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!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lager & Thames Valley Yeast Update

Today I finally bottled the lager I brewed on January 19. Coming out of the fermenter it tasted very good. I would put the taste at about a Steinlager, one of the few commercial lagers I really like. Steinlager is a New Zealand brew that my college in River Falls, Wisconsin, used to serve. I also have fond memories of it from my time in New Zealand. I remember coming over a hill on Great Barrier Island, into Port Fitzroy, and seeing the little shop with the Steinlager sign. I bought two and Terry and I drank them on the front porch. That ice cold beer was such a relief.

This was my first brew with dry lager yeast (Saflager S-23). I have always been told that dry lager yeast is a bust. Not so. Going into the bottle, I am happy with the results. But I can’t leave well enough alone. I decided to prime it with a cup of maple syrup. We shall see how that goes.

As an update, the beer I brewed with Thames Valley yeast is now at almost exactly eight weeks in the fermenter and still very active. Suspecting an infection, I used a bottle filler as an improvised wine thief and sampled some. Surprisingly, it was quite good. I have never had ale go so long in the fermenter and anything good come of it. For now, it looks as though this will be a good beer.

I must admit I am pretty excited. I was beginning to fear that both these beers were going to be garden food.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Turning 40 - With Support

Two weeks ago I turned 40. Doesn't seem much different than 39. Though the thought that I am now heading into the "latter half" is a bit scary. I tend to be a bit Socratic and examine my life frequently. This can lead to some anxiety. I have done quite a bit, but have I accomplished much? What is the difference between doing and accomplishing? Is it the difference between homebrewing and building a brewery?

That brings us to the next topic. My wife, against all odds, managed to have a surprise birthday party for me. Seems she had been planning it for a month. I knew something was up because she engaged in several unprovoked acts of housecleaning. By chance, some old friends, Dana & Katrina, happened to be in the area and stayed with us for a night. It was good to see them again. Isle Royale is far away, but still a pivotal time and place for all of us. Unfortunately, they had to leave before the party started.

The party itself saw 45 guests. I think this is the biggest I have ever had. The support for the brewery was amazing. We shall have many volunteers when construction starts. It was great to see so many people so enthusiastic about our brewing adventure. It helped give me a recharge when my spirits were flagging a bit.

So I guess 40 does look pretty good after all. Now if you will excuse me, I have a few things to accomplish.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Thames Valley Yeast

Have you ever had a yeast that just won't quit? It appears that I have one.

On January 31, I brewed a beer that was a Welsh Bitter recipe with some dark roasted barley. A dark bitter, if you will. The yeast, Wyeast Thames Valley, took well and after seven days I transferred the beer to a secondary fermenter. Then things got strange.

As expected fermentation slowed a bit. But it never quite shut off. In fact, during my birthday party, when the house got a bit warm, the yeast took off like it had just been pitched! Now we are entering our seventh week and the yeast is still chugging along. Given that the original gravity was only 40, how can this be?

Our house is quite cool so that may have slowed things. I may have also measured the original gravity when the wort was a bit too warm. These would account for a bit of what I am experiencing, but seven weeks in the fermenter?!? With no sign of stopping?

My fire chief opines that I will go down to the cellar and find a hand reaching out of the fermenter.

Dear Reader, I will keep you posted.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Moving Forward

Last Friday the road agent for our town came out and we discussed his assessment of our existing entry. With most of the snow gone, measuring was a bit easier. In the end we agreed that only a small bit of the embankment at the driveway need be cut away to obtain the necessary 200 feet of view.

He also informed me that once the road is redone, it will be about a foot and a half higher than it is now. That will obviate most, if not all, of the need to cut away our embankment. This reconstruction of our road will take place either this summer or the next. We will not be open to the public until the fall of 2010, thus it is best that we leave reconstruction of our entrance until just before we open when we will know the final configuration of our road.

I have invited the Planning Board to come out and view the site for themselves so they have a good idea of what we plan to do. So far none have taken me up on the offer, but I do know that some of them are familiar with our property, so perhaps they deem it unnecessary. The next step is to send in the application.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Another (Big) Snag

My how the worm squirms. After the elation of getting our brewery plan accepted yesterday, today we were hit with another possible brewery killer. The highway department called to say that we do not have a sufficient field of view from the end of our driveway.

The town requires 200ft. in each direction. On one side we have only 100ft. I am not sure how the line of sight is measured. Just standing in the driveway, one can see much farther.

I hope we can modify the existing entry. If we cannot we are sunk. There is no other place on our property where we could put an entry.


Acceptance - Brewery Update

I must first apologize for my erratic posting. The dial-up internet has been nearly functionless the past few days. Thus, I have been unable to post to this blog according to my regular schedule.

From the last post, you are all aware that our brewery design was initially rejected because it called for the brewery to be located on the same tax lot as my residence. However, they did offer to consider our plan further if I sent them our floor plans, site diagrams, and anything I might have regarding the town and state’s position on our plan.

This started a whirlwind of faxing and emailing. I had to quickly draw up a more formal set of plans for the brewery building, scan in our tax map and add in the brewery, and search the town archive for the minutes from our meetings with the town. I also contacted the state for an opinion on my design.

The state responded quickly with an opinion that clearly allowed for our plan. The town even agreed to write a letter that it also regarded the plan as acceptable. This letter would later prove unnecessary, but it is good to know that they were willing to support me.

Having gathered together all of my information, I sent everything to the Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau and settled in to await an opinion. We tried to avoid discussing our options if the plan were rejected. We did not want to get too far ahead of ourselves.

Surprisingly, we did not have long to wait for an opinion. In fact, the opinion came so quickly I was sure our plan had been rejected. I hesitated to open the email.

Success! Our plan was deemed acceptable! When we apply for our license, we need to include this information. This is a big relief. We were very worried about possibly getting approved now only to have policy change by the time we completed the brewery and applied for the actual federal license. So the fact that they accepted the plan and gave us an official date of acceptance has allayed our fears.

Where we sit now is that the federal, state and town officials have accepted our plan. The next step it to get the building permits and start digging!