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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.