Ramble On

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.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Trips to Las Vegas - Part 3

This is the last of three posts I’m putting up during my current business trip to Las Vegas this week.  My goal is to reprise my past trips, from 2009, when I took a helicopter flight to the Grand Canyon, 2011, when I drove up to Death Valley, and today’s post, about my 2013 trip when Mary joined me for a day trip to the Grand Canyon.  Next week we’ll return to the day-to-day posts about the brewery and hop yard! 

My infatuation with the Grand Canyon started in 2003, when I was on a business trip to Phoenix and ended up with an extra day for sightseeing.  Back then, I had planned to catch a Southwest from Phoenix to Albuquerque for an interview with a colleague looking to start a consulting business on the East Coast.  The trip fell through at the last minute, so I drove up to the Grand Canyon for the day instead.

Then in 2009, I took a helicopter tour of the canyon from Las Vegas.  After that trip, I knew I had to come back and bring Mary along, too.  I hoped she was as inspired by this incredible American landscape as I was - and that's how things turned out.

Our trip included a couple of nights in Flagstaff and also the fantastic tour of the Hoover Dam.  But the absolute highlight was the Grand Canyon – pictures can only begin to capture the experience of seeing it in person.  There's the scale of the thing, the wonder of the geology, and the full pallet of colors - all elements that a simple photograph cannot transcribe.  

The Grand Canyon is one of our most popular national parks, and as we left the hotel in Flagstaff that morning I prepared myself for traffic and a parking challenge.  I was right about that, but for most of the drive, as we went through the pass over the San Francisco peaks north of town, there wasn't much traffic to speak of.  We passed through pine forests and aspen groves, and then a desolate high desert that is carved up ranch land - proof that in our country, we're never far from exurban sprawl.

Mary and I took the walk along the Rim Trail over to the village, had some lunch, and then walked back.  There were plenty of park facilities to check out along this 5-mile round trip, including a geology museum, art galleries, and souvenir shops.  For the first half mile or so, you're wading through bus tourists, but after that, the touring crowd thins out into smaller groups enjoying the incredible views in a fairly remote and undisturbed atmosphere.

Since we had arrived just before mid-day, we made our trek along the trail immediately, arriving at El Tovar lodge just before 2pm.  We had a great lunch over there, with a window seat that allowed us to enjoy the scenery and incredible Grand Canyon weather - warm but not hot, and wonderfully sunny.

After lunch we began our walk back, and already the sun's changing position began highlighting new formations in the Canyon and emphasizing a new range of colors – hues of blue and violet, where they had been all yellows and reds earlier in the day.

We wrapped up the day with the drive back to Flagstaff.  We grabbed some dinner in a local pizza parlor where big family groups all sat around picnic tables digging into extra-large pies and drinking Budweiser.  It was tasty and refreshing after our day in the sun.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Trips to Las Vegas - part 2

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m on business travel to Las Vegas this week, so instead of putting up new posts, I’m reprising my past trips there.  As I posted yesterday, in 2009 I took a helicopter flight to the Grand Canyon.  Today’s post is about the 2011 drive up to Death Valley, and tomorrow I’ll post on the 2013 trip when Mary and I took a day trip to the Grand Canyon. 

During my first trip to Vegas I learned that if you carve out a little time, you’ll find that there is easy access to several national parks for a day trip, and so it was in 2011 that I decided to rent a car and drive two hours to Death Valley to have a look around.  I’d prepared for this trip by purchasing the Easy Day Hikes guide (Amazon link).  

Thumbing through it, I saw some dire warnings about risks in this park:
  • Dehydration
  • Weather
  • Hypothermia/Hyperthermia
  • Vegetation
  • Flash Floods
  • Rattlesnakes, Scorpions, and Tarantulas
  • Mine Hazards
  • Unstable Rocky Slopes
I thumbed through this section in the parking lot at Zebriskie Point. Even though I’d stopped at Target back in Las Vegas to prepare and had two liters of water handy, these warnings were enough to convince me to go to the camp store at the visitor center and pick up another gallon of water (which I gave, unopened, to the attendant when I returned the car – two liters was enough). 

The warnings in the little book were a good reminder about how harsh this environment is. At a couple of points on the trip as I took short “hikes” in the park, I was left contemplating how up to 10,000 frontiers people could survive in the towns in this area, between the heat, and no ready access to potable water or food. Yet even before them, essentially since the Ice Age, there has been a population of Native Americans living in this area, although climate evolution may have facilitated that.

Among the highlights in Death Valley were four or five stops I made to check out the scenery and stretch my legs.  I saw a bunch of German tourists exit their bus and walk out into the desert, taking their shirts and shoes off within a couple of hundred feet before walking a half mile out into the salt and sun.  I also set a new low-altitude record on my Casio Pathfinder watch, at -500 feet or so, which became the bookend for my high-altitude record at 8,800 feet on Glacier Point in Yosemite.

After my four-hour visit in the park, I made my way back to Las Vegas and dropped the car off at the airport.  I caught a cab back to my hotel, took a refreshing shower, and headed back out to the Strip for dinner.  All in all a great trip in 2011, one that made me look forward to the next time, when hopefully Mary could join me.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Trips to Las Vegas - part 1

Since I’m on business travel to Las Vegas this week, I’m reprising some of my past trips there.  This time I won’t be able to fit a side trip in as I have in the past – in 2009, I took a helicopter flight to the Grand Canyon; in 2011, I rented a car and drove up to Death Valley; and in 2013, Mary and I went to Flagstaff and then took a day trip up to the Grand Canyon.  Starting today with a recap of the 2009 trip, I’ll post the highlights of those past trips.

In 2009, I took my first trip to the NFMT conference in Las Vegas.  I gave two talks while I was there, and since it was back in the early days of on-line media, I had several opportunities to be interviewed, either as a panelist or as an expert on facilities management. 

As it turned out, I also had enough time to fit in an afternoon excursion to the Grand Canyon.  I went on-line and found a helicopter flight, and was lucky enough with the booking that I found a trip that included landing in part of the canyon that is not within the National Park boundary.  The tour company even provided a picnic lunch while we were on the ground!

Here’s a link to the original post about the trip, which took place from a small airport outside of town that had been built to house the workers that were building the Hoover Dam – which was a waypoint on our flight to the canyon, by the way. 
The trip was timely for me, as it turned out.  Only a few weeks before I had read and reviewed the book The Man Who Walked Through Time (Amazonlink).  My post about the book can be found here.

During the picnic, I sat near a couple of the pilots from the tour company, and I talked about the book.  I filled them in on some details – they seemed to be enjoying the conversation, and I’m sure that they’d put any tidbits they could to work on their tour spiels.  Still, I was caught by surprise when my pilot referred one of my cabin mates to me when he asked about the sandstone and limestone layers that were visible on the canyon walls.

Even though the helicopter trip was expensive, I’d rate it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially for anyone who hasn’t seen the canyon.  It’s a national treasure that everyone should visit, just like Yosemite. 

Tomorrow’s post will be about my 2011 trip, when I took a side trip up to Death Valley.   Catch you later!