Join with us on our adventure as we build East Alstead's first brewery and what is quite possibly the only off-grid commercial brewery in the United States. We feel that what we brew and how we brew it are equally important. If you would like to help out with this project, contact me at:

The Belgian Mare Says Hello!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Licensing - Brewery Update

Brewery, we have a problem. While I was getting some legal clarification from the folks at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, I got a bit of a surprise. Under "current policy" they do not issue licenses to breweries located on the same lot as a private residence. This is because of "past problems". Considering that we hoped to build our brewery on a former barn site behind our house, this could be a problem.

In the past I had been lead to believe that brewery location and design were the domain of the state and local authorities, the feds just handled taxes. Apparently this is no longer the case, if it ever was. This could kill our brewery.

The fellow I spoke to seemed like a pretty straight-forward person and agreed to review our proposal. He also indicated that state and local decisions on the plan would be given consideration.

The local boards are not opposed to the brewery, and in fact suggested its proposed location, but we are waiting on the highway department to give us an assessment of our property access before we can proceed. The state guys say they usually accept the feds decision, however, in this case perhaps I can get them to give a (hopefully favorable) opinion.

So I have spent the last two days preparing and sending documents and emails. Let us pray for success.

It would be a real heart break to not even get the chance to try to make this idea work.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Foundation II - Brewery Update

A third estimate on the concrete work for the brewery was received this Saturday. This fellow, let’s call him “Anaximander”, pointed out that our slab & cellar design was costing us unnecessarily in both money and space. He countered our design with a design for a full cellar with either supports for the boiler etc. cast into the cellar or a concrete floor spanning the whole cellar. The thought of the concrete span was something that had not occurred to me, even though I drive a loaded tanker across one regularly as part of the duties of my real job.

The biggest advantage to Anaximander’s design was the increase of cellar space, which equates to an increase in fermenter space. The biggest factor in a brewery’s ultimate capacity is fermenter space. A boiler may be used up to three times per day. A fermenter may be occupied from one week to months at a time. Thus, fermenter capacity tends to be the limiting factor in a brewery’s capacity. So Anaximander’s design has the potential to greatly increase the final capacity of our brewery.

The most intriguing part of Anaximander’s suggestion was also the most cost saving. He offered to put up his equipment and act as contractor if I could provide a crew. No need for experience, he would teach us the basics of pouring a concrete foundation. I already have a few ideas for crew members. Plus we would save the cost of labor. This would cut the total cost of the concrete work nearly in half.

So what we have is a chance to save some money and learn a new skill. To me, that looks like a pretty good deal.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Trying to ascertain the licensing requirements for a brewery in New Hampshire from what in on the state website is a bit challenging. So I sent off an email and got a response that was unexpected. The respondent advised that I need my federal (TTB) license before I can apply for the state license. The unexpected part was the statement "..if they (TTB)will license your production facility almost certainly we will." In the past, other brewers had told me that the state side of the equation was the difficult part. Maybe times are changing?

Another interesting statement was that a brewery cannot be in a private residence. I have been to a few brewpubs where it seemed that the owners lived upstairs. Maybe a brewpub is different or I was mistaken.

The toughest part is that the physical requirements for a brewery are not too well defined. However, one cannot apply for a license until all construction is completed and they are within 60 days of starting production. This raises the question: What do you do if you have put all this money into a facility and your license application is denied? Hopefully that is a rare occurrence.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Foundation - Brewery Update

Today a contractor came out to look into excavating our building site. It appears that we will be able to fit in the foundation next to the hopyard. Excellent, as we want to use space efficiently. The only problem encountered was that the area was wetter than originally thought so the plans for the concrete may have to be modified.

Having a cellar is adding considerably to the foundation cost. However, if we do not have a cellar we will need to install pumps and a glycol chilling system. So any savings from not putting in a cellar will be more than offset by the cost of the additional equipment. In fact, a glycol chiller would probably cost more than the whole building.

So now we await the final estimate on the cost of the foundation. Our hope is to get it done this spring and start building the brewery itself. Out of both pride and economy, we have decided to build as much of the brewery ourselves as we can. That first beer will taste extra good.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Beer Tax Legislation

A bill is being set forth to reduce the tax on beer. Obviously this will be a big help to myself and other small brewers. So send your lawmakers a message and let them know how you feel!

Below is an excerpt from a Brewers Association press release:

With the introduction of HR 836, the Brewers Excise and Economic Relief Act of 2009, seeking a 50% reduction in the federal excise tax rates for all brewers, America’s small brewers have an unparalleled opportunity to influence policy and strengthen their businesses. We need to build as much support as possible for this bill to give it the best chance of becoming a reality.

Please contact your U.S. Congressman and ask that he/she sign on as a co-sponsor of HR 836.

Please go to the Brewers Association’s Excise Tax Resource page for information on the legislation, its introduction and background on the current economic situation faced by small brewers across the country. This information will help you make the case to your Representative for supporting this tax relief measure and in turn for supporting the small brewery businesses that are such a vital part of our local communities.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Little Roasted Barley Goes a Long Way

What a difference a little dark roasted barley can make! I was experimenting with new recipes for the future brewery when I hit upon the idea of brewing nearly identical beers with the only difference being the yeast: one ale, one lager. Each one of these beers had 7.5 lbs. Pearl malt and .5 lbs 20L crystal malt. At the last second, I decided to put 4 oz. of dark roasted barley into the ale. As you can see from the photograph, it came out nearly black!

In both of these brews I used yeasts I had not used before. For the lager I used a Saflager dry yeast. It worked much faster that the liquid culture from White Labs that I used several years ago. I only hope the end result tastes as good.

For the ale, I used a Wyeast Thames Vally liquid culture. I activated the culture the night before. Once pitched, it started a bit slow, which seems typical for Wyeast products,but then worked vigorously. After about eight days, I transferred the ale to a secondary fermenter. I tasted a small sample. It had a distinct chocolate aroma and flavor. I think this brew will be a good one!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Of Wolves and Pike

This doesn’t fit any of the subjects of this blog. Still, I thought people might find it interesting.This is an article that I wrote for an on-line magazine, back in 1999, about some observations I made while working at Isle Royale National Park back in 1995-6.

No Wolves = Skinny Pike
By Tim Roettiger

Those attracted to this brief essay by the title are no doubt asking themselves: "What have wolves to do with northern pike?" As I found out for myself, under proper conditions, quite a bit. I observed the end result of the indirect interaction of these two species’ populations while conducting lake surveys at Isle Royale National Park. It is a classic example of cascading trophic interactions that cross the land-water interface.

This phenomenon was first noticed at Sargent Lake. I was part of a crew conducting surveys of backcountry lakes. Gillnets, seines, and minnow traps were used for these surveys. During the course of the survey, only a few small pike were caught. The most notable thing about these pike was that their stomachs did not contain the usual pike table fare. Instead, their stomachs contained leeches, insects, and the occasional rock. This seemed to indicate a lack of suitable forage.

Seining proved this was not the case. In the evening, large schools of shiners, prime forage for pike, could be seen cruising the shallows. It was no problem to seine in hundreds at a time. So the forage was there, but the pike would not, or could not, make use of it.

So the question was: Why aren’t the pike making use of an apparently substantial forage base? This is where moose enter the picture. The pike is an ambush predator. They are most efficient at a medium density of aquatic vegetation. Too much vegetation interferes with their foraging. Too little vegetation and they do not have effective ambush cover. The problem in Sargent Lake was a near total lack of aquatic vegetation. The culprit: moose.

Moose love aquatic vegetation, an important source of sodium for them, and can forage effectively to a depth of about 9 feet, most of a lake’s littoral zone. Parvovirus had killed many wolves, reducing predatory pressure on the moose. At the time of the Sargent Lake survey, the wolves numbered only about 14 and the moose population was the most dense in the world. This put the standing crop of aquatic vegetation, which had remained about the same, under intense browsing pressure. That is how Sargent Lake came to be devoid of aquatic vegetation and, subsequently, the local pike became leech-eaters.

A sequence of reactions such as this, parvovirus-to-wolf-to-moose-to-aquatic vegetation-to-pike, is known as a "cascading trophic interaction". What this means is that a disturbance at one trophic level (in this case a top predator, wolves) will pass (cascade) from level to level (organism to organism) causing an often seemingly unrelated end result. The pike of Sargent Lake are a good example of a cascading trophic interaction that crossed the land-water interface. After all, who would have expected that wolves dying of a viral infection would result in poorly conditioned pike?

The Sargent Lake situation arose in large part due to Isle Royale’s unique island ecosystem. No more wolves could come or moose leave, it is a closed system. What happened at Sargent Lake is unlikely to occur elsewhere. However, it does stand as a powerful example of the inter-connectedness of all parts of our ecosystem. It is food for thought. Next time you find yourself complaining about bullheads, or crows, or even mosquitoes, think what might happen if they were gone.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Honey Ale

The honey ale has now been in the bottle for two weeks. So I decided to open a bottle and see how things were coming along.

The first thing I noticed is that the honey ale is already well carbonated with a thick, tan head. The color is a deep amber with a strong honey aroma. The flavor is like a mead I recently had, but with the interplay of the honey and malt it is more complex and satisfying than the mead. I believe it will get better with ageing.

I will keep you updated, dear reader.