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 20, 2010

Looking Back

Wow. It is hard to believe that it has been a year since my initial dealings/tussles with the state and feds. Those, of course, lead to my go round with the town. Sometimes those meetings seem like a million years ago, sometimes they seem like yesterday.

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

Pannepot Grand Reserva

During his recent visit, as a gift, our friend Owen left behind a bottle of Pannepot Grand Reserva, vintage 2006, "Old Fisherman's Ale". This is a 10% alcohol powerhouse that is aged for 14 months on French oak and then 8 months on Calvados wood. That gives me a few ideas.

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

The Hop People

Yesterday we received a visit from the rare and elusive hop people of western Massachusetts. Prior to this visit, we had only heard rumors of their existence. We were not sure what to expect. As the appointed time of their visit drew near, speculation as to their number of appendages and method of communication was rampant. What sort of creatures grew hops in western Massachusetts?

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.

Tom and Lynn are a real nice couple and we thoroughly enjoyed their visit and look forward to working with them in the future. We spent the afternoon exchanging ideas about hop growing and our nascent brewery. Tom and I even managed to sample a few homebrews, while Tracy and Lynn talked about horses, horses, and horses.

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.