Kinston’s Mother Earth Brewing is a major player in North Carolina’s growing craft beer industry, but one particular beer, made from tomatoes and only available a few weeks a year, is what got things started for the brewery.
The beer is called Homegrown and without it, Mother Earth Brewing would not exist.
“It’s the reason we started the brewery,” said Stephen Hill, co-founder.
Hill and co-founder Trent Mooring came up with the idea 10 years ago when they concocted a drink for their friends.
“Trent and I, all of our friends loved what we would make called ‘Red Eye,’” said Hill.
“We were like, man, this is great,” said Mooring. “We should start a brewery and make this beer. I mean that’s really how we were founded.”
Mother Earth opened in 2009, but it took until 2014 for Homegrown to be released to the public.
“In the meantime, we said we’ve got to come up with some other beers to pay the bills while we’re at research and development phase of the Homegrown,” said Mooring. “So that’s kind of how we got started with all of our basic beers. And after five years of planning, we were finally about to come out with the Homegrown.”
So what makes Homegrown unique? For starters, it is a family tradition for Hill.
“My uncle was in the military, and he learned it somewhere during his military career,” Hill said. “And he taught me as an 18-year-old.”
But what really stands out about Homegrown is that it’s made with tomatoes, grown in Hill’s own garden.
“We grow about 800 tomato plants,” said Hill. “This year was not really a good year for tomatoes as every farmer out there would know.”
“Stephen, Josh and I will sit on buckets in the brewhouse for a pretty long time and take tomatoes and core them, get them ready to go through the juicer so we can make the juice,” said Mooring. “It’s a lot of manual labor on our end.”
“And then we boil stew, basically,” Hill said. “And add peppers and everything that we’ve grown.”
“It’s always a really fun time of year,” said Mooring. “Homegrown tastes like fall to me.”
“It’s a good wake up,” said Hill. “Like a Bloody Mary, just not as strong. It’s a beer that you can get up in the morning and drink first thing.”
“And when we first did it, people were like, ‘What? Tomato beer? That’s kind of weird,’” said Mooring. “But now people really, really like it. And it’s really, really good. People drive from everywhere. We get inquiries on our website and people calling, ‘Do you have the Homegrown? I’ve got to come down to the brewery.’”
If you would like to take some Homegrown home, you’d better hurry. It’s only available at the Kinston brewery for a limited time.
“I mean, I was only allocated one case this year,” said Hill. “One.”
They will soon run out of Homegrown for this season. But because of that one, very unique, tomato-based beer, Mother Earth is now a household name for craft beer lovers across North Carolina.
“Yeah it’s pretty drastic,” said Moore. “It’s changed a lot. We had our sights on just coming up with a tomato beer, but in the meantime let’s brew a few beers and help pay the bills. But the craft brewing industry just took off from there. And we got really lucky with the timing.”
In addition to beer, Mother Earth also makes rum, gin and award-winning whiskey, But it’s Homegrown that started it all.
“It is why we were formed,” said Hill. “It is our roots. It was our foundation. It’s what Mother Earth is built on. It is the earth.”