|Our Blue Bird of Happiness|
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
Sunday, December 5, 2010
|Another day's work.|
Yet another brewery work day was a big success. This time we had 11 workers show up! They were in random order: John, Glenn, Greg, Sue, Tom, Vin, Tina, Krister, Dave, Devin, and Tom. Needless to say, putting up 50 rafters with 11 workers went pretty fast.
Monday, November 29, 2010
|Putting up the first section of the wall extension.|
|The studs in place for the next section of wall.|
|Vin and Sue working on the wall in the loft area.|
|A days work: The wall extension framed.|
Sunday, November 21, 2010
The most recent photographs of the framing process are below:
|Image 1 - First floor framing is complete.Floor joists for the loft are in place.|
|Image 2 - South side of the brewery showing two doors and four windows.|
|Image 3 - Interior view showing floor joists for the loft.|
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Although felled by a raging fever, some work was accomplished on the brewery this weekend. On Sunday, our friends Tom and Kristen came out to check on our horse Aggie. Aggie was having trouble walking and with Tracy out of town I was not sure what to do. Kristen agreed to come over and check things out. Fortunately it turned out to be just a bit of muscle soreness. She even cleaned and redressed our visiting horse's cut for us. So she pretty much took care of the horses for us. Thanks, Kristen!
Today I voted, as all of you should have done, and picked up another load of lumber from out friends at Woodell and Daughters. Most importantly, I also stopped at RJ's Sports and got estimates on printing up shirts for the brewery. Hopefully I will be able to place the order tomorrow and soon the world shall be wearing Belgian Mare apparel. With luck we can sell enough of these shirts to pay for the brewery!
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
|Two days of framing work.|
Conditions at the worksite were cold and wet the entire time, but we carried on. Krister and Tom are both much more experienced carpenters than I am. Over these last two day I have learned alot from them. Another thing that I have learned is that I cannot estimate lumber usage. I had thought that we had enough to fram up the first floor and loft. It now looks like we will end up just short of being able to finish up the first floor. Hopefully my financial estimates will prove more accurate!
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
Thursday, August 19, 2010
The second part of today's entry, has to do with power supply. From the start we have wanted to be as off-grid as possible. Finding the necessary tools to accomplish that has proved problematic. Today, at work, I met a customer who has been living off-grid for the last fifteen years, or thereabouts. He showed me how a relatively small and simple solar-electric system can provide enough power to do all the pumping and lighting we will need at the brewery.
The only problem would be heating the sales area in winter. We came up with some ideas of using the boiler to do this. The drawback, would be that anything that could not be allowed to freeze would need to be put in the cellar each night. However, since we are not sure yet if the brewery would be open to the public in winter, this might not be a problem.
So, any way you slice it, I have got a lot of new ideas to consider for the brewery.
Here is a bonus:
Last Sunday we hitched Aggie to a two-wheeled forecart for the first time. She had been doing so well with the ground work that we felt it was time to try a wheeled vehicle. Well...
Hooking her up went well. Then when Roy asked her to go, she started bucking and ran through a ditch. Somehow Roy held on and got her stopped. Then he walked her out to his back pasture and drove her around for a while. She definitely does not like downhills, which lends weight to the theory that she got he scars in a cart accident. She really began to relax as time went on and, overall, the training went very well. We still have a way to go, but it was a successful day.
Monday, August 9, 2010
I apologize for the lack of activity this blog has experienced and the lack of photos in this posting. I assure you that much has happened since the last post. Mostly, this has been in small steps, hence my lack of posting, yesterday, however, experienced a big step.
Over the past few weeks I have been slowly putting in the foundation drain and drainage stone. This being a rather simple, if somewhat arduous task, I did it alone and did not request assistance. However, once the gravel was in place and it was time for fill, I was forced to admit the need for help. So I put out the call.
Great was my joy when upon Sunday morning no less than six volunteers arrived to help. They quickly divided into two teams of three, based upon family ties. So it was that the Bishop and Hogan Clans chose opposite sides of the cellar upon which to labor.
For my part, I drove the tractor, dumping sand on either side of the cellar as needed. Such was the pace work of the two teams that I was kept in a state of constant motion and was never afforded a rest. Many were the times when I heard the patriarch of the Bishop Clan call for more sand closely followed by the Hogans' protests that I was neglecting their needs.
When we finally called it a day, more had been accomplished than I ever dared hope. These guys had dropped the hammer like I never expected. Instead of a couple of hours of work and half the sand placed, I received more than five hours of work and all the sand was placed. It is truly gratifying and humbling to have one's neighbors give so much without compensation.
Well, not entirely without compensation, Tracy and I did provide our neighborly volunteers with a noon repast of pizza from the Alstead Village Pizza (excellent, as always). This was consumed with relish before returning to work.
When all was said and done, Sunday was a good day. My neighbors had showed up in force to assist me with building the brewery. We shared a mid-day meal. We got all the sand put into place.
When we finished, one young member of the Bishop Clan asked me how long I expected to run the brewery. I told him that I hoped it would last as long as I could last, hopefully another 60-plus years. He said that was good, because he had another 8 years until he reached 21 and wanted to buy a beer at the brewery he helped build.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
So far the concrete deck seems to be holding. So now I need to finish the foundation drain and fill in around the cellar. Then we can start on the building!
Thursday, July 1, 2010
At some point in time, some forgotten genius had invented and amazing tool for putting the little wire twistys in place. This tool resembled a bent screwdriver with a loose shaft. The genius of this particular tool lay in the fact that it was of simple design, simple to use, and greatly reduced labor. To illustrate the perfection of this device, I, who had never used one before, was able to effectively employ it in making a substantial contribution to the completion of this phase of the brewery project within minutes of being handed the tool in question. I hope that tool's inventor is enjoying a comfortable and well deserved retirement.
When all was said and done we had poured nine cubic yards of concrete, weighing 18,000 pounds on a wooden deck build by lil' old me. There are times when one feels a little bit satisfied with oneself.
The next step is to get some lumber and start with the structure itself. It is amazing how far we have come, but we still have along way to go.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
I apologize for the lack of photos in today's posting. I promise more soon. To recap recent events, the floor of the cellar was poured. I had not realized what went into pouring a floor. I had assumed that being something of a liquid, concrete would seek its own level and then set. In this way a perfectly level floor could be had with a minimum of effort.
Once the last of the concrete is poured, the work begins. Making a floor of concrete involves one hour of pouring and six of smoothing. Fortunately Larry, our concrete guy, had sent one of his workers. In the end, he did an excellent job.
I am now working on building the wood deck that the brewery floor will be poured on. I will blog on that later.
Today brought to light a most depressing realization. I had had a few of my hop plants break off. I guessed that I had simply accidentally cut them while weeding. Today it was confirmed that we have cut worms in the hop yard. This could spell disaster. For those of you unfamiliar with cut worms, they eat around the base of a plant and eventually cut it off completely. So far we have lost three plants and a fourth is badly cut. I have sprayed with Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew, hopefully that will help.
I will keep you posted.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
I spent about three hours with the compactor. When I was done, the gravel was so compacted that it did not move as the compactor passed over it. However, I was also numb from the elbows down and my eyes could no longer focus.
So one can imagine my pain when I went out to check on things after today's thunderstorms, only to find that one part of the compacted gravel had sunk! How could this be? Alas, it was. An area that only a short while ago had been solid was now three inches lower and mushy. What to do? I guess add more gravel and compact it by hand.
After all, I need to be ready by Tuesday when we pour the floor!
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
First to arrive was Barnaby, an employee of my brother-in-law's soon-to-be father-in-law, Larry, who was the mastermind behind the concrete. Who was mastermind? Read that sentence again.
Barnaby would prove to be invaluable. His skill in his trade is beyond question. More importantly, and rarely, he possessed the ability to educate and involve the inexperienced. He can also get a lot done quickly when a giant cement mixer is breathing down all of our respective necks.
Dave Hogan was next to arrive. Dave is a paramedic, which is twice as good as a uni-medic. He, like myself, knew as much about pouring concrete as brain surgery on catostomids. Bewilderment loves company.
Fortunately, Barnaby knew what he was doing. He gave Dave and me tasks to get the ball rolling. Soon Larry would arrive.
With a heavy heart. I grasped the bottle and headed for the frost wall. What good is a sacrifice if it is easy? Is it a sacrifice at all? Such were my thoughts as I placed the bottle of beloved homebrew at the base of the frost wall. I covered it by hand to ensure that it would not be broken when I started back-filling with the loader. May it bring good luck and may some fortunate soul find it ages hence.
Larry, Barnaby, Dave and myself started upon our tasks. Larry and Barnaby are no nonsense workers. The process went well, with Dave and me learning many new things. I back-filled the frost wall and built a ramp for the cement truck while the others set up forms and squared the whole mess. Progress seemed rapid, though events would prove otherwise.
The driver of the first truck leaned out and asked how things were going. "Apparently a bit behind," was the only response I could manage. The driver said that was alright as he would need 15 minutes to get ready. He then asked what level I wanted the concrete mixed to. I could only respond that I was the owner and not the concrete person, but that I would ask Larry, who was the concrete person. I ran over and yelled the appropriate question to Larry. Hand signals completed the three-way conversation.
About this time Tom Coty showed up. Tom is a State Trooper. He owns a miniature donkey. In the ensuing whirlwind of activity I cut the last few form pieces and Tom and I jumped up on the catwalk to get ready for the pour. While Barnaby nailed the last few forms in place, the pour began.
I do not doubt but that the actual time elapsed during the pouring of concrete was relatively short. However, given the fact that the trucks arrived before we were truly ready, and that we did not have the trough extension, what followed made eternity seem a concept of brevity.
To this moment the details whirl in my mind. I hear Larry calling for concrete at various locations. Barnaby giving quick, explanatory orders to keep the process moving. All of us paddling and agitating concrete until our arms were limp. At some point, Dave had returned, but exactly when, I cannot say.
Eventually the forms were filled and we could relax a bit. Rebar and bolts were in place and concrete smoothed. Mission accomplished.
We still have a long way to go. But I think we have the crew that can make it.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Two interesting artifacts were unearthed during the digging. The first to show up is a quart whiskey bottle for Petts whiskey out of Boston. It has a small chip but is otherwise intact. A bit of internet searching indicated this bottle may be over 100 years old. I wonder if there is greater meaning to this find? Is this a sign?
The second item is a bronze cow bell! The knocker is missing, otherwise it is in very good shape. I checked a reference book and it had a picture of a nearly identical bell and described it as a 19th century Norwegian cow bell.
Maybe we should name this the Bottle and Bell Brewery?
It only took a few days for Lonn and Bob to finish the cellar hole and put in an access road. This morning the concrete guys showed up. They put in the footings and the frost wall. This upcoming Tuesday we will be getting together to pour the walls. So now I am out beating the bushes for volunteers.
This is all moving so fast! Sometimes it is exciting, sometimes gutwrenchingly frightening.
Dear Reader, as we progress I will keep you posted.
Below are photos of the work so far:
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
After this propitious start, only one question remained. To wit: How would the beer hold up over time? Would it age like fine wine, gaining smoothness and complexity? Perhaps, I should only be left with something akin to Murphy's oil soap?
Today was the final tasting to answer the foregoing questions. I had one of the 1 liter cobalt blue bottles New England Cream Lager remaining. Remember, this beer was bottled on November 1, 2009; it had now had the benefit of nearly six months in my cellar.
Upon the initial pour, things looked good: Carbonation was still at an appropriate level and the beer was crystal clear (it had been a bit cloudy in the past). The aroma was still the fruity-with-a-hint-of-sulfur and hops that I remembered from my last tasting. So far, so good. Now it was time for a taste!
The moment the beer crossed my lips I was taken by a sense of delectation. The body remained robust and the previously incredible smoothness was even more in evidence. The flavor remained a complex interplay of spice, bitter and sweet with a little fruitiness. The major difference from previous tastings was the hop presence.
Previously, this beer was notable for its whole hop flavor. The taste was like smelling hops freshly picked at the perfect moment. This time the hop flavor was more subdued. The overall bitterness was still there, but the actual hop flavor, as such, had melted into a soft interplay with the other flavors. However, it must be noted that this beer still retained more hop flavor than any commercial beer, or homebrew made with commercial hops, that I have ever experienced. Must be the horse poop I use to fertilize the hopyard.
The final verdict? After six months in the cellar, the New England Cream Lager remains a beer of the first order. Like any proper bottle conditioned beer its flavor had evolved without degrading. A true pleasure from the first to the last.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
I was quite surprised when I saw the hop shoots this afternoon. I had checked the yard a few days previous and found no shoots. Even scratching back the soil a bit showed no sign of growth. I was worried, so imagine my relief, and surprise, when I found shoots about four inches long this afternoon!
This is a joyous event. After last year's losses and this winter's wet-and-freeze, I was a bit worried about the prospects for the hopyard this growing season. It looks like we have a good start on this year's crop. In fact, I believe this is the earliest start we have ever had. It is a good thing that hops are frost resistent, as I have a feeling we will have at least one more frost before the real growing season.
This year I am doing things a bit differently. I have applied some organic fertilizer and some lime. I had noticed last year that the soil was getting a bit acidic as evidenced by the spread of wild strawberries. With all the wet last year I believe nutrient leeching was also a problem, but I did not want to blast things with fertilizer so I went the organic route. With the application of a bit of horse compost we should be fine.
So it looks like we have a good start on this year's hop crop. Let us hope for good growing weather!
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
It was a real shame to have to cut down the big maple. At least we are getting a good supply of prime firewood. Some of the big pieces are rock hard. I hit one big chunk right in the heartwood with a freshly sharpened axe. The axe bounced out! It occurs tome that I may not be able to split these with the maul.
Larry and I have been discussing the concrete work. While I would still like to do the concrete span, it appears that cost will make that impractical. But we shall see. Either way we will still have the full cellar, which is key to giving this brewery a large enough capacity to be viable.
What remains to be done now is to get together some volunteers that are willing to do some concrete work!
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
This particular tome, which Tracy saw fit to bestow upon me as a birthday gift, broke that impasse. It shows how to do everything I need to complete the brewery. Framing walls, stepping off rafters, it is all in there. Most importantly, it has plans to frame up a barn that has 12-foot exterior walls. Given the height of the mash tun/boiler complex, we need the interior height provided by 12-foot walls.
So now we have a much more solid design for the building that will house our brewery. This is good because I submitted the application for the building permit today.
Still a long way to go, but things are coming together.
Aggie goes to school
In other news, our big girl, Aggie, namesake of our farm, etc. will be going to reform school this summer. As many of your know she is a real powerhouse when on her game, but there are some problems with, for lack of a better term."panic". Regular readers will recall that our friend Roy is the only person who has been able to bring her down from one of her panics. Roy is one of the best trainers I have ever seen, and remember that I started working with Dave Patton.
So the plan is to send Aggie to stay with Roy for a while. He will train her and integrate her into his farm. He will also train me. I need training as much as Aggie. The final goal is that Aggie and I will both be able to assist with the final cut of haying this season. Perhaps a bit ambitious, but I believe that Roy can make it happen.
Dear Reader, I shall keep you posted.
Monday, March 1, 2010
One of my neighbors suggested we have a local builder supply wall panels, thus speeding the construction of the building. Great idea! However, when I spoke to the builder he made it clear that he considered both me and the project idiotic. Naturally, I drove home fuming.
Then I got to thinking: What do I need to make wall panels that I do not have? A nail gun! I do not have one, but my neighbor Tom has one and he wants to help out on the brewery. I think my problem was solved before it began.
In retrospect, I am glad the builder was not interested in my project. He just saved me a lot of money.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
The real question is what did I expect? I knew that, given our philosophy, this brewery idea would not move quickly. One cannot be as debt averse as we are and expect to move quickly - unless you happen to have large bags of money lying about the house. Deep inside I knew that we needed to be in this for the long haul. Perhaps that is part of the attraction of this project. Throughout the course of my life I have never been more than six years in one place, and that when I we quite young. Due to that, I have developed a tendency to feel a sense of urgency in all that I do. I try to do things alone, get them done quickly, and plan for mobility. Now I find myself part of a project that can only be long term in its establishment and, by nature, defies mobility.
Did I mention that this is a project I cannot do alone? That became apparent pretty early on. The beautiful part is that I never was really alone. OK, let me back up a bit.
My most significant action with regard to this brewery project was buying a book. True story. That is all I did. I bought a book and left it on the couch. Tracy found the book and read a bit of it. The book was about farmhouse breweries of Europe. She decided we could build one. It was all her idea.
Then things got interesting. At first, I feared telling anyone about this idea. Past experience had made me hesitant to express my ideas and face the, seemingly inevitable, ridicule of the homoboobian masses. But I did mention it a bit, here and there. That was when we experienced a great non-happening. Nobody laughed. Nobody thought it was a stupid idea. In fact, many people, some of whom I would have never guessed, thought it was a great idea.
I did not realize it, but the word was spreading to unknown quarters. That point was brought home when a total stranger knocked on my door and told me he wanted to be a brewer and that he had heard I was building a brewery. That was how I met Owen.
Owen would prove to be one of our most passionate supporters. Owen is a smart guy who wants to brew beer. I want to brew beer, so by extension, I too am a smart guy. External validation is nice.
The high point was when the town had the public hearing on our idea. So many of our fellow Alsteadders showed up to support us that one town official had to stand for the first part of the meeting. Noteworthy is that none of the threatened opposition materialized. All who spoke, spoke in our favor. It turns out that a lot of people, not just me, like the idea of starting a brewery.
So where are we now? Nearly a year later, we do not even have a hole in the ground. Are we losing momentum? I fear so, but hope not. The decision not to start construction last fall was a difficult one to make. I believe it was the right one but recognize the risks it entailed. In the end our strongest supporters did not abandoned us.
So now we move forward with our core support intact. Soon we will have a hole in the ground and the rest will follow. I promise.
Thanks to all who are along for the ride. The seats are hard and the road bumpy. In the end, no matter what happens, we will all have a story to tell.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Normally, I am not a big drinker of higher alcohol beers. The alcohol character is often a bit overpowering, to my taste. Then again, the only high alcohol beers I have had previously were all North American. This beer is the real deal from the land of high alcohol and long aging.
The Grand Reserva pours thick and dark with a brown head. The aroma is woody chocolate and vanilla with a hint of alcohol. The mouth-feel was very thick, almost oily.
The flavor was the biggest surprise for me as the alcohol did not dominate it. Instead the flavor was a robust oak and roast malt and a bit chocolaty. The alcohol supported and enhanced the overall flavor instead of crushing it. Excellent. Perhaps I should experiment more with the higher alcohol beers.
Thanks Owen for bringing this gem back to Alstead!
Monday, February 1, 2010
In the end, we need not have worried. With the exception of being horse owners, Tom and Lynn, as their names proved to be, were nearly normal.
As the story goes, about a year ago Tom got the idea of growing hops. So he did. In a big way. While most people start with a few rhizomes, Tom started with a few thousand. With a lot of hard work and a little luck, they got a harvest the first year. For their second year,they have telephone poles and cable ready to set up a more durable trellis. They even bought a pelletizer.
So it looks like Tom and Lynn are well on their way to an honest to whichever-deity-you-choose hop farm. This is great news for us. Having a source of hops so close by will be a big plus for the brewery.
So let us all send out a good vibe for Tom and Lynn in the second year of their hop farm. I can't wait to visit their farm when the hops are in full bloom. I expect the aroma will be incredible.
Monday, January 25, 2010
His time here was short, but I enjoyed what he was able to share. We discussed a bit about about brewing techniques and some ideas for the brewery and just shot the bull.
While visiting, he sampled the New England Cream Lager and Hemlock Ale. He declared both of them excellent, which shows that he posses either excellent taste or excellent diplomatic skills. I prefer to believe the former.
As a gift, Owen left behind a bottle of Pannepot Grand Reserva, vintage 2006. This is a 10% alcohol powerhouse that is aged for 14 months on French oak and then 8 months on Calvados wood. It gives me a few ideas for my own brew. I will file a report when I drink rare gem. In return, I sent him off with a bottle of the German Pale.
It was great to see Owen again. He has been a great supporter of our brewery idea since the beginning. We look forward to reading of his further adventures on his blog.
This upcoming Sunday, we will be meeting with some people who are starting a hop farm. The farm is in Massachusetts and sounds like great idea. I will keep you posted on what we find out.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Whether one considers it strange or not, I admit to some ambivalent feelings while cutting down this tree. I did not want to do it but also recognized the necessity of doing so if the brewery was to proceed. Therein lay the conundrum.
The upshot is this: What right do I have to cut down a tree that has been growing for so many years in one spot, just because I want to use that spot for something else. What are the ethical considerations here?
We have a living tree, a beautiful specimen, that will take 40 to 50 years to replace, and I cut it down. I cut it down for my own convenience. Is this right?
I feel unable to answer these questions. The best that I can offer is that each time I cut down a tree I will make the best use I can of its wood. I will not waste what I have taken. That may be enough. I am not sure.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
My experimental German Pale Ale has now had time to condition in the bottle. I have tasted a few samples and have had others taste samples too. The verdict is a consensus: it is good!
German Pale Ale
To refresh my readers’ memories, I will give a rundown of the origins of the “German Pale Ale”. It arose from my continuing desire to do something different. In this case I came up with the idea of using proven dark beer yeast to brew a proven pale beer grain bill. So this experiment was a bit of a criss-cross of past successes. I always advocate such mix-ups of ingredients as a way to grow and explore. I am continually frustrated by brewers who live in a world of hard categories. To them, the world is made up of ale yeasts, lager yeasts, IPA’s Double IPA’s, blah, blah, and blah. Is it not the height of ignorance and irony for some alleged expert to declare, “A good beer, but not to style”? May God, or whoever may be in charge, never allow that I should live in such a pathologically defined world. Good beer is good beer; style is in the eye of the beholder.
So it is I found myself brewing “German Pale Ale”. I made a starter of Wyeast German Ale yeast. For grain, I used 6 lb Pale Pearl malt, 4 oz 40L crystal malt, and 4 oz Cara Munich malt. For hops, I used 1 oz of my own hops, which will be the subject of an upcoming blog. For a mash, I did a single temperature infusion. All in all, this was a fairly simple recipe.
The only difficulty encountered during the creation of this beer was that the yeast, like so many Wyeast products, was a slow starter. Even mixing up a starter in advance was not enough, this yeast was a dog. After 48 hours, it had shown little, if any, activity. In an effort to get things going, I racked the whole mess into another fermenter. That did the trick and within a few hours a vigorous fermentation was progressing.
When it came time to bottle, I added 1 ½ cups of dark dry malt extract. I have always preferred using dry malt extract to using sugar for priming. It seems to me that sugar does not give as thick and smooth a head to the beer as does dry malt extract. Further, when I sugar primed my beers it seemed that I often got a cidery taste.
So now three weeks have passed since bottling the “German Pale Ale”. As the photograph shows, it is a nice golden colored brew (Note the reflection of the alien in the mug. Word of this beer spread fast). The flavor is a smooth malty sweetness overlain by a surprisingly strong hop flavor. This is not the harsh hop bitterness of modern
I do not know quite how to describe the hop flavor of this beer. I know of no commercial beer with a similar hop flavor, though it is probably closest to a traditional Kolsch. The best I can do is to describe the taste as reminiscent of the aroma of a bucket of freshly picked hops. Indeed, I suspect that those who have never picked hops for themselves may well not recognize the flavor for what it is. For me, as the grower and harvester of the hops used in this beer, it is a real treat to have them make such a significant contribution to the overall flavor of such a fine beer.
So there you have it, the “German Pale Ale” is a success. Perhaps a new style? I will let the drinker decide.