Ramble On

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Open at Last @hawksbillbrew

When we first sat out on David's front porch in September 2015, even though we were there to discuss a business plan for a brewery, I'd be hard pressed to say whether I ever thought we'd get there.  But we stayed the course and on May 12, 2017, we finally opened Hawksbill Brewing Company.

After taking the last six weeks off from blogging, I am going to work on getting caught up on everything that we did during that time to finish the project and open to the public - right up until current, with a few weeks of operations under our belts.

Meanwhile, the link below will take you to the WHSV coverage of our opening night, May 12.  It was well attended, as you will see in the story, and we sold a lot of beer.  In fact, we're still selling a lot of beer - we have great support from the community, and we hope that we can have a positive impact to the town!

http://www.whsv.com/content/news/Hawksbill-Brewing-Company-the-first-brewery-to-open-in-Luray-422152613.html

Friday, April 7, 2017

Virginia Hops for Virginia Beer @hawksbillhops

For those that have been tracking the Richmond outpost of Stone Brewing, a few months back we learned that the IPA brewed with Virginia hops was set to be released (see previous post) as "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Beer."  I put out an all points bulletin and found some bottles at "my local" Bethesda Market near my old office, and thanks to Jay and Erin I was able to get four bottles from there.  I wanted to share these with a few of the people that have helped with that particular start-up, but I did manage to save a bottle for myself.  I enjoyed it out on the deck in Alexandria a couple of weekends ago when I didn't go out to Luray.  It is a satisfying brew, the kind of IPA Stone is well known for, with hints of fruit from Virginia produce mingling in for good measure.As it happens, I needed to run an errand to the Whole Foods in Alexandria for some vegetables to pair up with some ribs I was making.  To my surprise, they also had some bottles on the shelf, so I picked up another couple of bottles to stash away.I don't expect the three bottles I have on hand to last the summer - they may not even last much past planting season, which is coming up for the hop yards.  That's going to make balance a challenge - the brewery's opening happens right at the same time!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Grown Here - Brewed Here @hawksbillbrew

We've made a commitment at the brewery to try and source locally whenever we can.  To begin with, it means we'll use the hops we grow at Hawksbill Hop Yards as often as we can, and we'll supplement those with hops from other Shenandoah Valley and Virginia growers - inevitably we'll need to source some from hops brokers though.  And we'd like to find sources for other local ingredients, especially the barley base malt we're going to use.

For now, the pursuit of local ingredients is a goal, but it is a key part of who we are and what we want to do at the brewery.

Meanwhile, we've figured out some other things we can do to have a good local impact.  We decided to source some of our opening day furniture locally, and reached out to Luray High School to see if we couldn't have some picnic tables made - and they delivered!

We have these four foot tables inside the brewery, and then larger 8-footers outside in the beer garden.  The gray bar stools are repurposed from an Alexandria restaurant that closed last year.

The weather in Luray, for those who don't know, is really great for three-season outdoor living.  Sure there are thunderstorms and rainy days, but we're sure these are going to get plenty of use.  I can't wait to have a seat and an IPA out there myself!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Volunteer Day @hawksbillbrew


Where did March go?

Since my last post on the blog we've been keeping busy getting Hawksbill Brewing ready to open.  I'll spend the next few posts catching up on March before writing up April.  But a quick sidebar:  the grand opening date for the brewery is set for May 12!

A highlight last month was the volunteer day we had in the middle of the month.

Finally all of the major construction was done, so we made a call for help to help us with a scrubbing down.  We were very blessed to have about 10 folks show up to help out with polishing the brew kitchen, cleaning up brick dust from where the new A/C system punched through the wall, and other odds and ends that just needed some time an energy.

We put in about 6 hours that day.  Lots of polishing the stainless.  I think we are familiar enough with the mop and bucket that we are going to name them.

But at the end of it all, the place was spic and span.  We've got a few weeks left before we open, and brewing is underway, but for now, everything looks great!

Friday, March 10, 2017

First Official Brew Day @hawksbillbrew

(Don't forget our Kickstarter - we're just about half way through.  We sure appreciate your support!)


At Hawksbill Brewing, we've received our license, and we have our equipment commissioning scheduled.  Until we've completed those final inspections we're not doing full 5-barrel batches just yet.

But on Thursday, David decided to fire up the 1/2-barrel pilot system to do a batch of the Chocolate Milk Stout.  This recipe has been fine-tuned with a couple of trials, and we think it's almost ready for prime time.  This final batch should do it!

We're also having a volunteer day at the brewery this Saturday, 3/11, starting at 9am to do some final cleanup before commissioning.  We can start brewing as early as next week, so the volunteer time (not to mention the Kickstarter) will help us stay on track!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day and "Women Making History" - A Berlin Story from Jennifer

(The VFW is observing "Women's History Month" - and one of my USAF Berliner friends penned an article that was published on their website.  It's a great story and exactly the kind of thing I love to hear and share when I encounter posts from friends like Jenny - people I am proud to have served with during Berlin's Cold War era.  Her article is cut-and-pasted in full below, but you can also click on the link in the title and head on over to the VFW page to see it in full.  - Jim)

A Stranger in the East

Tap-tap. Tap-tap-tap.
I leaned against the window of our duty bus and glanced out. It was the spring of 1982 and we had just pulled up to a red light in East Berlin. There was a young couple in the car beside us. Cramped in the back was an old woman. I watched as she steadily tap-tapped her window.
I had arrived at my West Berlin duty station a few months earlier and, like most, was curious to see Communist East Germany. So when our flight chief announced a day trip to East Berlin I signed up. For security reasons we wore dress blues that day, no name tags, and were ordered to stay together in pairs. There was a preassigned itinerary including a list of places we could and could not visit. “Don’t wander off,” our leader had warned. “Don’t converse with the locals. Don’t give your name. Don’t ride the S-Bahn. Don’t drink the soda pop, there’s something funny in it. Laxative, I think. And for God’s sake, stay together.”Jennifer Bowman
Our first group stop was the Soviet War museum where the Russian doyen proudly walked us through room after room explaining how the resilient Soviet Union single-handedly defeated fascist Germany in the Great Patriotic War, or World War II. Next we were driven to the Karl Marx Plaza, the “showcase to the west,” with its dismal store displays and long queues of East Germans hoping for something – anything – to arrive in bulk. I bought a cheap notebook, its paper flecked with wood pulp. When the clerk handed me my change I thought the coins were fake, they were so lightweight and flimsy.
My friend Rex and I grabbed lunch at one of the few approved cafes, declining the soda. We poked around another shop or two, its wares just as depressing. I was taken aback by a small silver plated dustpan and brush for sale. It looked out of place next to the thick wool stockings and cheap alarm clocks. But for centuries the eastern part of Germany had been home to its aristocracy.
Now, the eastern part was Communist and there was no call for silver-plated anything. So someone’s family heirloom sat on the dusty shelves with scant chance of finding a new home.
After a short walk, Rex and I headed back to the duty bus. East Berlin, unfortunately, lived up to everything I had read.
At the end of World War II, Germany had been divided by the Allies. The western half worked to become a free democracy aided by Great Britain, France, and the United States. But the eastern half had fallen to Communism. The city of Berlin itself, although geographically located in East Germany, was also divided.
West Berlin, a little “island city” behind the Iron Curtain, was still part of West Germany and therefore free. But that had not been the Soviet Union’s intent. 
Immediately following the war the Soviets halted all western traffic into the city by road and rail. They tried to choke off supplies to the city’s western half in order to ensure its downfall. What they had not counted on was overhead airspace. Within weeks, planes from the US and UK began flying into West Berlin delivering cargo to keep the bedraggled city running. The year-long airlift brought everything from dry goods to canned goods, wheat, fat, fish, milk, coffee, coal and books. Aircraft came in so steadily that at the height of the airlift a plane landed once every minute. And there was the beloved Candy Bomber who had dropped chocolate bars from the sky, each equipped with a tiny parachute. All told, nearly 400,000 tons of supplies were delivered during the Berlin Blockade. Those who lived through it never forgot. 
Twelve years later, with the Allies still firmly entrenched, the Berlin Wall went up -- virtually overnight. East Germans were told it was to keep corrupt western capitalists out, but most understood it was to keep themselves in. Those who were able, quickly grabbed what they could and had fled to West Berlin, to loved ones, to freedom. Unfortunately, many older folks, perhaps like the woman tap-tapping her window, could not move that fast. Once the cement had dried on the wall, there was little to no chance of ever getting out. 
By 1982 West Berlin had risen from the rubble to become a thriving cosmopolitan city again. But East Berlin paled in comparison, like a malnourished cousin. Walking through its streets I noticed very few advertisements on its beige buildings. Clothing was outdated and ill-fitting. Music in shops was sparse, very little modern and nothing at all from the west. Propaganda signs, however, were prominent in the east, touting the virtues of soviet reform.
Our bus was headed back to West Berlin now, to our barracks, to a vibrant downtown, hopping bistros, and bulging department stores. I continued to watch the old woman as she tapped. I tapped my window and waved. She looked up and, smiling, waved back. Then she pointed to something just below my window and, to my surprise, began crying.
There was a small American flag painted on the side of our bus. She pointed again and saluted. Then I understood. 
She must have been a young woman when Allied forces marched in at war’s end. Perhaps she had watched as our planes brought life-saving supplies to Tempelhof Airfield. Maybe she stood in line waiting for her daily rations. And when the wall went up in 1961 maybe she had had small children and couldn’t get to West Berlin fast enough in a last-ditch effort. Maybe she tried but just couldn’t. So she had stayed in the east. Trapped behind the Iron Curtain.
I like to think when she saw our little painted flag she once again felt hope. I like to think she still felt kindness toward an ally who had nothing to gain but goodwill and gratitude. 
We could not have been at that red light for much more than a minute, yet I still sense the impact. I was proud to be a very small cog in our post-war mission in Europe. Proud to help stem the tide of Communism that had washed over Eastern Europe; to stand fast surrounded by opposition. But it pained me to see this frail woman saluting our bus, tears streaming down her face, knowing she had so little hope.  
It’s been almost 35 years since she and I waved, and I will never know if she lived long enough to see the wall come down in 1989. I’ll never know if she reconnected with family living in West Berlin. Or West Germany. I don’t know if she thought of escape or was ever able to leave the city. But I have never forgotten her tap-tap-tap. And I’ve never forgotten why I served our country.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Another Beer with @hawksbillhops

Back in November, I wrote (link) that Hawksbill Hop Yards was going to be part of an Virginia-focused brew at Stone in Richmond.

Our 2016 Cascade crop had come in right on the numbers for that variety, and we had retooled our processing so that we got the moisture exactly right - so I was excited for the chance to get them to market.

Fortunately David G. over at Piedmont Hops had put together a project with other Old Dominion Hops Co-ops growers to supply stone with 225 pounds of dried hops, and he invited us to contribute 15 pounds to the group effort.  Once he had them all, he pelletized them, taking the final processing step to make sure they were ready for use in the IPA recipe Stone was using.

Flash forward to a couple of weeks ago, and we heard the announcement that the beer had been released - not only that, it was showing up in stores.  Thanks to some friends at the office, and neighbors on a past project of mine, a case showed up at Bethesda Market - where I've been buying craft beer for years.

I moved quickly and reserved four bottles, thanks to Jay for holding them for me.  And then my friend Erin who brought them to the office so I could pick them up.

Needless to say, I'm really excited to have the chance to be part of this brew - that's part of what we got into it for!  Hopefully as our crop continues to mature, there will be more of this.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Kickstarter Progress @hawksbillbrew

A quick post today, mainly to give an update on our Kickstarter.  We're ten days into the campaign, and have raised about a third of our goal - so we're pretty much on track!  Here's a link!

Go to our Kickstarter project.


Meanwhile, the work on the new air conditioning system - the reason for the Kickstarter - is moving along nicely!  Here is an update photo of the new duct work.

Over the weekend the team worked on painting the floors, and now that is done.  Next up is the punch lists, a final inspection, and then we'll get started with commissioning the brew kitchen!

We certainly appreciate our Kickstarter supporters - thanks so much!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Our @kickstarter at @hawksbillbrew


Now that our licenses are in order, and our equipment is installed - we have a commissioning date and will start brewing soon - we've had a couple of building inspections to finalize before we open.  One of the situations we realized was that we are going to need an upgrade to the HVAC/Mechanical system to accommodate our occupancy and brewing system.

It's not surprising we'd need to do this, I suppose, since the building was built in 1911 and it's been 5 years since anyone went in there with the intention of using all the space, as we do.  The cost of our upgrade is in the low 5-figures, and we have half of the money, so we're trying to raise about $7,500 with our Kickstarter.

Speaking of Kickstarter - here's a link to our project.  The header video to this page will also take you there.

I've got a couple of highlight photos, too - the top right is the big unit outside the brewery, and there are two shots inside showing some of the ductwork that we had to do.

We could use the support, anything you can give will be much appreciated!



Thursday, February 23, 2017

Equipment To-Dos @hawksbillbrew

While the licensing was a key hurdle for Hawksbill Brewing Company, it certainly wasn't the only big rock we had to move in order to complete our journey.  So last Saturday, when I came out to the brewery, I met up with David and Kevin, who were in the middle of some key preparation.

The next big milestone for us is commissioning the brew house - our system from Alpha Brewing Operations - and we are working to schedule that for mid-March.  To have a successful commissioning, we still have a few critical items to go, for example:

  • grain milling and handling
  • fabricating the connecting houses
  • final painting and clean up
  • new egress door and hardware on loading dock
These are just related to the brewhouse.  We've got to start hiring, start brewing, start reporting, and all of those key details!

In any case, the team has home-brewed a last two pilot batches for recipe testing, and they had got together to use our keg washer so that those batches can be moved into kegs.  Now that the license is in, we've moved the pilot system to the brewery and can brew professionally now on location, and that is our plan.

The other thing they were working on was fabricating the connectors so that we are one step closer to being ready for commissioning.  He're a photo of a couple of the longer hoses that they made on Saturday, along with a money shot of three of the fermenters.

We also took a look around the building and grounds while David reported back some of the details from the ABC inspection - and town building inspection.  These are some not-small hurdles, but they're falling into place.  I'll be posting on them as we continue to make progress towards opening.  

...We're almost ready to announce a date!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Kind of a Big Deal @hawksbillbrew


Probably the most anxiety-inducing aspect of the whole brewery development story is licensing.  It's also the most important step, so maybe the stress it brings on is appropriate.  Fortunately for us at Hawksbill Brewing, the waiting is over, and our licensing process s complete as of last week!

There is a story I like to tell about this journey we are on - it starts in 2013, when I first started doing research about how to grow hops.  Back then, the business plan centered on purchasing some land here in Page County and setting up the operation there - eventually including a farm brewery as part of the destination.

That's not how our plan rolled out, but what I learned as part of the research then was that there were 25 breweries in the state of Virginia at the end of 2013.  It is a population that has grown steadily since then.

In fact, our business partner "ABC Kevin" - he has led us through the licensing process - told us that there were 200 breweries in operation at the end of 2016, and that we were one of 37 that had our license in progress!

Now that we have the key administrative detail taken care of - this is the start of a whole new ball game as far as reporting and regulations go - we have a last few work flow items to take care of before we open.  I'll have another post later this week to write about a few of those.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Hawksbill Brewing - Construction Odds and Ends

At Hawksbill Brewing, we're at this stage of construction now where there are tons of loose ends to nail down.  At times it looks like a real mess inside the building, but things are really starting to come together in there, and we know we are on the way to creating a great experience for our patrons.

One of the items that we had identified during our preliminary building inspection was the need for new doors that met occupancy code.  With so much of the big stuff done, this was an item hanging out there to get taken care of - and now we have the new door installed, swinging out as it should, and with a panic bar in case it's needed for emergencies.

We're working on retrofitting the rear door with similar equipment.  That door will serve as our loading dock as well, but it will be part of the emergency egress plan and has to be outfitted the same way.

Another feature of the upgrades we've installed to the old building are two accessible restrooms.  The first photo here shows the little hallway where they are on the left and right.  The door to the rear is a small supply closet.

For decor, we continued with the barn siding theme in this area along with the board and batten paneling.

When this building first went up in the 19-teens, there weren't requirements anywhere near a strict as this, of course.  So making the upgrades was absolutely essential to being able to open.  It's great to be so close to finished with them all!

A final shot of the day - a look inside one of the new restrooms!  They're perfectly serviceable, I guess that's the point - not that they're luxurious and you would want to spend anymore time in there than necessary.  We did put a bright accent color in there on one of the walls, and added some vanity lighting to the mirror to add to the functionality.

So there you are.  At the same time as this final bit of construction, activity on our license has picked up - we have the federal license in hand now, and will likely receive the state license by the time this posts.  We're getting close to a grand opening announcement - keep an ear peeled for that over the next week or so!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Revisiting San Antonio, part 2


During this trip to San Antonio I took a little more care to enjoy the vicinity of the Riverwalk - my hotel was on one end of it, and the conference on the other, so I got to know my way around after a couple of days.  I also kept thinking to myself about my seven past visits.

Although I didn't venture off base on the town pass day while I was at Lackland, after language training in Monterey my friend Rick and I went to San Antonio twice - taking the overnight bus down from San Angelo for the weekend.  Now, overnight bus rides are an experience in themselves, but what I do remember about those trips are visiting the Riverwalk to take in some restaurants and live music.  There was another visit while I was still in the Air Force, in 1983 or so, when I was in San Antonio on temporary duty for a research and development project, but we didn't go downtown that time.

Next was a Labor Day trip to visit Henry in 1989 - if I remember correctly they had a Gran Prix going on around town, but you could avoid the heat and the noise by hanging out on the Riverwalk, so we did.  Yesterday's post mentioned my trip in 2009, which brings us up to date.

Besides all of the bars and cafes down by the river, there are a few sites to see - among the notable ones was this encounter with a large sculpture done in Pre-columbian style.  Also, there were the omnipresent little barges, tour boats that cruise by at regular intervals.  For some reason, they always make me laugh - there's only two blocks or so to see, so I can't imagine being captive on a boat with a blaring PA would be any more fun than walking it on the sidewalk.

Some Air Force friends sent a recommendation or two, and a work colleague referred me to a barbecue joint, So I had a few things to check out.  I'll chalk up the brisket as one of them - I can see why people like it Texas-style, but will say in all honesty that I like the cuts I get from Skyline Premium Meats in Luray just as much.

There was also the Esquire Tavern.  I was told there would be beer.

Known as the oldest bar on the Riverwalk, the Esquire also boasts a 100-foot oak bar, the longest in Texas.  I picked an IPA brewed in San Antonio and a Porter brewed in Austin from the tap and settled in to relax.  Mission accomplished!

I showed off construction progress photos from Hawksbill Brewing while I was there.  There was another chance to brag about it on the way home, as I shared the exit row with two corn farmers from Illinois - they were curious about the hops and asked if I was using corn in the beer.  A quick text to David confirmed - the grain bill for the cream ale is 10 percent flaked corn.

Before I move on to other topics, I should make a note about a memory that came to mind while I was in the airport:  I'm pretty sure that the part of the terminal where Southwest comes and goes is the same area where my trip to Basic from Jacksonville ended up.  There was a gentle slope to the floor, like a ramp, and I remember the effect of climbing it was surreal, as if the walls were closing in.

And then the fun began as we caught a bus and went through all the first night shenanigans upon arriving at the base.  They put a good scare in you.  I remember ol' Ralph, two bunks down, doing the Rosary over and over again until I - and hopefully he - finally fell asleep.  Despite that, the experience was the beginning of six pretty good years that started me on my travels - and I don't have anything to complain about.

So I guess that leaves me on pretty good terms with San Antonio as well!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Revisiting San Antonio, Part 1


Just back from a road trip to San Antonio – probably my seventh visit there, if I count USAF Basic (even though I never left the base).  I was there last in 2009, attending a conference for a previous company(posts here, here, and here).  It was a conference visit again this time, only by coincidence the conference was held in the hotel I had stayed at the last time.

I arrived a day early and decided to take a couple of hours’ worth of time out to actually tour the Alamo as a priority.  It’s a story most USA-ers studied in grade school, but for boomers like myself, we were also indoctrinated by Disney and Fess Parker as Davy Crockett to remember the story (the Alamo gift shop actually sells coonskin caps).  I’ve walked by the little structure on most visits through town, since the Riverwalk is a central theme there and the Alamo is situated right next to that landmark.

The Wikipedia article details a grisly battle, which was foretold when the Mexican army arrived in San Antonio and unfurled a red banner indicating “no quarter” for the resistance.  There were no survivors.

The Alamo was originally built as part of the Spanish colonization of North America – a mission along the string of them that extended from Florida to California, meant to formalize and secure their claim to these lands.  The main building that we think of was built as a church, but it was never completed, and eventually the mission was abandoned.   

The grounds comprise between three and four acres – about the same amount we own surrounding Hawksbill Cabin – so it’s eye-opening to think of the amazing history that took place on such a small patch of ground.  That’s something that leaves a lasting impression, how small the Alamo is; along with reading the story – how fast the battle was over, with all the defenders killed – the promise of no quarter delivered.


Apparently, the story of the battle of the Alamo resonates with Japanese history.  There is a small monument on the site that compares the 1575 Battle of Nagashino to the events at the Alamo.  The context of both battles includes a small group of defenders fighting to their ends, surrounded by an overwhelming force.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

David's Georgia Breweries Field Trip


A few weeks back, David mentioned that he and Heather had a road trip to Atlanta coming up.  Then he said he had reached out to a couple of breweries to see if he could visit.  They were receptive, so off he went - and then last week we got some photo updates.

His first stop was Red Brick Brewing, which was one of the first craft breweries in Georgia.  Here's a photo of him standing with the 100-barrel brite tanks.  For comparison, we have a 10-barrel brite at Hawksbill Brewing!

Among the other lessons learned from this first visit was that the serving laws for breweries in Georgia are very different from what we have here in Virginia.  Our law is much more favorable for entrepreneurs who want to start these businesses.  I understand that there are changes on the horizon in Georgia though.

Two other breweries he visited were Dry County and Southern Sky, where he worked on a brew day for a 7-barrel batch.  He says he learned a lot from the experience, and he's already shared some of that insight.  Between he and Kevin, they've already got some adjustments to the workflow in mind.

At Dry County, he had the chance to have a look at a 5-barrel brewing system made by Alpha Brewing Operations, who built ours.  Plenty of good insights from that visit, too.

A key takeaway from all this?  Hawksbill Brewing Company has joined a community of people who are very welcoming and always ready to share insights about craft brewing.  It's part of what makes the adventure fun - and eventually, profitable.  Every step forward is important to us at this critical stage!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Hawksbill Brewing - January Construction Update

Thanks to David and Kevin, a ton of work got done at Hawksbill Brewing in January.  I've got a photo of them here while they were working on hooking up all the shiny new equipment. I'd be remiss if I didn't add that their wives, Heather and Elisa, jumped in to help out too - we're where we are today because of them!

The trades kept at it during the month and the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing is nearly done.  We have a fairly big air conditioning project still to come, that will start early this month, but we've made substantial progress towards being ready to open.  We even have toilets and sinks in the new bathrooms!
After the brew kitchen arrived and December, and the sanding, painting, and other work was complete, David and Kevin moved the equipment into place and began hooking it up.  Then the electrical came in, plumbing, and glycol hook-ups - we got the new chiller installed on the pad out back,  It's pretty amazing to see all of the progress.
David toured me through everything on Saturday to check it out.  He explained the work flows and processes while showing were the controls were for each step - and even pointed out some equipment that I wasn't familiar with.  All of that will make the brewing process easier.

Now it's a matter of tying down a bunch of loose ends while the gang puts final touches on opening day recipes.  It won't be long now, and we'll have an opening day announcement soon!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Beaver Run, in Winter

Beaver Run is the little stream that runs through the hollow south of Hawksbill Cabin.  It's part of the view from our brick terrace, although during the summer when the leaves are up we can't really see it.

Looking at the changing view in that patch of the hollow is one of my favorite past times here.  This morning when Tess and I went for a walk we stopped to take it in.

Several times over the years, we've had a family of beavers come in and make a dam.  The structure usually lasts a year or two, staying in place for a season after the family has grown up and moved on.  Finally a spring ran will come in and wash it out, which happened in 2016.


I was looking through some old photos on my phone, and as it happened, I had this old one from fall 2014.  It gives a sense of how the view can change, with the leaves freshly down and the dark greens of summer lingering on the evergreens.

The mountains visible in the background include part of Shenandoah National Park and Tanners Ridge, a development of summer cabins. When the leaves are down, sometimes I can see little firepits going up there - and I wonder if they can see mine.

That's all part of this.  I'll take it as a break from the everyday.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January Visit @pendruidbrewing

We'll have some good news very soon about Hawksbill Brewing, but in the meantime, Mary and I took the drive across the mountains to Sperryville on Saturday for a visit to Pen Druid Brewing.  I guess this was my fourth or fifth visit, a relationship that began when they came over for a visit to the hop yards.

On social media I'd read that they had an incredible weekend January 20 - the weekend of the Trump inaugural and the protest march - and had very nearly run out of beer.  They assessed that there had been an exodus from DC and that they'd benefited from additional tourism.  They went to work to get their supplies back intact, kegging MarTeeTee, an imperial stout that was aged in a rye barrel.

At 11%, that is a potent beer, and a higher ABV than I will generally try away from home.  Fortunately they had three other brews on tap for me to try - Golden Swan, Senseless Panic, and Saturnalia.  Below I'll transcribe the info that was up on their tap board:


  • Golden Swan - a wild blonde, ABV 6.5%
  • Senseless Panic - a wild porter, ABV 7.5%
  • Saturnalia - a barrel-aged, wild sour blonde ale, 100% Virginia ingredients, ABV 6.4%

All three of the beers carried the moniker "wild," but I'll write about Saturnalia first.  Back in October I wrote this post about brewing traditions, which mentioned Pen Druid's approach to brewing a truly local beer.  Here's what their web site says about Saturnalia:

Our second release of our all Virginia soured blonde.  Fermented and aged for one year in Hungarian oak using Virginia grown and malted grains and hops using Virginia native souring and fermenting cultures.  

There's a lot going on in that beer.  But the main takeaway, paraphrasing Jennings, is terroir - that's what the countryside around here tastes like.

The other two beers I tried were both fermented with the wild yeasts Pen Druid was able to cultivate from the grounds of the brewery.  As I understood it, they literally picked some flowers and put them in wort, and that is the start of the yeast strain.  They've been able to keep the culture going for several generations, and it turns out some really good beers - for me, Golden Swan was "life-changing" once I understood how it was being made!

Pen Drui is always worth a visit and I learn something from them every time I'm able to stop by.  Cheers, guys!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Hawksbill Summit Hike - December 2016

How many times have I written about Hawksbill Mountain on this blog?  According to the labels list to the right, the answer is more than 20 - it's probably just an indication of how special the place is to me.

Since we've owned Hawksbill Cabin - basically that's when the blog started - I've hiked that mountain at least a dozen times.  It's a short, inspiring hike to the summit, a perfect leg stretcher when you need to get your mind around a major home repair, like when we had to replace the cabin's roof.

During my time off over the holidays, we had some family visiting in Luray, and my niece and nephew decided to take the hike with me.  Actually, I needed to go up there for some brewery research, and I managed to talk them into it.

The brewery is named after this mountain.  We've been working on the logo for some time but have found it challenging to make progress for a couple of reasons.  The brewery team wanted to see some images of the structure and views from the summit, so I decided I would head up there to get some photos.

When I write about the hikes, as I did in November 2015, I typically describe it as follows:

From the upper parking area, the Hawksbill Summit trail is a 2.1 mile out-and-back route with a net elevation gain of 400 feet (520 feet if you count the ups-and-downs).  I consider it an easy day hike – it’s a leg stretcher I enjoy whenever I have the time for a short hike in the park, with some incredible views from the summit.

The hike up to the summit takes less than a half hour, and on this occasion, we stayed at the summit for about that much time.  Our little excursion was less than two hours overall, but it was enough to refresh us.  

Plus, I got the photos I needed.  We'll see if these get worked into the final logo.  In any case, mission accomplished.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Inauguration Retrospective

In honor of Barack Obama's presidency, today I'm reposting my thoughts from the 2013 Inauguration.  A new president will be installed today.  It's fair to hope that he will rise to the challenge.  It's also reasonable to expect that he is not up to it.


Four More for Forty-Four


Barack Obama’s second inauguration, they say, is one where hope gives way to the practical business of running the country in a time of extreme partisanship.  In my short post today, that will be all I acknowledge of what’s going on in Congress or elsewhere as we debate gun control, the national debt, or immigration.  I’d rather spend some time reflecting on the historic moment as we observe MLK day and see our president rise to the challenge of his second term.

You can click on the link at the end of this post to see a number of posts about the inauguration in 2009, but today, I am going to simply repeat a few of the messages that I had posted there for a retrospective.  Whatever the future holds for the president today, it is good to take a moment to consider the hope of the past – let’s not forget that.  So here we go:

From Mom:
“As a senior citizen,I am once again having hope in our country. This is a great day in American History and I am very glad and proud to be an American today in History.”

From Dad:
“On inauguration day in 2001 and 2005, I was full of fear and worry, because I knew that the USA had made the wrong choice for leadership. Today, I am full of peace and joy because finally we have gotten it right! It is about hope and optimism not about fear and dread. The upcoming changes to our country and even to our way of life will be slow coming, but will be drastic, and will be the foundation of a new and lasting legacy of hope and security for us all.”

From Aunt Rusti:
“It has been a long long march. It was wonderful having Sterling here with me and sharing with him my joy. I remember getting together in a subsidized housing complex in 1955 and meeting Martin Luther King just one of ten or twenty Duke Students; I remember refusing to get married in the First Baptist Church in Greensboro unless Yank and Effie could be seated with my family; I remember hearing noises in the woods behind my house in Durham and peeping through the woods to a field with a huge cross burning and men in robes (1961); My list is long. But these just help to let you know how deeply thrilled I am that he proved himself to me and to others, we elected him, and we must work for and with him for changes.”

From Greg, my former roommate in Berlin:
James Joyce wrote a brilliant line in "Ulysses," “history is a nightmare from which i am trying to awaken." …time to wake up.

From Yiming, another USAF friend:
"As far as the inauguration goes, I have great hope for the coming years and am extremely impressed with the transition so far. I am mindful that 48 million Americans do not support what he stands for, though I'm sure he will win some of them over. “

And from my friend Janice, who posted after attending the Inauguration in person:
"All I can say is...Wow. Today was truly a once in a lifetime experience. There is no way to describe what this day meant to me personally as a young African-American woman and an American citizen. I'm so taken by what this man has created…A movement of hope and change, and a renewed faith for everyone. His sincerity and warm demeanor is contagious and it was evident in the crowd today. The idea that was so stunning, so phenomenal, so breath taking that all I could all say was ‘Wow.’ ”

I’ll close with my own words from that day four years ago – a sentiment I feel even now. 

We heard the call to action this week, the call to service. Each of us has to make a contribution in the days ahead. What is the best way to have an impact? What is the best way to make that contribution?

One thing is for certain, this is a journey with many steps. The most important one is this first one, the one we take today, when President Obama is inaugurated.

(The poster pictured is Shepard Fairey's great work, which became the iconic image of the first Obama campaign).

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Now, About the Next Project

Beginning last week, I started working at my new project, which is downtown in the Gallery Place area - it's also known locally as Chinatown, although because of gentrification and development the cultural references are few and far between.

Now my daily commute features a walk to the Metro and about 25 minutes on the train, a welcome change from 45 minutes of driving every day.  This post shares photos from both ends of the ride, the gate downtown, and the view of the Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, near our house.

Among the projects I will be working on with the new assignment is the large construction effort on the DC Courthouse campus - as campus style construction remains a theme of this phase of my career.  I'll also be supporting the client on the development of their capital plans and budgets, even though the worries about how the incoming administration will execute on these critical governmental duties is still unclear.

To be back in this part of Washington is a true pleasure for me - about five-years ago, I managed a small project for this client that was part of the groundwork for their current program; and back in the 2004-2005 timeframe I freelanced out of an office I was subletting from a law firm in the area.

(As proof that the internet is forever, on a whim I looked for some of the work I did during that time - this link includes the report from an economic consulting project.  My deliverable begins on page 378.  Although it was written in 2008, among the successes of that report was the identification of the recession that began in late 2007, although economic data had not yet confirmed it.)  

So, here I am again.  Really looking forward to sinking my teeth in the project, and enjoying the neighborhood.  Like I said in yesterday's post, if we focus on one step at a time, eventually the journey will take us somewhere.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Thing About Projects

"...A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources. And a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal."



Speaking professionally, and about my day job to be specific, 2017 has started with a transition for me, making it a very busy time.  It's easy to predict that I'll spend the year juggling a few priorities, especially with the brewery preparing to open in the spring.  For now, I'm planning to do what I've always done when faced with busy times - I'll just hunker down and try to keep moving forward.

I've just completed nearly five years as a construction executive at the Intelligence Community Campus-Bethesda, which we knew as "ICC-B."  Basically a redevelopment project, this effort used a campus design approach to transform a group of six buildings built from the 1940's through the 1980's into a modern office complex.  The early rendering of the design is shown in the graphic at the start of this post; while the final result is slightly modified, and the work on the campus grounds has yet to start, this perspective is pretty similar to what a pedestrian passing by the front of the campus will see.

Now, five years - in my career, that is a pretty significant amount of time to be committed to one project.  My enlistment was only six years, and my stint at one of the large architecture/engineering (A/E) firms was six and a half, but even with those tenures I transferred between efforts every year and a half or so.  I found that I still enjoyed working on the ICC-B project right up to my last day early this month.

There is still design and construction to finish at the project, three or four major efforts that my colleagues are going to see through to completion.  But with two thirds of the occupancy complete, and with tenants in every major building component of the project, it was clearly time for me to move on, and turn it over to other professionals to carry the torch.

In military and intelligence circles, there are traditions for times like these.  The company observed the transition phase by commissioning a "challenge coin," shown in the photo above, and there was a signed memento as well.  As I took my leave, I sent some emails and texts - and received some, including this one, from one of the government leads I worked with:

"...it was great working with you.  The [Program Management Office] wouldn't have been nearly as successful without your time, energy and insight.  We accomplished so much and I learned so much during that period.  Good luck in your future endeavors..."    

To say I learned a lot is an understatement - as I like to say, "I'm an economist, not an engineer."  Even with more than 20 years in the field, working on A/E projects, I'm still learning about the real estate and facilities field.  Every project, even our brewery, has its challenges, and I am not ashamed to say that there's a lot I don't know.

We can't be afraid of moving on.  We're on a journey - there are so many metaphors about the road ahead - we just need to remember to take each step one at a time.  It's the only way to get somewhere.