Ramble On

Friday, December 30, 2016

@hawksbillbrew - Final Construction Update for 2016

For one final brewery post this year, I'll offer a couple of behind the scenes photos to round out the story.  About 40 percent of our construction budget has been allocated to mechanical, plumbing, and air conditioning improvements.  The work goes on in parallel to construction and it's sometimes hard to recognize how significant it is - so I'll do a quick write-up about it today.

Because we need fairly precise temperature controls for fermentation, we're putting in a glycol cooling system that will allow us to manage what is happening at any given time in all those shiny tanks.

We also need a cold room to store ingredients - not to mention finished beer.  On the blog I've showed a few photos of the exterior of that space (here and here, for example), but now the insulation has been installed, and the interior is complete.  They just hung our chiller for it, as shown in the photo.

So the glycol and the cold room are two of the upgrades we're working on.  The other is an upgrade of the air conditioning system.  That's a work in progress and there is not a lot to show just yet.

However, there is the second photo today, showing the new pad we've constructed out back.  This is where our the exterior part of our glycol system will be installed, and it's big enough to accommodate the new air conditioning unit that we'll put in over the next month to six weeks.  So I'll have a few more updates to come on this part of the construction project.

So this is it for 2016 - we saw a lot of progress on the brewery, which we hope to open in spring of 2017.  So in the coming year we'll have a few more posts on the topic of HBC Construction.  But there will also be plenty of them on the topic of operating the brewery!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Our New Bar Top @hawksbillbrew

Some things just come off better than you could ever expect, and that's definitely the case now that we are seeing the final finishes come together at Hawksbill Brewery.

We chose some fairly practical approaches for the big picture - the "board and batten style interior framed walls, for example, and a color palette that featured grays that would play off of the natural wood finishes.

Then we came across the old barn siding that we were able to repurpose - thanks again to Kevin for the find, and to David for rescuing it.  These finishes really have made Hawksbill Brewing Company a place, with a memorable style.

The last item for the bar was delivered this week - the bar top.  We had spec'd white oak, but I hadn't been carefully tracking what we would get once Marathon Millwork in Luray had fabricated it.  I knew it wasn't going to be a single slab though, it's a rare tree that could produce a board that large, and who knows how long it would take to season and then custom cut it to fit.

What we have is a lovely top that was pieced together from white oak planks.  There's lovely variation and character in every square foot of the thing.  The photo here was taken just after the first finish coat was applied, so it's shiny because it's still wet - that will be the first of four coats.

There's still plenty to do, and we are focused on completing everything within the next two months - when we hope that our license will be granted.  That's the long pole for us right now.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Out and About in Alexandria

Mary's been keeping busy these days with her new job with the City of Alexandria.  Earlier this year she joined the Wayfinding program, which involves installing information markers around town.

The signs are designed as mini-kiosks and they are installed on some of the light posts in Old Town.  There's often a bit of historical and interpretive information on each one - there are 28 of them - but there's also immediate directional information about the neighborhood and maps to help folks find their way.

The wayfinding effort is a multi-year program, which began in 2010, as I understand it.  Future phases include welcoming signs that involve significant construction, and also traffic directional signs that will help guide drivers to town attractions.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Brewhouse Installation @hawksbillbrew

Work in the brewhouse continues - there is just a ton of stuff that has to be done to complete construction, install and commission the equipment, and get the licensing in order before our planned opening, which we hope will be in March.  David shared some photos over the weekend of the equipment getting set into place - I thought I might put them up on the blog today.

Besides the equipment, there is a bit of a story to tell about this development - a few weeks back I wrote about the demo day we had, and then the floor prep.  Actually since then there have been a couple of days of painting, including not just the brewhouse floor, which looks pretty spectacular in these shots, but also the walls, and especially the plaster repairs that had to be done around the new window and that column in the corner.

So now the shiny stuff is all in place, pretty much in the final layout.  Not shown is an additional fermenter and the brite tank, but they're in place too.  And we have some room for expansion, if we are so fortunate as to need to do that!

There's more to do, including the balance of construction and painting the rest of the interior.

But this is a good checkpoint - everything is marching on!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Visiting the Old Neighborhood

Since we were staying overnight in town last weekend, I suggested to Mary that after we checked out from the W Hotel we take a drive up to Adams Morgan.  It had been a while since we'd been up to the neighborhood where we lived from 1994-1998 - I had moved there in 1992, and we maintained our trendy bi-coastal marriage in 1996, but we had a great condo in the Vernon House that we called home for all of that time.

Just as we were planning our move to Alexandria in 1998, we went to a condo board meeting and were introduced to a fellow named Eric, who planned to open a diner in the long-derelict building next door.  The diner is still there, but now it is owned by some friends, by coincidence, one of whom introduced to each other during the 1992 Clinton campaign.

We had a nice breakfast there while we took in the neighborhood.  A nod to my friend Brian, who keeps the Breakfast at Epiphany's blog...while I wouldn't try to use his proprietary scale, Mary enjoyed a traditional eggs combo, and I had chicken and waffles.  The place was as lively as ever and was every bit the urban experience we remembered.

As we walked around the neighborhood, it was a lot of fun to point out the buildings where Jamey, Carrie, Mark, Daphne, Chris and Rob, and even Jeff had lived back then.  We had many Sunday afternoons' worth of entertainment checking out condos for sale in this neck of the woods, and what I wouldn't give to still have that apartment in the Vernon House...

Finally, as we made our way up 19th Street to where we parked, we looked back down the hill to the south.  In the distance were the dome of St. Matthews, and the Washington Monument.  This spot was great for viewing 4th of July fireworks.  Great stuff.

I'll get back to posting some construction updates on the brewery next week.  Until then, you can call this a nostalgia episode...

Monday, December 12, 2016

Party Weekend

This weekend Mary and I stayed home in Alexandria.  My company's - my day job - annual holiday party, which is always pretty great and this year was no disappointment, since it was held at the National Press Club Building on 14th Street Northwest.

Mary and I decided to make an in-town getaway of the party this year, so I booked a last minute stay at the W Hotel near there.  I probably have a blog post or two that mentions the POV Rooftop Lounge at the top of this hotel - after the holiday party we've headed up there to continue the fun a few times.

We didn't indulge quite as extensively this time, but we had a great evening anyway.  The Press Club facility is great - dinner was excellent, open bar, band, etc. - all great.  Plus we had these themed name tags for all the guests in order to help everyone introduce themselves.

This was a pretty big year for me, as I am celebrating my 5th anniversary with the company, and there was some nice pre-game recognition for that.  My anniversary coincides with the party every year, since that first week when I actually boarded a plane to DFW on my first day!  Also making it special was that a couple of my team members were getting awards for their achievements this year.

Mary wanted to take a walk around the neighborhood in the morning before we checked out.  I tagged along, despite feeling a little bit under the weather, as we went over to the National Christmas Tree, and then had a look at the White House for the last time while the Obamas are there.  It seems like a long time since the 2008 Inauguration...and we pretty much stayed away during the Bush years, so it may be a while before I have a chance to take pictures like these again.

I haven't often been around to the Mall side of the White House, so this was the first time I had a good look at the famous White House Kitchen Garden.  There is a long history of having a garden like this on the grounds, although not every first family does it.  Michelle Obama used the garden as part of her campaign to promote nutrition, a topic which has begun surprisingly political (and means it's very likely the probable next occupant of the White House will have nothing to do with the garden).

After our walk around the area there, we ended up on Pennsylvania Avenue, where they are working on the grand stands for the next inauguration.  I'll close today's post with that thought - that change is ahead, but hope is not lost.

Coming full circle back to the holiday party - my fifth with this company.  I am especially lucky to have landed where I am, and I'm looking forward to my work this next year.  We have some great things ahead, even as the opening of Hawksbill Brewing Company will also happen in parallel.

That's going to make for a busy 2017!

Friday, December 9, 2016

New Windows @hawksbillbrew

One of the updates we needed to make to the building was to replace a couple of windows - I first wrote about this when we were having some demo done (link here).  Last week the new windows arrive and were installed, so I wanted to put up some photos of them.

First up in the new plate window back in the brewhouse area.  This had been one of those industrial glass pane and putty jobs back in the day.  It's in an awkward spot for maintenance though, and once the equipment installed it will be even more difficult to get to it.

The photo also brings to mind some of the wall preparation that is going on so that we can eventually paint the place.  In the right hand corner there is a major fresh patch that Kevin had just completed when I took the photo, and here and there we have some spackled areas from last week.  The window will be framed in soon and we can finish up with the plaster work - then we'll be ready to paint.

The other big window job was up in the front of the building, near where our main entry will be.  This window was old glass block, but there were quite a few broken, and the masonry needed work, so we decided a replacement would be most efficient.  We salvaged the glass block and are looking to put them to use somewhere, but in the meantime, I think this will add to the customer experience once we're open!

That area up front is also going through a lot of prep.  We're scraping off old paint and there is already a ton of spackling.  There's a bit of concrete patching to be done here too, but eventually we'll get through it all and can start the painting.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Those Floors @hawksbillbrew

We've written about the building Hawksbill Brewing Company will occupy a couple of times: how it was built in approximately 1911, operated as an ice storage facility for the railroad at first, then was a creamery, and eventually a string of retail establishments before we took the lease.  There's a trace of all those operations here and there throughout (some are great to find, some not so much - the graffiti left behind in one of the restrooms comes to mind!), but just like all of those before us, we need to update the building for our use - and that's going to be an ongoing blog topic for the next few months as we approach our opening.

Last weekend we set out to get the floors in shape for operation.  We had planned to simply paint them in a shade of gray, just like they had been in the past.  Once we got into the details of it, however, we discovered this wasn't going to be a simple case of painting over what was already there for consistency.

The advice we'd gotten was that while the old paint (and who knows who put it down or when, by the way) was holding, it was hard to predict what would happen to it once we got started brewing in there.  If the old paint finally failed and starting wearing away, the new paint on top of it would too...meaning future repairs and maintenance.  The prospect of taking care of issues like this would be pretty costly and complex once the whole brewhouse was in place.
So after further research, we decided to sand off as much of the old paint and then treat the concrete so that we could paint it.  David made arrangements with one of the hardware stores to rent the sander and buy a grinding wheel that we could use for the process, and set to work on it all.

It is a dusty and exhausting job - Kevin snapped this photo of him in action.  This area is about 600 square feet, and he worked at it for around 12 hours - I feebly worked on this for two or three hours so he could take a break.

Next steps with the floor in that area are to treat it so that we can paint it - that's all work we'll take care of this month, and hopefully complete before Christmas.  We'll paint the walls in January, when we'll also be installing and hooking up the brewery system.

Plenty of work to come!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Hot Liquor Tank Challenge @hawksbillbrew

In yesterday's post I wrote about the appearance of our shiny new tanks and vessels, fresh from Alpha Brewing Operations.  It was a day we had been looking forward to for a few months, and at last it had arrived!  David had the logistics in place to ensure a smooth operation, and we completed unloading the container earlier, well within the window of time we had been allotted by the shipping company.
First off the truck was our 10-barrel hot liquor tank, or HLT.  Now, the term "hot liquor tank" suggests that this vessel has an association with alcohol, but it doesn't.  It has an important role in the brewing process, but its work is actually done well before any fermentation begins.  
Simply put, the HLT is a water heater, used to get water up to temperature for a couple of key early steps in the brewing process, namely striking and sparging.  These steps are part of the process for extracting the fermentable sugars from the grain - that may be a topic for a future post, but today I'm writing about how we got such a big piece of equipment into the building.  Seriously, we were worried that we might have to demo out the loading door a bit to make it fit! 
We'd measured that door a few times and had compared it to the specs we'd rec'd from Alpha, and knew we had the clearances we needed.  Now with the situation at hand, it was clear that this was going to take some complex maneuvering - while we were very comfortable with the tank's diameter , it was actually an inch or two too tall to make it through the door while standing upright, especially riding the forklift.

The brain trust assembled to contemplate the task at hand.  Since we knew the diameter of the tank wasn't a problem, we concluded that the HLT needed to lay on its side to make it through, but how were we to get 700 pounds of shiny stainless down and back up again?

The answer lay in all those strong arms and backs.  Surprisingly, after all the discussion and planning, the team made quick and easy work of it.  And now that the HLT is inside, we'll move it into it's final spot soon as we have the general construction done in that area.  

After an exciting and fun day with all of our new shiny stuff, it was time to get back to work on construction progress.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Shiny Stuff Arrives @hawksbillbrew

We'd gotten a call the day before Thanksgiving that the container with much of our brewhouse equipment had arrived in Baltimore, and that we should prepare for delivery on Monday morning.  I decided to take a day of leave from my day job and join David and the construction crew for this event - he'd made arrangements for a fork lift and plenty of strong arms and backs to see the day through.  
The truck actually arrived the night before, the driver told us - he didn't share where he'd parked for the evening, but we guessed that he had plenty of creature comforts in the cab.  In any case, at last we had everything in place and cut the customs lock off of the container, unveiling all of our shiny new tanks pretty much in place, just like they were in the photos we were sent when they loaded the container (link here)!
First off was the hot liquor tank - there's a story in itself, and I'll post a bit more about it next time - followed by the brite tank, and four fermentation vessels.  It was amazing to see how tightly everything was packed into that container, and to consider the journey it had all made without any damage.  Things were mounted onto steel frames and then bolted to the container floor, and then strapped into place so they would stay upright with very little shifting or movement.

When the shipping company first contacted us for delivery, they told us we had two hours to land everything.  Thanks to David's logistical coordination, with all the help we had on hand, we finished within that window - in fact, we were 20 minutes early!
At last, with everything offloaded and staged, we signed the delivery papers and sent the driver on his way.  Our next step would be to move all of the tanks inside the building - that's where I'll pick up the story in tomorrow's post.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Some News Coverage for @hawksbillbrew

As construction and equipment delivery continue, we've had a decent social media week for the brewery, culminating in local TV news coverage on Wednesday.  Reporter Katie Caler from WHSV came out for the story - she last visited us in February (link here).  WHSV also covered the Hop Yard in 2015 (link here).

I'll have some photos of the equipment deliveries next week, but in the meantime, here is a link to this week's WHSV story:


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Chores Day @hawksbillbrew

What with all the progress over the last two weeks, we've had a streak of good news.  That continued on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, when we got news that our fermentation vessels would arrive bright and early Monday morning.

That put us in a little bit of a bind, notice-wise - but in a good way, since it means that Alpha, our equipment vendor, is about two weeks ahead of schedule for us.  While we have made some great headway on construction, we are still in the middle of it, so we needed to get in there to do some preliminary cleaning and rearranging stuff so that the we could unload and store the equipment until we are ready to install it.

We have been trying to organize a larger scale volunteer day to get some of this done, but it just hasn't worked out yet due to the holiday.  Mary and I had kind of resigned ourselves to a couple of tough days, but then our friends Leslie and Jon said they'd come out to help.

To get everything done, we got started at around 10am on Saturday.  There was a bunch of leftover stuff from the previous tenants that had to be demo'd out and then hauled off to the landfill.

Also, there had been a number of old shelving units, which in addition to being demo'd had been mounted with screws to the walls.  Lots of spackling was needed to help prepare for the eventual painting that we will do!  Leslie and Mary went to work on that, and they also moved a bunch of stuff out of the way - then they spent a couple of hours on sweeping and general clean up.

Meanwhile, after all of the demo, in which Jon proved himself incredibly adept with a pry bar, he and I, and David for the first trip, took two loads of remodeling trash up to the landfill in David's dump truck.  I drove the first time, shown in the photo, and Jon drove the second trip.

The place looked spiffy at the end of the day - all ready for the arrival of the tanks on Monday.  I'll update on that next!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Interiors Progress @hawksbillbrew

As a follow-up to yesterday's post, here are a couple of wide-angle/panoramic shots of the interior of the brewery, showing the progress we made last week.  I took this shot on Friday, before the cleanup day we did on Saturday, November 26.  This first one is a view of the bar and customer areas from the front entry.  

It features the board and batten style finish we put up on the walls of the cooler and restrooms, along with the repurposed barn siding we got from Kevin.  

Second shot below is from the loading door in the rear of the brewery - in this shot, the main entry is to the left near the front windows.  Straight ahead is the brew house area, where we will soon be filling up the space with shiny new stainless steel equipment - I hope to have an update on that by Friday.

There is still a lot of work ahead, but we're making steady progress and it is really starting to show!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Cooler Door and Siding @hawksbillbrew

For the next six weeks or so, we'll have a lot of progress to show at the brewery.  Today I want to put a short post up about one of several interesting aspects of the brewery we will have to show off when all is said and done - our reuse of materials.

We are not going for any kind of LEED certification, but if we were, this is something we would get points for.  As it is, we didn't plan the project based on sustainable principles, but we are trying to incorporate some ideas catch as catch can.

The first photo in today's post is of David and me standing in front of the cooler door.  This is a used door recovered from a Virginia Safeway grocery store -  we got it from Storemen's, a vendor down in Harrisonburg that recovers items like this; they're actually a specialist in coolers.

We may pick up another useful item or two like this from them - the price is right, and we definitely need the stuff.

The second repurposed item to highlight is some barn siding we were able to recover and put to use as part of the interior in the brewery.  Here you see it as the front of our bar, and it continues as a detail around towards the new restrooms (that's the new cooler door again in the background).

Kevin is travelling for the holidays just now, so I don't have the full story on how we came across the siding - he found it for us and it is either from a barn on his property or a neighbor's.  In any case, it really adds something to the place.

Stay tuned and buckle up - lots of updates to come!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Checking In @atlasbrewworks

It had been a little more than a year since we visited Atlas Brew Works, March 2015, in fact.  That time (post here) we went for a birthday happy hour, and when we went last weekend it was for the same reason - and it was hosted by the same people, our friends Kathy and Brendan.
That previous post shows the old tasting room layout that they were using back then - a very informal space adjacent to the brewing and fermentation vessels.  Now they've relocated and expanded things, so there is a well-lit formal bar with a menu board that provides substantial details on every beer style currently offered.

During this visit to Atlas, I tried full pours of two of their beers, Ponzi and Saison des Fetes.  On our previous visit I’d had Rowdy, so I’m including the descriptions of all three of these beers below:

Ponzi – “A criminally hoppy American IPA made with five different hop varietals.”  An American IPA hopped with criminal disregards.  Featuring generous additions of Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, Mandarina, and Ahtamun hops, followed by hints of Munich malt, Ponzi’s aroma writes checks that its flavor cashes.  If it seems too good to be true, you’re probably drinking Ponzi.

Saison des Fetes – “A warming winter Belgian ale straight from the farmhouse to your fireside.”  This is a beer to celebrate.  Our winter Saison balances spicy French hops, aromatic European malt, and a unique Belgian yeast.  Welcome to the farmhouse.  Settle in, warm you firkles by the fire, and drink in the festive season.

Rowdy – “Both fun and aggressive, Rowdy is a hop forward rye ale full of flavor.”  Made with three varieties of hops and a generous amount of specialty malts, Rowdy offers a complex flavor and aroma that is both aggressive and fun.  The addition of malted rye to the grain bill lends a peppery and distinct character to the beer which complements the bitterness and floral notes of brewhouse hop additions.  Finally, this copper-hued ale receives a liberal addition of dry hops in the fermenting vessel, imparting citrus aromas and a crisp, clean finish.

Atlas is a great place to get together for an impromtu celebration and our friends Kathy and Brendan really know how to host in that space.  We hope to achieve a similar atmosphere when we open Hawksbill Brewing next spring!

Friday, November 25, 2016

I Went Back to Reading

During November I made two business trips - it's been a long time since I did that.  I can't work on airplanes so I decided I might pick up a paperback to read, and on the trip to Atlanta, I read Reckless by Chrissie Hynde.

I enjoyed it plenty, so I wrote this review on Amazon.  It's in the queue for the book, which is linked above - you can click through to rate it as helpful if you like!


I'd grown up reading The Rolling Stone whenever I could afford to buy a copy, and I remember many editions of it dedicated to the emergence of punk, which had happened a few years earlier. Later I enlisted in the Air Force, and "Brass in Pocket" got plenty of airplay during tech school. The music of the Pretenders has stayed with me since then, and I count it one of my life's great tragedies that I couldn't go to a 1984 concert in Berlin because I had tickets for a vacation in Barcelona.

Naturally, when I got wind of this autobiography I put it on my reading list right away. Unlike some other reviewers, I appreciated all the backstory, and I came to realize that it took a lot of work for Chrissie Hynde to get the band together and then become a star.

Particularly interesting was the story about the Kent State tragedy, and the surprise to learn that she was a student there during the demonstrations. Her desire to be part of the music drove her, but the fame was costly. The journey is what has given her the endurance and staying power that she needed to keep up with the industry.

So why was missing that 1984 concert such a tragedy for me? I gave my ticket to my friend Don, who with other friends made his way to the front of the Berlin Metropol stage. At one point during the show, Chrissie leaned down and wrapped her mich chord around Don's neck, and pulled him close. That could have been me!

In any case, at long last, I have the backstory for these great songs - Stop Your Sobbing, Talk of the Town, etc. - I found it a good read, and I'm glad I picked it up!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Atlanta Brewery Visit - 5 Seasons Brewing

In Monday’s post, I mentioned that I travelled to Atlanta for a conference last week.  As it happens, this was the same annual conference that took me to Kansas City a few years ago, and just like that last time I was traveling with the same work colleague, and we were able to fit in a little bit of recreation by visiting a local brewery.  

In Kansas City, it was Boulevard Brewery – which remains one of the best brewery visits I’ve ever had; in Atlanta, we went to 5 Seasons Brewing, more a brewpub set-up but convenient to where we were staying.

The story of 5 Seasons is a good one.  Their founder/brewers have been working in the industry for several years, and one of them traces his track record back to Colorado in the 1990’s.  

Now they have three locations in Atlanta, so there’s a lot to be said about their timing in starting up 5 Seasons – opportunities we need to be on the lookout for as we get Hawksbill Brewing started in Luray!

I tried two beers during our visit:

Hopgasm IPA:  (From their website) This is a West Coast IPA, and traces back to the brewer’s time in Colorado and California.  The rest of this info comes from the menu:  It invites you with a nose far more intriguing than most IPAs.  We use five different hops, including Simcoe and Amarillo, which give an incredibly rich bouquet and a pleasurable mouth feel.  It has a solid malt backbone and sumptuous aftertaste that will make you want multiple Hopgasms.

Two Pence Porter:  (From a BeerAdvocate review) This porter is clear and dark, with ruby highlights.  All of the rich dark malt expected, with a proper dose of hops and none of the objectionable aromas or flavors that plague lesser porters.  Plenty of dark chocolate and coffee in the nose.  Lingering dark malt flavor with a light touch of smoke and spicy English hops.  Creamy smooth with near perfect carbonation.

I was quite happy to fit in a little beer tourism during this trip.  Our stop at 5 Seasons formed a nice diversion after we had finished setting up our trade show booth.  I think I’m going to try and keep this tradition up!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Back to Atlanta

I’m just back from Atlanta, where I was on a business trip for most of last week.  It had been more than 10 years since my last business trip down there – I estimate that I’ve been there 10-12 times as a consultant, and another three or four times as a tourist.  On this trip, I was able to pursue both objectives.

My goal for the business part of the trip was to attend a conference about architecture, engineering, and construction, which is the industry I’ve been consulting in since 1998, when I got my MBA.  After doing this work for so long, I have a lot of professional associates, and it is inevitable that I would run into a few of them at a conference like this one, which previewed what’s likely to happen across the Department of Defense over the next few years.

One of the highlights of the trip was getting a chance to visit with one of my USC MBA classmates, Attila, who landed at Coca-Cola after graduate school and has been here since.  Mary and I went to his wedding to Cindy a few years ago, and I saw him again during one of those previous business trips. 

This time, they invited me to their house for dinner.  I got to meet their 3 children, and learned about how they’ve travelled around the country in an RV (they’re not the only friends who have adopted this form of recreation – see post here).  Plus, Cindy made a great dinner that just happened to serve one of my favorites for the main course, and their youngest celebrated her birthday with me, so we had an excellent cake for dessert!

In the photo of us, Attila is showing off his license plate from the car he bought in LA.  He bought the car from Takuo, one of our Japanese classmates, and then drove it to Atlanta.  When he finally sold it he saved the license plates and sent one to Takuo in Japan!

In the years since I had been there, Atlanta has really grown.  Unfortunately, it’s a sprawl situation, and the neighborhood where the conference was held is squarely in the middle of all this uncontrolled growth.  My hotel was situated on the same street where they are building the new Braves baseball stadium, so it is only going to get worse in those part. 

From my hotel window, the view included a freeway and then just across it the conference center.  It was less than a half mile away, but the walk was a mile because of the traffic and construction.  I tried that once, but afterwards took the hotel shuttle over for the rest of the week. 

It was a small world thing, but after looking at this view for the first time, I realized that one of the events for Attila’s and Cindy’s wedding had been held at the really nice hotel adjoining the conference center.  That was a pretty nice coincidence and I was really happy to have been able to meet up with them during the stay.  

Thursday, November 17, 2016

November Construction Update @hawksbillbrew

Work goes on at Hawksbill Brewing Company - the interior updates are underway, electrical work is in progress, and all the plumbing, cooling, and mechanical work is happening.

While I was away in Vegas a couple of weeks ago, the team finished up with the demolition of the glass block window on the northeast wall - the October 24 post showed that.  We're waiting for that new window, but the team went to work on the southeast wall window afterwards.

This window is in the area where our brew kitchen will eventually be located, and the natural light from our new window will certainly help the environment and atmosphere back in that area.  There is no worry from natural light - the beer will be in our shiny new tanks, protected from it.  

The other major progress item was the delivery and installation of our cooler door.  This item is recycled from a Safeway grocery store, although I'm not sure where it was located.  We're working with an architectural/equipment recovery contractor in Harrisonburg for some of the specialty items like this one.

In any case, the installation of the door was a major step forward for us.  The walls will be finished up soon, with solid insulation and a drywall finish on the side you see in the photo.  We've got a board and batten pattern figured out for the wall behind the bar.

Not many days go by without some sort of progress in the building.  I'll keep you posted as I get updates!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

After Action #hopsinthepark @hawksbillhops

On Saturday I spent the day at Henricus Historical Park in Chester, Virginia - I was there as a volunteer for the second annual Hops in the Park festival, and I really had a good time.

Although I had volunteered to work two shifts, I only ended up being needed for the first one.  My assignment was to sell beer tickets, and it was truly an eye-opening experience.

The gates opened at noon, and there was a steady stream of visitors coming into the park until I finished up at 3pm.  My team was one of three sales teams, and we sold a total of nearly 8,000 tickets!

Several other hops growers were there to work.  A share of the funds raised go to our Old Dominion Hops Co-op organization - in fact this is our major source of funds.  I  had some time to meet and network with some of my colleagues, including David at Piedmont Hops, which I mentioned in my post last week.

A second objective for me was to learn a little bit about fests work for breweries.  I have a to-do list as a result, and I hope that we can work up a budget to participate in a few next year, once Hawksbill Brewing Company opens.

Now, I do want to take a few minutes to write about the park facilities at Henricus.  This location was established to be the second major English settlement in Virginia and dates to 1611.  Of course, as with other locations in the Commonwealth, archeological evidence indicates that Native Americans had settled in the area for at least 10,000 years, and that there were approximately 250 people living in the vicinity of where the park now stands.

There are several examples of colonial buildings from that time, and there are live interpreters throughout who demonstrate how the colonists lived.  There is also a Native American village with interpreters.  Finally, a fort was established here for defense, and the James River flows nearby, so commerce was ensured.

All in all a good experience.  I had a great time meeting with the other hops folks, and enjoyed four or five samples from the 22 breweries that were in attendance.  I hope I am able to make some time for the event last year, but we'll have to see how that fits in with brewery activities!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Hops in the Park - w/ @hawksbillhops

While the brewery comes along, there is also some news from Hawksbill Hop Yards to share.  We'll put up some construction updates for the brewery next week.

The first hop yard related news is the Hops in the Park festival this weekend in Chesterfield County.  Just click on the link for information, but there will be almost 20 Virginia breweries, great food, artisan exhibits - all in a live history park setting.

The Old Dominion Hops Co-op, the Virginia-based hops group that we are part of, provides volunteer labor at this event and it is our only fundraiser for the year.  I'm headed down for a shift on Saturday morning.

The second bit of news to share is that 15 pounds of our 2016 Cascade were part of a larger sale to Stone Brewery in Richmond.  A couple of months ago, on the day that I visited Seven Arrows Brewing down in Waynesboro, I also made a stop by my friend David Goode's Piedmont Hops farm to deliver hops that would eventually be part of this 165 pound deal.

David went on to have the hops pelletized and packaged for use in large-scale brewing for Stone, and then shared the photos above as an update on his adventure.

I am tracking news carefully so that we'll know when this Virginia-grown beer is on tap, and hope to be able to make my way down there when they announce it is ready!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Road Trip 2016 to Las Vegas - part 2

One of the interesting things I learned about Las Vegas during this trip was that everybody has had a different experience there - so last Monday when I arrived and texted my coworkers, I found out that they were changing from the Wynn to the Mirage.  They'd come out a few days early and stayed in the other hotel before moving over to where the conference would be held.

We actually ran into each other at the check-in counter.  They planned to head out to the pool, while I was going up to the room to get settled in and then find some lunch.

Later we caught back up and I walked with them over to the Venetian.  They've gone to great expense at that hotel to make it reminiscent of Venice - there are canals that run inside and out of the building, and gondola rides are available.  Meanwhile there is a massive shopping mall inside, and on the first day of the conference that is where we went to grab lunch before I gave my talk.

On the first night of the conference we headed to Caesars, which is right next to the Mirage.  We got dinner at the Gordon Ramsey pub in there, a good time.  All of the interior photos with this post were taken in Caesars.

The last night I was in town was also the final night of the World Series, which Chicago won.  We watched a little bit of the game at the sports book in Caesars, and then found some seats in the lobby bar there to watch the last few innings.  Just like everywhere else, there was a big celebration in Las Vegas after the final out.

Closing out on a note about beer - I made a point of trying a different beer every time I ordered one at all the venues we visited.  The choices ranged from IPAs to Porters to Pilsners, and I can't think of a single one that disappointed.  We found some nice watering holes tucked in here and there in those huge malls at the Venetian and Caesars - looking forward to future visits!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Road Trip 2016 to Las Vegas - part 1

After a great few days in Las Vegas I got back home last Thursday.  This year I stayed in the Mirage, the location of the conference I was there for - that was a first for me, as I have stayed at Hilton properties in the past.  Halloween week made everything else too expensive, so I stayed at the conference rate.

My topic this time was Essential FM Technologies, the same as it was in March in Baltimore, although I had significantly revamped the talk since then.

There were between 140 and 170 people in the room, so a good crowd, and I feel that it went well.

My colleague Ray also presented this year, an even better topic about innovative workplaces and the new "WELL" certification.  This is an alternative approach to sustainability that assesses the impacts of the built environment on the work force.

It is a very new certification, and there are only 180 or so people practicing in this area - our company happens to have three of them.

I didn't add on the extra vacation days this time, so I won't have a good trip to report - but I did manage to have a good time sight seeing with the team in Vegas, so my next post will be about that experience.