Ramble On

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.