue Ridge and Cumberland.

“This is a great way to celebrate this year’s harvest of Appalachian Grains, to help write a new chapter for agriculture in southwest Virginia and to contribute to a local economy that is now a second home to me,” said Michael Waltrip Brewing Co- Founder Michael Waltrip. “Virginia’s Southwest has special meaning for me, and with the opening of our Bristol location, to join other leaders in building and buying local is a privilege. We invite you to support our local farmers and businesses by coming to taste our newest beer: 3 Ranges Appalachian Ale.”

It all began with Appalachian Grains, a release from the company states, which is a Southwest Virginia specialty grain broker that aims to connect local growers with craft breweries and distilleries across Virginia.

Appalachian Grains is a private project made possible under the support of InvestSWVA.

“The impact of our grains being used by someone like Michael Waltrip is significant; this collaboration delivers another growth opportunity to our southwest Virginia farmers, and it catapults our region into the national sustainability conversation,” said InvestSWVA Director Will Payne. “First, this is an economic development project that addresses the business priorities of supply and demand. We are helping farmers keep busy and earn more by producing high quality grains for an exploding market.

“Second, in strengthening the local supply chain to Virginia breweries and distilleries, we are reducing transportation costs, food miles and the carbon footprint of grain typically sourced from all over the world. All as we help Michael Waltrip Brewing deliver another great tasting beer.”

The malted barley stems from farms in Lee, Scott and Washington counties, opening a gateway to a new grain market for local farmers.

The third season launched with triple the acreage, with the possibility of becoming a major supplier to craft breweries and distilleries.

Industry workers at Appalachian Grains hope that crafting more flavors brewed with local grains will minimize grain importation from outside of Virginia, with a new grain cleaning and storage facility set to open in Norton in 2022.

The facility’s launch is dubbed “Project Thoroughbred” and received a $500,000 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Regional Revitalization Commission and $2.5 million from the Virginia Department of Energy’s Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization program.

“Project Thoroughbred advances many missions of Virginia Energy,” said Virginia Energy Director John Warren. “This project opens the market gateway for local farmers and will provide a new source of Virginia agricultural products. This grain distribution center is a true success story in the repurpose of a legacy coal site for the benefit of the community and Virginia’s vital agricultural sector.”

The Lonesome Pine Regional Industrial Facilities Authority will own the terminal, according to the release, and groundbreaking is expected within the upcoming months, with operations launching fall 2022.

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