Six months

So who knew that running a business would mean less time for blogging?

As I write this, I’ve been open for business for six months and five days, and boy howdy has it been a rollercoaster. However, looking back over such a short span makes me realise that so many milestones have been marked! About a year ago the lease on the building started and then after six months hard work the doors opened, so by no means a small achievement!

Six months in we have one guest beer still on tap, a draft cider offering and the other eight taps are all house brewed beer. We rotate through our cask conditioned offerings as fast as we can, yet often we find ourselves with a whole bunch of empty firkins needing to be filled as y’all keep coming and drinking it all!

Our beer lineup is still shaking out, there are some beers which have already established themselves as staples, some where we’re still switching things up and experimenting and a list of beers to brew as long as your arm, so there’s exciting stuff coming down the pipeline too!

It’s been lots of fun meeting so many great people from both near and far (so far the furthest has been New Zealand) and we can’t wait to see what the next six months brings!

We did it!

Holy moly! I’m writing this after our first two days of being open to the public, and I really couldn’t be more thrilled that so many of you came out to see us, get a beer (or two!) and hang out with us and have a good time. I really can’t thank you all enough, especially those of you who came in on Friday and then came back on Saturday! I really couldn’t be more proud right now to be a part of what makes Valdese and awesome place to be, and I just know that we’re going to do incredible things together!

Our first couple of batches are going to be brewed in the coming week, I’m going to be making a hazy pale ale which those of you who were at the LPDA homebrew competition will remember this one as it took first place in the hoppy beer category, and the very first batch of our Daylight Robbery english pale ale will follow the next day so look out for those in about two weeks time.

Once those first two batches are ready we’ll be brewing up our Spitfire Stout and Mountain Man special bitter, and the cask conditioned ales will on on tap as soon as they’re ready (you can’t rush good beer)

We’ll be opening up next week at 5:30 on Thursday and we’ll have a whole bunch of new beers on tap, come on in and see us!

A journey of many small steps

So it must be time for a real, long form project update, as while the day to day stuff goes past on Facebook this blog is looking a little spartan!

Where should we start? How about some great news? I have my federally issued Brewer's Notice! In some kind of miracle, the TTB processed my application in 27 calendar days so now I'm officially recognized by the federal government as a brewery!

Of course, things are never quite so simple! Before I can actually brew anything, I need to get my North Carolina ABC permits, and in order to get those I need sign offs from the Burke County building inspectors and my local Fire Marshall here in Valdese, and of course getting the building inspector to sign off means I need to get the building work completed!

The construction work breaks down to building fire walls between the brewery space and the public taproom, and make sure that the fire exits are up to code, so we're going to be hanging a lot of drywall and replacing the doors at the back of the building. On a more fun note, the bar buildout will also be starting in earnest and we're out on the hunt for some fun decor to spread around the place.

My brewhouse is here in all its shiny stainless glory! I have a two vessel, 3 bbl system which is getting paired up with an on demand hot water heater for strike and sparge water duties. My keg float arrived and the keg washer construction is mostly finished, I'm working on the code for the Arduino brain which powers it all so should have that ready for validation testing pretty soon.

The new flooring in the community gathering room is finished, final trim is done in the main pub area, I'm on the hunt for some nice tables and chairs and gathering details for a big order of glasses, bar consumables, drying mats and a whole bunch of other little details.

Opening day is getting really close so watch this space for news and events as we get them on the calendar!

On Your Marks...

Things are now at the point of getting crazily real! We have our building secured, renovations have been underway for some time, construction proper is about to start next week, with remodelling to install accessible ramps and remodel a bathroom getting underway, the two brewhouse vessels are here, and our kegs and some fermenters are on their way.

Today I'm launching a crowdfunding campaign to help drive this project on its path towards opening day. Opening a brewery is pretty expensive project and I'm already substantially invested with my own personal money, so I'm looking to my community to help me get across the finish line and get the doors open.

You can find my IndieGoGo campaign here:

We have some awesome perks on offer and will sincerely appreciate any support you can give, it means the world to me

New England IPA

We love IPAs. Both as a zeitgeist community and as individuals. The insanity of the IBU wars, with brewers battling it out to create more and stronger pints of bitterness are largely behind us, and now IPA as a category has blossomed to cover more or less anything thats around 5-7% ABV and nice and hoppy.

For some time now, the West Coast has had the IPA thing more or less nailed, with breweries like Russian River and Stone cranking out beautiful pale beers. The West Coast style takes its lessons from traditional brewing methods, with the recipes designed to let the malt take a back seat, and loading up with late hop additions to really let the flavors sing.

Crisp and refreshing, West Coast IPA makes for a fantastic beer. But that's not what this post is about.

Recently, the East Coast has been on a stylistic kick of its own, and a new wave of breweries have taken center stage with a whole new way of brewing hoppy beers. Think Treehouse. Think Hill Farmstead. Do a little historical thinking and look to the almost crazily famous Heady Topper from The Alchemist.

This new style of IPA is rocketing up the beer charts and for good reason.

The best New England IPA combines high oil content, pungent and fruity hops with a British yeast strain. But that's not all. The New England folks took a page out of the classic brewing textbooks, ripped it out and did what they want.

Massive doses of dry hops added during fermentation means that the oils and flavors from the hops interact with the living yeast, and the right yeast strains will take those basic hop compounds and rearrange some of them, and stick others together with sugars creating a whole new wealth of flavor.

Picking a yeast strain which adds some character of its own only helps matters. The Alchemist gets a signature flavor from their house yeast, lovingly dubbed "Conan" which with some care and some feeding gives off a bright, peachy flavor.

Generous doses of unmalted grains such as wheat or oats added into the mash give these beers a fuller mouthfeel, which lets the hop flavor hang around long after you've swallowed your first sip and leaves you wanting to rapidly take another.

More than anything else, New England IPAs have stirred up plenty of controversy because of the way they look. High protein content in the beer, along with ridiculous levels of hop oils in suspension give rise to a beer which is unashamedly hazy. To those used to drinking brilliantly clear beer, this eye drinking can turn people off these beers faster than fast. Heady Topper is famously labelled "Drink From The Can". For those adventurous souls, a new world awaits.

So of course, we will have a New England IPA in our lineup, and it will also be a rotating style for us, as we are able to lay out hands on new hop varieties this will be a beer to really let them shine.

We're currently working on a little hop show-down to finalize the hop bill for our standard version, but we expect to be able to have a lot of fun with this beer, especially as new hops continue to be developed. It's going to be a lot of fun...

A Silver Medal and a Big Trip

So this rather snazzy medal showed up in the mail last week. Not bad going, first proper competition entry and I took second place in category with the beer which will become the Oktoberfest at the brewery. 


In other news, as of tomorrow I'm taking a trip back to the UK for two weeks, so there will be a small gap in updates on the work going on here in Valdese. However, being back on native soil usually means I get to drink plenty of good beer, so those of you following me on Instagram will be treated to some of these explorations.

Have a great couple of weeks, and there will be more local news when I get back!

A Little Homebrew Update

This last week I finally got around to filling some bottles for entry into some competitions! I bottled off the end of my most recent keg of Special Bitter, winding up with a baker's dozen filled bottles. Flushed with success for the first outing of my fully fledged counterpressure filler, I decided to fill some bottles of my Oktoberfest test batch. Two bottles filled and the keg kicked! Good thing that the standard competition submission is two bottles!

So I've entered the Special Bitter and the Oktoberfest into the local Pro-Am competition being run by Olde Hickory Brewery, and the Special Bitter has been entered into the Carolina Quarterly Brew-Off.

Fingers crossed for some ribbons!

Big News!

We have our location! The lease is signed, sealed and the check is in the mail. The power is getting cut on tomorrow, and we have a two vessel 3 barrel brewing system ordered! We're going to be at 118 Main Street W, smack dab in the middle of downtown Valdese.

Our TTB application should go in next week (fingers crossed) and should take about two months to process. We've made friends with the local health department and have our plan review application form in hand, and a whole heap of work ahead of us to get the doors open.

We're super excited! Keep your eyes on the blog and we'll have all kinds of updates as we build out the bar, get our pilot system built up and installed, refit some of the building and finally take delivery of our nice, shiny main brewhouse.

And another thing...

Rest assured we're still out here and still working hard to get the business going! We've been thrilled with all the support and generosity shown by the folks at the Town of Valdese, and are keeping our ears to the ground for a good space to open up that we can call home.

In the mean time, time and tide waits for no man so we've been keeping the home brewing rolling along. The joy of Yakima Valley Hops' First Friday sale means that we're up to our eyeballs in Mosaic pellet hops. The 2017 harvest has a wonderful aroma of blueberries with a little dankness mixed in, and we've got a brew lined up to try and really pull out the blueberry aroma into the finished beer.

One of the best bits of Valdese is the water. It's mountain fresh, super soft and consistent all year round. This is awesome, as we don't need an expensive reverse osmosis system, nor do we need to load up each beer with brewing salts or find ourselves stylistically cornered by our water. Interestingly, we've been finding that some of our recipes which we perfected on a different town's water supply have needed some updates to the salt additions. The previous place had a reasonable amount of sodium in the water, whereas here we have none, and you can taste the difference. There's a couple of test batches fermenting right now with some chemistry adjustments to get us back to our sweet spot.

There's a few homebrew competitions coming up in the local area which we're going to enter, so getting the counter-pressure filler set up and dialled in for good fills is our next task.

Keep watching out, with any luck we'll have some more news soon!


Well I promised more news, so here it is. We're moving to Western NC, and are well into talks with the fine folks at the Town of Valdese to open our doors and become the first brewery in Valdese.

Valdese is a small town nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains founded by Italian settlers at the end of the 19th century. The town boomed around the textile industries which are sadly now departed, but the town remains. Valdese is a beautiful little town and we are looking forward to becoming a part of its story.

Roll on Autumn

Long time no blog it seems! Autumn is now upon us, but still our journey rumbles on. We are about to go through a change of pace, our original location plans have fallen through as the building needed too much work to make it suitable for our needs so we're on the hunt for another home.

Nevertheless work continues apace, I have been spending some time to dial in our summer stout recipe. I know, I know, stout? In summer? Thats crazy talk. Crazy like a fox maybe, stout can be a great drink for the summertime, this one is jet black and smooth, but light on the palate so you can knock back one or three of an afternoon. Hovering around the 4% ABV mark means it won't weigh you down, and you can enjoy the rest of your day nicely.

Of course this post calls out winter, so summer stout will take a little while to roll around again. Of course this means that we have new things brewing - its never a bad time for an IPA and we've got some really awesome hops just begging to become beer. We've also got a very interesting rabbit hole in the form of a schwarzbier that we've been playing with, the next batch should be done lagering soon enough. A few tweaks along a few brews has something we're pretty excited about, and hopefully we'll have something to share shortly.

In the mean time, watch this space. Definitely some new news soon...

Brewing System - Under Construction

A quick little update for you all!

We're starting to make inroads into our brewing system design and construction. As I've written before, we're going to be brewing on a 1.5bbl electric brewing system. 1.5bbl to be big enough to make enough beer to slake thirst, and electric for the fine control it allows and the safety benefits over a direct fired system.

The internal components for the electrical control panel are on order, and yesterday the enclosure showed up courtesy of UPS. Time to spend some time with some painters tape to lay out the controls and start drilling the hundred or so holes for all the switches and outlets...

Officialdom (Part 2)

Hooray for business! Paperwork has been weighing on us recently so it's time to come up for air and write some more blog stuff.

The July 4th week was a productive one for us. We have our business bank account open and first deposits made, graphic designers are busy scribbling up some designs for us and we've spent some time filling out our TTB application forms.

We were also lucky enough to get to spend a day brewing with the crew over at Bond Brothers. Jay, Rusty, Paul and Jeremy were extremely welcoming, and in between putting me to work graining out and hauling fifteen sacks of malt between pallets and into the mill, they answered a lot of questions and were generally fantastic folks. Good times were had and good beer was drunk, we are lucky to have these guys as neighbours.

We're getting ready to pull the trigger on buying our brew system and the electrical control panel, along with our first one barrel fermenter. Watch this space...

What's Going On?

So we're in that place where there's a lot of wheels rolling but seemingly precious little to see for it all.

Stuff we're doing right now

  • Looking for a good business bank account
  • Designing our brewing system
  • Talking to architects about getting formal drawings made up
  • Working with graphic designers to get a proper logo made up
  • Thrashing out more of the fine detail in the business plan
  • Slowly filling out our TTB Brewer's Note application

On the more entertaining side of things I've been able to spend some time fine tuning the Tribute recipe, tweaking the final hop additions and really nailing down the water salt additions. I'm pretty fortunate to have water which is low in pretty much everything, so I can add mineral salts back to get more or less any flavor impact that I want. It's been a fun little series of brews, each one the same basic recipe, but just putting those final tweaks on it to perfect it.

Getting Real

Hooray! We've taken the first few of what will surely be many steps to follow. Like all good journeys, we will battle paperwork and inspections (ok, maybe not all good journeys...) but in return we will get to brew some delicious beer, meet some awesome people and generally have a lot of fun.

Earlier this week we officially signed the lease on our building. I can tell you that we will open our doors at 107 W Chatham St, Cary NC. We will be right in the heart of the downtown area so we can't wait to have y'all stop in!

And then today we filed our LLC paperwork with the Secretary of State and got an employer number from the IRS. Aren't we growing up fast?

Tribute Tribute

As with a lot of life, we form a personal connection with our surroundings as we go through important events. My wife and I got married in Cornwall, England and through one thing and another we came across a 100 + year old brewery in the tiny town of St Austell. Their flagship beer is called Tribute, and not only did we fall in love with it, so did many of our immediate and extended family who came to help us celebrate.

Tribute itself is an homage by their head brewer (a fellow by the name of Roger Ryman) to a beer which they brewed as a one-off to celebrate the eclipse around the turning of the millennium. Roger drew up his experience and created a beer which took classic English malts and matched them up with American Willamette hops, and Slovenian Styrian Golding hops. The result is sheer beauty, with the bready-crackery character of the malt playing perfectly against the lemon-citrus notes from the Goldings and the earthy-blackberry notes from the Willamettes.

Thus as Tribute itself is a knock-off of his own beer, I figure that I can shamelessly pander and call my knockoff of his knockoff Tribute Tribute. After all, beer is something that is sensitive to its environment, even if I brought Roger to my brewery and let him have at it, even he would come up with something very similar to, but not entirely like Tribute itself.

I'm taking the spirit of Roger's idea, matching up the berry and lemon character of the signature hops, using my own base of locally sourced grain and of course my own locally sourced water, along with my own yeast strain to brew this beer. The result is a balanced beer, with the same interplay between the richness of the malt character and the complementary characters of the signature flavor hops.

Naturally, this beer is right at home in a cask so you'll see it rotate through over time.

Casker's Delight

Something which may or may not yet be obvious: I'm British. Seriously, just give me a call, I'll tell you I'm not from London and I'm always happy to offer pointers on the correct spelling of words.

Being not-from-round-here is one of the things that got me into making my own beer and diving into this journey to become a professional brewer. Those of you who have travelled to the UK (or happen to be near one of the exceptionally small number of establishments in the US) will have dipped a toe into the wonderful world of cask beer. I was not lucky enough to live anywhere near someone who could sell me a decent English style pint, so I took it upon myself to provide.

English beer is generally pretty different to American beer right from the get go. In England, beer is generally something we consume multiple pints of in a session, spent over a pleasant evening at the pub with some friends.

Cask beer though, is what really sets the English brewing tradition apart from any other in the world.

Beer during production is a living thing. We rely on yeast to take our hoppy, sugary water and turn it in to beer. Cask beer brings that living product forward to you, the drinker. Rather than filtering out the yeast and pumping in carbon dioxide from a tank, cask beer means that we take that fresh beer, put it into our cask (or firkins to be exact) along with a little more sugar and some dry hops, then we seal it up and let the yeast carbonate it.

Along the way, the yeast generate some complex flavors in the beer that you can't get any other way, and once they're done we give it some time to let them settle out, chill the beer down to cellar temperature, then pour it and drink it. You can either pour by gravity, or pump the beer out of the cask using a beer engine.

So it stands to reason that we are already planning to offer at least two regular cask beers, and to have at least one, hopefully two or three cask beers available the day we open our doors. It's a long road to travel just yet, but the rewards will be rich!

Building a Nano-Brewery (Part 1)

These days, most people either are homebrewers or know someone who is. I'm no different, and at this time I'm still officially a homebrewer.

As a hobby, home brewing is probably one of the more rewarding ones out there. After all, you spend a couple of days messing around with some stuff and you end up with a case of two of beer. What's not to like?

To any homebrewer who follows an all grain process, what we're setting out to do is very familiar. We will start off with hot water, add crushed malted barley and soak it for a time. Then the sweet wort will be run out of the grain and boiled for about an hour, with hops added along the way. Cool down the boiled liquid, add yeast and leave it to ferment for a week or two. Package into kegs, refrigerate, carbonate and serve.

Once we start talking about a batch of beer to share with more than a few friends, things step up a notch. At the moment we're planning on opening up with a 1.5BBL brewhouse. That's about forty-five gallons, so nine times bigger than most home brewers where we typically work with five gallon batches.

Not only that, but we're also looking to use a mix of 1.5BBL and 3BBL fermenters. To fill the 3BBL tanks, we'll be brewing two batches of beer back to back, and putting them both into the same tank. This will allow us to have a good supply of our mainstay beers, and the 1.5BBL tanks will let us try different beers, different styles and just plain let us experiment and have fun.

Look out for more nano-brewery posts to come, we've not even scratched the surface yet