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, May 23, 2010

Sealed Concrete

Cellar work continues. A day or so after the forms were taken off a crane arrived took the forms away and placed the beams. Later that day, Barnaby returned and sealed the foundation. The next step is to put down some more gravel and pour the cellar floor.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pouring Our Own

The die was cast. Tuesday, May 18th, 2010, cellar walls would be poured. Heads were scratched. Nails were bitten. What would this day bring?

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.

Before I could go any further, I had a task to perform. Something inside me felt a need to make an offering; it seemed the right thing to do. I considered a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon as an offering, but I had none left and it occurred to me that that might not be looked upon as much of an offering. So I decided on a homebrew and went down into my cellar. I had only two bottles remaining of my dry stout, one of my best beers. I knew, the moment I looked into the dusty case, that the dry stout must be my offering.

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.

Who shall drink of this?

Next to arrive, while I was sacrificing the bottle of dry stout, was Larry. Larry is the mastermind (for those of you still trying to figure out the earlier reference) of this cellar-and-deck design. Without him this would not happen. His idea, his equipment, 'nuff said. Except that he did not bring the trough extension. Someday we will forgive him.

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.

Looks pretty good, eh?

Progress appeared good and we were confident of being ready for the cement trucks. Dave had to leave, but would return. The rest of us continued working. I saw the first truck. Then I saw the second truck. Gigantic Oshkosh cement mixers, in my driveway. I do not believe I have ever been so aware of this project as I was at that moment.

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.

Happiness is a filled form.

Today, Barnaby returned with another worker to remove the forms. I got home from work and was amazed at what we had built. Dream is becoming reality.

Through this door shall pass the finest of ales.

The view from above.

The interior of the cellar.

This was a great experience. Larry and Barnaby managed to keep the process going while teaching amateurs the basics. Dave and Tom gave more than I had the right to ask of their time and effort. Even the cement truck drivers were consummate professionals.

We still have a long way to go. But I think we have the crew that can make it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Breaking Ground

I must first apologize for being a bit lax in updating this blog. These are busy times and I let things slide when I should not have. Hopefully I can make up for that by having something really worth writing about.

We have broken ground on the brewery! A bit over a week ago, Lonn Livengood brought out his excavator and his worker, Bob Diehl, started digging. I had visions of having a big ground breaking ceremony, maybe with a gold painted shovel. In the end, Bob jumped in the excavator and I took some pictures. Not much ceremony at all.

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:

Before work...

New access road...
Ready for concrete...
The footings....