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!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Blue Bird Of Happiness

As many of you know, I have been keeping chickens and selling eggs for a few years now.  If the latest "food safety" legislation does not put me out of business, I will continue to do so for as long as I can.  Chickens are interesting creatures and tending them and watching them as they go about their daily semi-flightless avian business supplies a good bit of the entertainment and joy I get from living in rural New Hampshire.

Since this is the season of giving, I thought I would share an unexpected gift we received this spring.  This year, we added a second coop and tripled the size of our flock.  At the store where I work, which is also where I get my chicks, we had some left overs after all the orders had been filled. One bird was an odd looking creature that did not appear to be any of the standard breeds which we sell.  That was probably the reason why it was left behind; no one knew what it was so it was never used to fill an order.

I am a sucker for the outsider and unwanted, so I paid my $2.25 and took the little bird home. As it continued to grow, we ralized that this was something we had not seen before.  Clearly a heavy breed, it was colored differently from anything we had ever seen.  I began poring over my poultry references and realized we had something special. This little lady was one of the rarest of the rare: A blue Wyandotte! 

Blue Wyandotte chickens are quite rare and breeders charge a large premium for them.  To think that we got one because no one knew what it was and thus didn't want it.  Perhaps there is a bigger lesson here.

She has grown into a fine hen and has been a joy to have in our flock.  I guess that makes he our "blue bird" of happiness.  I hope you all find your own.

Our Blue Bird of Happiness

Monday, December 20, 2010

Building and Brewing

All apologies for the tardy nature of this post. I was busy last night watching the Packers snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  The first time in 41 years I want them to win and they blow it at the last second!  So I woke up this morning to talk radio discussing Bill B. being "clearly the greatest coach of the modern era." Ack! Ack!

Enough! On to brewing...

I accomplished a bit of work on the brewery.  I managed to install about half the collar braces on the rafters before cold overtook me.  About the time the level stuck to my hand I figured it was time to pack it in for the day.  It was just as well as being up on a ladder, that was standing on a temporary deck made of ice coated plywood, was starting to work on my nerves.

Hemlock Beer

In the good news department:  I tried some of the hemlock I bottled a week ago.  It is excellent.  With a few more weeks to carbonate, I am sure it will only get better.  I was a bit worried that adding a pound of malto-dextrin might make it too thick, but the body is just about right.  I used a bit less hemlock this time and it seems I may have found the right balance.  Dear Reader, I will keep you posted as the taste evolution proceeds.

Czech This Out

As I write these lines, I have a Czech lager in the fermenter.  This particular brew represents the first time in a few years that I have used a White Labs liquid yeast culture.  I was a big fan of these during my time in Alaska, but could not find a supplier when I moved to New Hampshire.  Now I have found one.

I am a bit concerned as the yeast took over 24 hours to show any sign of life.  I am fearful of an infection.  However, the yeast is going strong now and no odd odors have been detected coming from the fermentation lock.  In fact, the brew smells pretty good.  I will keep you posted.

The Past Crosses The Future

Today I cooked up an English bitter.  This was a very simple recipe, of my own design, utilizing only Pearl malt as a base and some 90L crystal malt for a bit of flavor.  I threw in one ounce of dark wheat malt to give a bit of spice. For hops, I tossed in two ounces of my own.

The big departure, for me, was the use of white sugar.  Nearly twenty years ago when I started brewing, I made recipes that called for the addition of large amounts of white sugar.  All too often the result was a beer with a cidery taste.  I read that eliminating the sugar would eliminate the cidery taste.  That seemed to work and ever since I have not let white sugar anywhere near my brews.

On this day I know not what muse of fermentation took hold of me as I perused my books of beer formulae, but upon seeing the prescriptions for English bitter that included varying amounts of white sugar, I was seized with the desire; no, compulsion, to brew with white sugar. Why, after a two decade hiatus, I should be so afflicted, I cannot answer. Still under the influence of the brewing muse I took three of the best recipes from my text and combined them to arrive at my final creation.

What shall come of this?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Weather Delay

Saturday being the day of the Orchard School Craft Fair, I had my volunteers lined up for Sunday to put the roof on the brewery.  Alas, for once the weather forecasters were right.  Rain and ice were predicted and such we received.  By eight in the morning the concrete deck of the brewery had quarter-inch thick layer of ice on it.  Eventually the rain would melt away the ice but it was small consolation.

Tracy and I busied ourselves putting away anything that we felt might be damaged by the rain.  That completed, all that remained was to speculate upon the likelihood of getting the roof on before spring or consider other courses of action we could pursue until such time as we were able to put the roof on the brewery.  Many things remain to be done so I am sure we will find plenty to occupy us over the winter.

One bit of serendipity occurred at the craft fair on Saturday. A distant neighbor of mine who happens to be a welder, and has a large hop plant growing in his front yard, stopped by my table. We began discussing my ideas for converting the sap tanks I purchased to a boiler and fermenters. On the spot he came up with improvements to my ideas that will make it easier for us to run-off the beer without drawing off any of the sludge but would also facilitate the removal of the sludge and cleaning of the tanks.  This almost makes up for the dismal sales we had on Saturday!

Throughout the day, we had many people stopping by my table at the craft fair to discuss the brewery. Word is getting out.  We also handed out numerous brochures about the brewery.  People are still excited about the brewery even though we are behind schedule.  It is nice to see that our support is still strong and hear words of encouragement from our supporters.

Latest Brews

The New England Cream Lager turned out excellent. Remember that this time I put in an extra ounce of my own hops, for a total of three ounces.  After more than two months in the bottle the hop aroma and flavor are both strong and citrusy with no hint of the usual lager/IPA bitterness without flavor.  The addition of lactose made for a very smooth-bodied beer.  So far, no one has had anything negative to say about this beer.

The rye lager came out as a very mild, earthy beer with a copper color.  I was expecting a sharper rye flavor given the dark rye malt that was used in the recipe. It was still a good beer however, many drinkers found the flavor too mild for their tastes.

Today I bottled the latest batch of hemlock beer. This time I used less hemlock than in the past. I tasted some of  the brew prior to bottling.  At this point it is very mild in spite of the heavy addition of dark roasted barley. Given this recipe's history of dramatic taste evolution, I have no doubt it will taste quite different after a month in the cellar.

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.

Last Sunday Vin had made a template for the rafters and they were cut to length.  During the week I finished the cuts and shortened the rafters to fit the ridgepole.  So today, all that remained was to get the ridgepole up and the rafters in place.

With all the hands available, getting the ridgepole up and the first rafters in place was none too difficult.  Once we got the system down, the rest went pretty fast.  Even setting up the temporary decking went smoothly.

It is my fault that we did not get more done. I had waffled on what type of roofing to use.  I had finally decided on going with metal on stringers and had purchased the stringers.  However, once we started putting up the rafters, it became apparent that we may need more stability.  Now I really dislike plywood and OSB, but the fact remains that they will provide a more rigid roof. So after consulting with my volunteers the decision was made to go with the OSB. It won't be pretty, but it will be solid. If I had made this decision earlier, we could have had the material in place and would have finished today. Mea culpa.

Today was a good day, we got a bunch done.  The place is really starting to look like a brewery.  A big thanks to all our volunteers.