Ramble On

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Revisiting SNP's Black Rock

Since I first discovered the Black Rock Summit hike in 2009, it has been one of my favorites in Shenandoah National Park.  At about one mile round trip and less than 200 feet of altitude gain, it's one of the easiest hikes I go on - and I've been back there five or six times.  The experience of this summit seems like such a great reward for such little effort expended.

I've written about the hike a number of times for this blog as well:

The NPS is observing its centennial this year, and it appears that they have made some enhancements to this hike at the trailhead.  There's an interpretive sign about the AT there now, and there is a little activity guide for kids, describing what they will see on the little hike.

The sign at the trailhead was also updated.  It now includes a substantial description of the geology of the place:

"The exposed rocks of Blackrock formed the seabed of the Iapetus Ocean, an ancient body of water that predates the Appalachian Mountains.  The geological forces that created the mountains changed the seabed into solid quartzite rock. ... Blackrock is still changing.  Weathering has caused what was once a cliff to crumble into a talus slope, a river of moving rock.  Water, ice, and roots break the rocks into even smaller pieces that slide downhill.  Eventually the rocks will have settled enough that plants can grow and Blackrock will look like other forested mountainsides."

The old seabed is in evidence elsewhere in the SNP, but you can also catch a glimpse of it in a number of other places in this region:  Massanutten Mountain's Duncan Knob has a very similar geology, as does Seneca Rocks in West Virginia.  There are also fields with large talus features in the Dolly Sods Wilderness.

For Sunday's trip, I decided not to climb the talus slope to the top.  While I was out for a leg stretcher, I really wanted to try out the panoramic feature on my iPhone, so I was looking for some photo opportunities.  Once I've had a look at those I may post them, but for now I selected three scenic photos - one of the talus slope or "river of moving rock" as NPS called it, a second of the little trail that moves off to the northwest towards Trayfoot mountain, and a third of the main summit and talus slope.

All in all a great day - I can't say enough good things about this particular day hike.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Visiting @sevenarrowsbrew in Waynesboro

It's been a year or two since I was down in Waynesboro, a town I enjoy visiting because that is where the southern entry to Shenandoah National Park is, and there are some really good hikes there in the Park's Southern District.  On Saturday I was running Virginia Craft Brewing errands run, so I passed through on my way back to Luray.  While some of my Waynesboro favorites are Rockfish Gap Outfitter and Scotto's Pizzeria, I've been tracking the opening of Seven Arrows Brewing, and made sure I had the chance to stop in for a visit.

Now, I mentioned the day was spent out on Virginia Craft Brewing errands.  I started out with a drive to Richmond, because Hawksbill Hop Yards had been invited to participate in an all-Virginia beer planned by Stone Brewing's outpost there.  I delivered 15 pounds of our dried Cascade hops to David at Piedmont Hops, who was organizing the hops bill for Stone.  After delivering the hops, I set course for Waynesboro.

A check of Seven Arrows' web site shows that they opened in 2014 - the founders are Melissa and Aaron, who pursued this dream after he achieved a diploma in brewing at Miller-Coors' Shenandoah  Valley operation and she completed an MBA at James Madison.    They’ve written a compelling mission statement:  To uphold superb quality at all levels of production and satisfying all our customers.  Stay aware of the impact of taste, look, and feel of a good beer as well as its cost impact to the market.  Provide value to our customers who are concerned about a quality product that is offered at a reasonable price.

So, after having learned about them during my own market research for Hawksbill Hops, I thought I would stop by on my way through town.  They're in a little office park on the west side, so I pulled in to get a flight after a quick lunch at Scotto's.

They had a generous tap list, covering several styles, and organized around four standards, a seasonal, and seven rotating beers.  I chose a custom flight, and five beers were offered to me based on their IBU ratings:
  • Harvested Apple Lager
  • Caretaker Kolsch
  • Fallen Timbers Oktoberfest
  • Ashen White IPA
  • Eventide IPA

These days, I do spend a little bit of time savoring a flight, and as I was taking notes about these, the bartender came by to chat about the beers.  I was particularly interested in knowing about their use of local ingredients, and he told me that local hops had been part of the lager I tried.  We also talked about how Seven Arrows is part of the Shenandoah Beer Works Trail, which has a farm to tap promotion this fall.

The beers I tried lived up to the brewery's mission statement - "taste, look, and feel" were solid on these offerings, and from the first presentation I could tell I was looking at good quality.  To my palate, two of the beers really stood out, so I'll highlight them specifically:

Harvested Apple Lager – they make this with cider from the Pacific Northwest.  As I tasted this dry lager, I could detect the apple aromas and a slight flavor of them in the beer.  The IBUs were only 12, so they underscored everything else going on in the beer rather than driving the flavor. 

Ashen White IPA – this beer was hopped less than the standard IPA they have on tap.  The malt bill for this includes wheat, a style that has been growing on me since I visited Boulevard in Kansas City a few years ago.  Overall, my favorite beer of the day.

I was really glad to have made the stop.  These were good beers and it seems like trying a flight there from time to time would introduce new ideas and flavors.  I'll look forward to a future trip!

Friday, September 16, 2016

A Harvest 2016 Update from @maltesebrewing @hawksbillhops

Last year we worked with five brewers who used our hops in their beers.  One of them was Maltese Brewing Company, in Fredericksburg - I visited them in the spring, and their web page is www.maltesebrewing.com.

If you do happen to click through to the web site, check out the "about" page, which tells their story.  Maltese was founded by a couple of firefighters who enjoyed homebrewing and eventually decided to make the jump to professional.  Their name refers to the firefighters' Maltese Cross, the symbol of the profession.

While our yields were low this year, we did send a few samples around to a few of our customers, including Maltese - we sent a full pound to them. My hope for the sample was that they would check it out, and let me know what they thought - and then still have enough left to use in a brew.

I use a rule of thumb that a pound is enough for a barrel of beer - and knowing the batch size with this brewery it was definitely feasible that they could use the product in a batch, maybe for an aroma addition, or for dry hopping.    

It wasn't long before I saw a tag on Facebook, however, with a photo attached.  They'd used the hops in an ale they were brewing - the caption said, "Maxing out the mash tun today with a bit of fresh Hawksbill Cascade.  Cheers!"

That's why we grow them - and that's why we keep trying to grow them better every year.  And it seems like I'm overdue for a visit to Maltese Brewing!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Flight Set-ups for @hawksbillbrew

We've got most of the work set in motion now for Hawksbill Brewing Company:  our construction contractors are lined up, and some have begun their work, with others still to come; the equipment has been ordered and will be delivered installed soon; and finally, our license paperwork is filed and that process is underway.

In the meantime, I have been watching for restaurant closings for opportunities to pick up gently used stuff in good condition that we can use when we open.  We've bought some bar stools from the Alexandria Teaism when they closed, and with mixed feelings, I learned about Hard Times in Clarendon closing last month.

I used to work in that neighborhood, and in fact had a crazy view of Hard Times, seen in this blog post.  I bet that we went there at least once a month for a coney dog, four-way, or even happy hour.  So, I was sad to hear the news.

I did scour rasmus.com to see if there might be something we could use.  We opted out of furniture, and after some discussion with David and Kevin we decided against handwashing sinks and taps - we've arranged for them already and we'd have to store them in the meantime, so it's not likely we'd get much of a savings.

One thing we were interested in and pulled the trigger on were these flight set-ups.  They were in good condition, unopened boxes, and there were 60 of them.  There are not enough glasses for the whole set up, but they are a standard item and will be easy enough to get when we figure out how many we should keep on hand.

It's still a while before we open, but I decided I wanted to try them out with some of the beers I had on hand - you'll see them in the photo with this post.

Maybe it's not much of a progress report, but every little step in the right direction is good.  So we've got that going for us!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Planning Day @hawksbillbrew

We started planning Hawksbill Brewing Company, to be opened in Luray, last winter.  Actually it started back in 2013, but we got serious this year.  Now we have a building, financing for equipment and construction, lawyers and accountants, and a pilot brewing system.  The thing we didn't really have yet is a schedule.

Old school planning day at Hawksbill Brewing.  On the newly
extended bar - we added six feet in a field adjustment.
All those things have taken time - the building needed to be rezoned, and the first bank we worked with discovered that they couldn't make loans for this purpose after we had been working with them a couple of months.  Then there was the paperwork exercise to get the brewery license, an effort that took me a little longer than I would have liked.  But all of that is behind us now.

On Saturday we met at the brewery to gather the information we had about various aspects of the project:  construction timelines, equipment deliveries, and cash flow projections, with the goal of getting them all onto a calendar so that we could begin thinking about when these preliminaries were going to be done so that we could open.  We've been doing this informally up until now, thinking at first maybe we could have it done by August or September (here we are), or maybe December or January.

It turns out that the federal licensing process takes a couple of months, mainly in a review cycle.  So we are being conservative now with our estimates of when that will be completed.  There's good news and bad news associated with what we have figured out.

On the good news side, all of the construction will be completed, and our equipment will be delivered and installed by the time we receive our license.  We'll probably postpone commissioning until we get the license, since during commissioning, our vendor will show us how the system works at that time with hot water and brewing cycles.

The bad news is that with the holidays likely intervening in the license review cycle, we may not have our license until February.  So it's beginning to look like a St. Patrick's Day opening for Hawksbill Brewing.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Momcat Adopts Us

We've had barncats around Hawksbill Cabin since at least 2011.  The lady next door back then told us she had seen a little mother cat with a kitten under our porch one week while we were away.  It turns out that was our first encounter with Momcat

Eventually, that neighbor adopted the kitten, and Momcat stayed around the neighborhood.  She generally stayed out of sight back then, until one spring when we drove up to find a litter of four kittens hanging out under the garage extension.
That same summer, Momcat's sister, who was called Foxy by some other neighbors, had also had a little of four kittens, and they were sheltered under the pool deck.  

Now, all these cats and kittens were very cute, but ten cats is a good start on 200, so we decided to try and do something about it.  Mary research a non-profit in Harrisonburg. Cats' Cradle, that was helping with spaying and neutering feral cats, so we had them out to take care of the two moms, and as many of the babies that had survived.

Eventually we adopted Sashie from Momcat's litter - we tried to adopt Momcat, too, but she was a holdout.  We've had a good friendship since then, she greats us whenever we're out, and she even hangs out on the brick terrace with us.  Plus, she loves to take walks with Tessie up and down the road.

Momcat disappeared for a while back in 2014, when we went away on our vacation to Mendocino.  We were prepared for the worst at that point, but she survived, maybe picking up at one of the other houses in the neighborhood.  Eventually she came back to Hawksbill Cabin that winter and has been around ever since. 

During the winter storm last year we were worried about the cat, and asked Dan and Sally to come down to check on her.  Everything was okay, but we decided we'd try and convince her to move inside this year.  After all, she's had a remarkably long life for an outdoor cat, and she has been a good companion and friend to us all these years, why not adopt her?

We took it easy, getting her some worm meds and flea oil over the course of the summer, and feeding her indoors from time to time.  But this weekend was the breakthrough - she came indoors and stayed to hang out for a while - even deciding to stay inside over night.  She finally has adopted us.  

The deal I had with Mary was if she gets a cat, I get a farm.  Now we have three barncats now, and Tessie, the honorary canine.  I guess I wasn't a very good bargainer.