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!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

First Floor Done (Almost)

No pictures today as we worked until it was too dark to take a picture so my words shall have to suffice.

Krister showed up for the third day in a row.  I am beginning to suspect that he may be more dedicated to this project than I am!  However, Krister's nephew Wylie is one of our horses' biggest fans.  When he heard that we had a fourth horse, he informed Krister that he "needed" a picture of said horse. So that was the first order of business.  Given what camera hogs Aggie and Max are, you can guess how difficult getting a picture of Web can be. Once that task was completed it was on to the brewery.

 As you might have guessed, we went right to it and finished up the last wall section we had put up as the sun set last night.  Then we began framing up the last wall section of the first floor.

It quickly became apparent that we did not have enough time or lumber to finish framing this section.  With the light fading fast, we decided to do what we could.  In the end we were able to get most of the last section framed up and set it on the foundation.We used a temporary brace to keep it square until we could finish it. By the time we finished securing this last section to the foundation and bracing it we were out of time and lumber.

So we are very close to having the whole first floor framed up.  Only a few doodads remain.  Then we can start on putting in the loft.  Then the roof.  Exciting times. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

A New Frame To Mind

Two days of framing work.
This Sunday and Monday finally saw us begin the process of framing up the brewery.  On Sunday Toma and Krister came out and we got started.  Then on Monday Krister came out again and we continued the process.  We have only one more section to go and we will be done with the first floor. 

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

Starting Construction

Over the past few weeks we have had a good bit of rain.  Still, between downpours we have managed to get two loads of lumber to the brewery site.  With luck the rain will hold off and we can start construction on Sunday.  I have been making phone calls and trying to rally the troops. 

I really hope that at least one person who shows up on Sunday has some construction experience, as I have little.  The description in my barn building book make it look like a fairly simple task; more a matter of determination than skill.  It is such books containing such descriptions that often lead innocent persons down the path of self-destruction.  At least I shall have a few friends with me as I tread that all too familiar road.

I hope to have some cool photos to post on Sunday night.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Finish to the Filling

Today Lonn finished backfilling the brewery foundation and did a better job than I ever could have with my little tractor.  He even used the boulder piles to make stone retaining walls for the cellar entrance.  Things look pretty nice right now.

I also made a trip to the sawmill today. I picked up the first load of lumber.  I had hoped to make a second trip but that did not work out.  However, I did get enough to frame up nearly all the first floor.

In the sad news department, one of the breweries I visited while I was forming the plan for our brewery has gone out of business.  They lasted about two years after getting licensed.  I remember that during my visit I noticed a few problems, though, at the time, they did not seem lethal to the brewery's success.

At the time of my visit, they had only been open about a month, but the owner told me that he needed to go back to his investors for another infusion of capital.  They had invested heavily in a temperature control system that had not been properly installed and thus had to lay out even more capital to get the system fixed. Most notably, that had only two fermenters and little room for adding any others.  That may have been their key weakness.

When interviewing brewers and brewery owners one principle emerged that nearly every interviewee touched upon.  This was the importance of fermenter capacity.  Big boilers are nice, but fermenter capacity was the bottleneck that determined a brewery's true capacity.  As one brewmaster noted, "Your boiler is tied up for 90 minutes or so, but your fermenters are tied up for anywhere from two weeks to six months. You don't want to be stuck waiting for a fermenter to open up."  The moral of the story: Have enough fermenters to enable production to keep going.  That is why we decided to spend the extra money to have a full cellar built.  I still sometimes wonder if we should not have built even bigger.

Learning from mistakes is best done vicariously so let us hope that I may avoid the pitfalls that some of my fellow brewers unfortunately stumbled into.