Ramble On

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Things I Saw from Airplanes

My first ever air travel was the day of my enlistment, back in April, 1980.  It was a series of flights from Jacksonville to San Antonio – but it was evening, and dark, so you couldn’t see anything from the plane.

The next time I flew, however, was from San Antonio to Monterey, California, via Dallas and San Francisco.  I saw the Grand Canyon from the air that time, and the Golden Gate Bridge.  For a long time afterwards, I sought out the window seat because of that.

In business and as tourists, we do fly a lot these days, and I probably take it for granted.  I fly enough that I generally go for the aisle seat now, and I’ll pay the extra to get the exit row.  It means I usually miss the Washington Monument, the Capitol Building, and the Pentagon when we’re on approach into National, but so be it.

The window seat strategy paid off a few times.  A few years after the flight to Monterey, coming back from vacation on a flight from Palma, Mallorca to Berlin, Germany, we flew directly over the Matterhorn and Mount Blanc.  Those are not destinations I’m likely to ever visit on the ground, but I was glad for the chance to see them from 30,000 feet.

There was a flight from Almaty, Kazakhstan, to Amsterdam, when first and business class were so full of diplomats and business executives that there were only five of us back in coach.  We had full 5-seat center rows to sleep in if we wanted (and they offered us seconds on every meal served!) – but I kept waking up to go have a look out the window.  Just as dawn caught up with us I looked down to see a Russian pipeline below, stretching from horizon to horizon, with the Black Sea in the distance.

In business school we took a study trip to Stockholm and Helsinki, with the first leg from LA to Seattle.  The skies were clear over Oregon, and looking down I spied Crater Lake directly below us, just like that time with the Matterhorn.  On another flight into Seattle, I caught a glimpse of the awesome business end of Mount St. Helens – I guess there’s just about always something to see, if you pay attention.

I can’t say there were a lot of pleasant highlights during my two years at Booz Allen, it was a pretty sucky professional environment back then.  But I was lucky enough to land a project that had me flying monthly to LA over the course of six months.  I learned that if I booked the Sunday late evening flight out of Baltimore, I could get a first class upgrade – often a window seat (I’ll make exceptions).

I found this aerial view of Las Vegas on line.  The photo wasn't credited.
It's similar to what I described in the post.
On that flight, the descent into Los Angeles begins in the Nevada desert, and it always woke me up from a nap.  If it had been daylight, I can imagine that I would have seen the Grand Canyon and Lake Mead below, but it was night.  There lay the full neon glory of the Las Vegas Strip, sparkling like jewels in the night.

Chicago to Tokyo, in 2011; I worked hard to book that flight and ended up in the last two-seat row on the left window side of the plane, with an empty seat beside me (it’s the small things that make air travel better these days).  That’s a long flight, as anyone who has done it knows, and between nodding off here and there I looked out the window over Alaska.  I image that I saw Denali towering over the cloud layers, with a full spectrum sunset or dawn glowing in the sky above.  It could have been any number of great peaks in that state, but I’m sticking with my claim of Denali.

These days I don’t travel as much for business – it’s more often vacations, and many times that means we’re flying in from the west.  As it happens, the beginning of the descent is over the Shenandoah Valley, and that’s my cue to have a look out the window to see if I can see the river, or perhaps my beloved Luray below.  So far, I haven’t been so lucky – except, this is beautiful country side, and I can’t complain about the view.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

WHSV Covers "Grown Here - Brewed Here" - @hawksbillbrew

A few weeks back we posted the brewery's LLC formation to Twitter, and our friends from WHSV saw it.  They reached out to us about the potential for coming out to do a story on the new brewery.

We gave the reported, Emily, a tour of our building and talked about our plans.  After all that, she did an interview - the link below includes the full spot.


We're moving forward with this "Grown Here - Brewed Here" idea.  We're not the only ones doing this in the country or Virginia, but we are close enough to Hawksbill Hop Yards to make it real - and hopefully to truly succeed with it.

It will be a goal to feature something Virginia grown, and preferably Page County Grown, in each beer.  That may take us some time to get the supply chains in order, but it's still a great goal.

Monday, February 22, 2016

@hawksbillhops - Last Year's WHSV Story

Last year as we prepared to plant the hop yard, the local station in Harrisonburg - WHSV - came by to check out the farm.  They put up a story on the evening news here:


During the piece, David was quoted:  "Agriculture is the number one industry in Page County. It's who we are. So I think any advance, or diversification in agriculture is low-hanging fruit, said Sours. "So this could be an opportunity for economic development and job creation within the county."
Taken during the interview on Saturday.  Thanks, David,
for the snapshot!

So flash forward a year - we had a good first season with the yard, and there's no doubt the farm had a small, but real economic impact.  We're in it for the long haul, and are really looking forward to our second growing season - we're talking with brewers across the state in a couple of locations to supply them with hops.

Now we find ourselves completely occupied with the next step in the venture - developing Luray's original craft brewery, Hawksbill Brewing Company.  WHSV took note of a recent Twitter post about our LLC formation and got back in touch - and last Saturday they came out for interviews.

Soon as a link is available we'll post it here, hopefully in the next blog post.  For now though,  I just gotta say, 

You just never know where the road you're on is going to take you.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

"Grown Here - Brewed Here" @hawksbillbrew

My last post outlined some of our core values as we are setting out to develop Hawksbill Brewing Company in Luray, Virginia.  This is a follow-up to that one - I'd like to say a little bit more about how we plan to use local agriculture products.
Khimaira Farm in Luray VA
Hawksbill Brewing Company will be a member of Page County Grown - which features the local food shed in the area.

We'll start with the hops offerings from Hawksbill Hop Yards - that's a no brainer!  At the farm, we had a successful first crop of Cascades, Chinooks, and Columbus hops, which will work easily into some of the recipes.  We hope to see production scale up this year from the Fuggles, and maybe even the Goldings, which will give us even more flexibility and variety.

There is wide spread interest in trying to put together a local source for brewing barley.  At least one farmer has done an experiment, growing an acre, and neighbor Dan took it on as a project to seek out malting support down in Nelson County.  We could see the brewery as a key economic development engine for this crop and hope to be part of that!

As for other ingredients - the basic four "Rheinheitsgebot" ingredients, that is - everybody knows that Page County has some of the best water in the state!  Plus, our friends at Wisteria have long experimented with local yeast with their "Merlot Wild" vintages, so we know we could work towards that goal (over at Pen Druid Brewing in Sperryville, they are hard at work on this research too). 

Since we won't be restricted by the German beer purity law, we see even more opportunity to brew using local ingredients from the farm.  I've used local honey and local herbs in my home brewing experiments, and we plan to develop recipes that can feature these - honey porters and ales, lavender kolsch, and even basil saison.

Blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are great ingredients to feature in wheat beers, and even stouts.  We'll look for opportunities to use them seasonally.

Pumpkin ales and porters are all the rage, and since David keeps a pumpkin patch there right next to the hops, we'll have a great source for them.  This one in particular is a fall brewing exercise I'm looking forward to - we'll roast the pumpkins (a lot of them!) in order to hit our ingredient requirements for these beers.

A last one that I'll mention today - some fruits that don't immediately come to mind for most people:  watermelon, cantaloupe, and even cucumber will make their way in Hawksbill brews.  Probably a wheat beer for the watermelons, which would be a mid- to late summer seasonal, and saisons for the cantaloupes and cucumbers.  

While we're waiting for a couple of things to come together, we're working on recipes like these during the spring and summer.  Still hoping for a late summer or early fall opening - there are a lot of ducks to get in a row for this, but we're working on it!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

More on Hawksbill Brewing Company - @hawksbillbrew

Were still making daily progress on the plan to open brewery in Page County this fall.  While were in the planning stages, I dont always have something to post about developments in the meantime, I thought I might put up the guiding principles weve set up for Hawksbill Brewing Company:

·       Purpose Form a local Page County business that combines and promotes two of the communitys strengths agriculture and tourism
·       People Enlist the help of others committed to the area and the craft, who in essence, share the vision of creating a local enterprise and products
·       Products The product must be of the highest quality, because the goal is to sell everything we make, whether ingredients or finished product

·       Process Seek innovation that stimulates creativity, efficiency, and quality in a craft product and produce it from Page County Grown and Virginia ingredients

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

@hawksbillbrew Developments

Since the brewery expects to have a lot of support from "active tourists" - the folks who come to Page County for the triathlon and bicycle races - we picked up our first sponsorship with the Tri.  We'll sponsor the Hawksbill Double - this is the event for triathletes who will compete in both the Sprint and International events!

Link here:  http://luraytriathlon.com/hawksbill-double-triathlon/

We're pretty excited about this partnership - the brewery team has been part of the the Tri as either participants or volunteers for a long time.  When the opportunity came up to join in this new role, we couldn't resist.

As if that wasn't enough, it seems that we've entered a season of a lot of activity with Hawksbill Brewing Company.  For one thing, our LLC is now registered with Virginia, and our lease is just about finalized!

We are designing our space and working out the specs for our brew kitchen - those updates will come soon.  It's just a very exciting time.

Of course there will be more updates to come.

Monday, February 1, 2016

@hawksbillhops Developments

It's the offseason, but there is a lot of planning and early purchasing going on to support the hop yard.  The Old Dominion Hops Co-op had its quarterly meeting, for one thing, at the Bad Wolf Brewery in Manassas.  After the business meeting, some of the members took a brewery tour - the photo above.

Some of the things we've done since the last post are to order our rhizomes for the spring.  I am going to add another row of 60 Chinook; pull out the Centennials and save them for later, but replace them with another row of Fuggles; and add 50 or so Cascades to fill the rows where some plants didn't make it last year.  

I've also spent some time this year doing research on getting an orchard ladder that we can use for minor maintenance during the season.  It will save us from having to run the tractor out if we have a string that needs repair, or for other small adjustments.  

This thing is designed as a tripod, so it has flexibility and stability on unsteady ground.  It's 15 feet tall, but the highest standing platform is 12 or 13 feet, which should allow any of us to reach the top cables of the trellis.  In the photos I am not all the way to the highest standing platform - I am still two steps below it!

As far as purchasing details go, as you might expect for a piece of professional gear like this, it wasn't cheap.  It's Japanese made by Hasegawa, and they have quite a few other styles and heights as well.  The dealer I worked with is New England Ladder Company - click that link rather than a Google search, because you could get some local fire department.

The dealer was absolutely great.  If we need more ladders that's who we will work with, couldn't recommend them more highly.

The road ahead?  Well, there is a meeting with north Valley growers coming up - we'll talk about all these new breweries opening in Edinburg, Woodstock, and Winchester - and see if there are areas where we can collaborate as growers.

Also, there is a regional conference coming up in early March down in Richmond.  I'm planning to attend that, as I did last year in Winston-Salem.  The co-op tells me we have 180 members now, which is incredible!