Friday, September 2, 2011

(We recently sat down to speak with Charles Sanville, a beer blogger here in North Carolina who publishes through the website What follows is probably the most complete collection of public details on our upcoming brewery we've had the chance to get "on paper" so far, so we hope you enjoy it. And thanks again to Charles for the effort. Make sure to check out his blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed, et al, when you get the chance. — Ben)

At a recent Girls Pint Out event (yes I was at a Girls Pint Out event), I met Ben from Haw River Farmhouse Ales. I didn’t realize that he was the man behind Haw River Ales. First let me say that Ben is a really nice guy, and knows a TON about beer. I guess you would expect that from a brewer. We chatted up a bit, and he gave me some test batch beers to try. To be honest, I felt super cool getting a sneak peak batch of beers.

I set up a tasting event with some of my good beer friends. We enjoyed the tasting, and as Ben asked, wrote some reviews for him. That spurred some questions that I wanted to ask Ben, about his brewery, beer tastes, and about himself.

Top Secret test batch of Haw River's beer
What was your initial inspiration for starting Haw River Farmhouse Ales? 
I’ve always been fascinated by creating things, and the artistic and technical craft that goes into creating a beer is a challenging and rewarding endeavor. There are so many fine details that go into choosing the ingredients, selecting the methods, tweaking the process and then wrapping it all up in a package that the beer drinker will appreciate and enjoy as a final step in the process… that’s something special. The history and culture of Belgian beer has always fascinated me as well. I thought it’d be fun to explore a style the local scene has only touched upon so far, and maybe add a little twist to make it a true North Carolina brewery. 
You're in the test stages now. How have your beers been received?
Pretty well, even from folks who don’t know us on a personal level (which accounts for something, in my mind). We’ve had a few “not hoppy enough” comments, and a few “too sour” comments on some of our wild beers, but our goal is to craft a range of enjoyable beers that will be approachable to your everyday beer drinker, but still appreciated by the craft beer lover.
That said, we’re working on some recipes that really try to push some boundaries with sour beers and hybrid styles for the area. There are a few North Carolina breweries that are getting into some barrel-aging and sour brewing, and we want to forge ahead with similar goals, hopefully working in tandem with a few of them and helping to create a “southern brand” for the North Carolina craft beer scene.
When did you start brewing?
I brewed my first batch a few years ago (a sweet stout in a 3-gallon pressure cooker pot my mom lent me), but didn’t start really ramping up my craft until last year, to be honest. Since we had an inkling of potentially turning this into a business, I’ve been brewing two or three times a week, trying variations on some of our favorite recipes so they fit in with the goals for the brewery, and working on balancing certain local ingredients for some interesting flavor profiles. Brewing so often is a great way to perfect the craft from a technical standpoint — the only downside is you end up with a LOT of beer. Let’s just say the good folks of Saxapahaw have been a great avenue to help “dispose of” a lot of extra beer that we’ve found ourselves with lately.
When did you know it was time to take the next step from home brewing to more of a micro brewery?
I like to jump head-first into just about everything I attempt, so I figured if I dug brewing beer, it made sense to make a business out of it , so we can bring other people into the circle to enjoy what we’re doing (and yeah, I can hear all the brewery owners out there laughing now, since it’s fairly well-known that the last thing you should do is open a brewery if you actually enjoy, you know, BREWING beer). Plus, I’d spent a decade sitting behind a computer as a graphic designer, so after I sold my company to my former business partners last year, I figured this was the right time to jump. 
Why farmhouse ales?
A couple of reasons: First, they’ve always been a personal favorite of mine. The best versions you can find are a delicate balance between the peppery fruit and a clean crispness on the palate, with just a little touch of musty funk mixed in for good measure. Both brewing them and drinking them has always been a great experience for me — when I walk into a brewpub for the first time, the first beer I search their list for is some sort of saison (farmhouse ale).
The second reason is that we call the beautiful town of Saxapahaw, North Carolina our home. If you haven’t driven out to Sax or through Alamance County lately, head on out. A farmhouse brewery seemed to make perfect sense near our hometown, and it’ll allow us to use some fantastic locally-grown ingredients in our beer for what we hope will be a unique experience.
And third, the term “farmhouse ale” is accepted to be a pretty open-ended definition within the craft beer community, so it’ll allow us to do some interesting and engaging things with our beers in the future. Let’s just say the test batches we’ve sent out so far are samples of our flagship beers we’ll brew year round and have on tap around the clock… we’ve got a ton of ideas for side-projects, one-offs and collaborations planned that should push a few boundaries, hopefully.
Where do you get ingredients from? 
The honey used in our Farmhouse Saison comes from a few beekeepers close to home in Alamance and Orange Counties (depending on which batch we’re brewing). We’re also talking with a few NC-based farmers and gardeners to find out to what capacity we can source local ingredients, once we’re up and running. One idea we have for our monthly brewery tour is to eventually take folks by bus to all the farms and locations we partner with to grow and prepare our ingredients, so they can get a good look at what a field of barley looks like, how hop cones feel growing on the bine and what it takes to get honey from a beehive. After the tour, we’ll all head back to the Haw River taproom to try samples of the resulting beers, made from the raw ingredients everyone just witnessed. That’s what I call local — I think folks might appreciate that and get something new out of it they’ll remember. Hell, even the cotton used by TS Designs in Burlington, NC to make our “Drink Southern” t-shirts was grown here in North Carolina. We dig local.
What is your vision for Haw River? Small and local? More of a tap house? Distribution only? Kegs and bottles?
We definitely want to stay relatively small, probably within state lines, for the most part. I could talk for an hour about my assumptions on the craft beer industry as a whole, how it seems to be moving incredibly local (incredibly fast, in my opinion) recently, but I’ll save that for another day. We’ll have a taphouse/brewpub eventually (we’ve got some great ideas), but we’ll probably start with a small production facility here near homebase, so we can start getting our beer out there in and in folks’ glasses as soon as possible. And we’re planning plenty of draft accounts for now, so our beers should be available at your local favorite beer bar starting around the middle of next year.
In addition, we’re planning to package and bottle-condition each of our four flagship beers for sale in local bottle shops and a few grocery stores, so our fans can try a slightly different version of their favorite Haw River Farmhouse Ales they usually get on tap. In addition, we have some really innovative ideas for a side-project series or two that celebrate North Carolina history and culture, and help raise some awareness for some great causes; these efforts we plan to package in traditional corked & caged 750ml bottles, and should be available in your local bottle shop late next year.
Is there anyone else that is involved with Haw River Brewing?
We have a few people built into the business plan, but they’ve all still got real jobs, so I have to be careful about what we let out of the bag just yet. Just know that we’re working on surrounding ourselves with smart folks who know all the things I don’t (which I’ve found is an aggressively mutating list). I’ve got thick skin, and I ain’t too proud to bring someone in to handle a task if they’re better at it than I. Had to learn that the hard way with my last company, so I’m making sure we do this one right. 
What role are they playing?
One of the shortcomings I personally have is that I don’t have much hands-on experience in a full-size production brewery setting — that’s one of the first details we’re working to establish with our setup. I’m an idea guy, not an engineer, so I want to make sure my time is better spent every day than trying to figure out why the motor on a pump pushing wort into a fermenter isn’t working correctly. We’re also working on putting a fairly informal Advisory Board to meet twice a year to review our progress and make suggestions on where we are and what we have planned. And we have a friend in the business who may serve as our sustainability consultant, offering insight into greywater systems, alternative energy sources and how they might integrate with our daily process, and reducing our waste and carbon footprint. 
What is your current favorite beer? Yours or otherwise
This one’s always a stumper. There are just too many to pick one. Even if you don’t like every beer out there, they still can be appreciated for what they are. Of the beers Haw River brews, the Belgian-style IPA is my “go-to”, probably. The last one I remember stopping me in my tracks (literally) was Duck Rabbit’s End of Reason (on cask at The Thirsty Monk earlier this year… man, if I could go back in time…). According to Untappd, it’s a tie between Terrapin’s Rye Pale and Fullsteam’s Rocket Science IPA, which are both remarkably delicious beers to me. Not much of a beer geek answer, I guess… Those are just a couple of damned good beers. 
Is there 1 beer that made you want to brew your own?
My first sour was a Monk’s Cafe Flemish Red, and it’s arguably the catalyst that led to what we’re doing today with Haw River Farmhouse Ales. That beer (and just about every wild or sour beer afterward) amazed me with its myriad layers of complexity and depth. I always liked to take things apart and build them back together when I was a kid (I once collected bones from the family dinner table for several weeks in an attempt to glue back together a complete chicken skeleton…), so I guess it goes back to trying to figure out that Monk’s sour. I wanted to find out how to build something for myself as complex as a well-crafted sour beer.
Any crazy beer stories? That you want to share anyway?
There’s always the possibility that my mother will read this, so let me skip a few from my earlier days…. This one’s certainly not the craziest thing in my resume that involves beer, but this past spring, my girlfriend Dawnya and I took two weeks off from life and drove 3500 miles throughout the northeast US to visit about 3 dozen breweries, brewpubs, farms and bottle shops, starting at Fullsteam in Durham and ending up at Three Floyds in Chicago (by way of Philly, Cooperstown and Grand Rapids, MI). Our goal was to meet as many beer folks as possible and try as many new beers as we could, and we had an awesome time and learned tons from all kinds of really awesome, really humble people, most of which will influence at least some small part of Haw River Farmhouse Ales along the way, I’m sure. (You can read about our trip in more detail elsewhere on our blog, if you'd like. ^Ben)
When can we expect to see Haw River in stores, bars?
We’re aiming for a grand opening party on Memorial Day weekend next year, but it’s important we do everything right, so there’s no huge rush on our end — we’re considering Memorial Day 2012 our floating target. Between then and now, we’re discussing with a number of bars and bottle shops eventual plans to carry our beer, so as soon as we know when they’ll hit shelves and taps, you guys will know. 
I gotta ask, who designed your logo. I LOVE it!
Ha. My former life was as a graphic designer, so that was one of the first things I knocked out once we decided on the name. The farmer illustrations, however, come from the talented Mr. Nathan Golub, an old friend I was lucky enough to bring on to projects every once in awhile at my old company. Nathan’s on staff at the Independent Weekly in Raleigh, so if you’re lucky, you can catch some of his work gracing the cover of the Indy from time to time. Guy’s got mad talent… can’t wait to see what he does once we have actual labels and brand needs when we’re up and running.
Anything else you want your fans to know?
North Carolina has been my home for almost 35 years, and I love how the craft beer industry has evolved and matured over the past few. I hope whatever we bring to the table with Haw River Farmhouse Ales helps to elevate North Carolina’s place in the craft beer world, and provides our friends and neighbors with a memorable experience every day.
Like I said, this logo is cool.

Thanks, Ben, for some great insight on what Haw River Farmhouse Ales is all about. Be sure to follow Ben and everything Haw Rives Farmhouse Ales:
Oh, and check out his “Drink Southern” T-shirts! Post it up, if you have any questions for Ben.
— Charles (

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Which Came First, the Chick or the Beer?

I hadn't planned on discussing this much via the blog, since a few friends in the industry have already weighed in with some great points (see Top Fermented and Food Sweat & Beers). But then Monday morning, I sat down with my cup of coffee and saw this article, which leads me to believe this recent trend of misled "feminization" of craft beer may be starting to get some roots. So what the hell, I'll throw in my two cents.

First off, in most cases, I'm opposed to the idea of just about anything being marketed as "women-friendly" (and full disclosure, until recently, I owned a small design & marketing company in Apex, NC for about a decade—whether that works in my favor or against is, I guess, up to you). Most women I know can take care of themselves without being coddled with some watered-down (literally, in the case of "girl beer") softened version of what "us tough guys" like to enjoy. I personally know some bad-ass chicks with great taste in beer (and on the flip side, I know plenty of guys whose libation of choice is Coors Light), and the same people, whether they wear heels or not, that will pick up a six-pack of Chick Beer are the same ones who step up to the bar to order a Michelob Ultra without even asking what's on tap. Certainly nothing wrong with that (I'm an equal-opportunity beer lover), but I don't hear too many women complaining about how their beloved Mich Ultra is giving them gas on a nightly basis and wish someone would come out with some other "delicious beer that was ya know, sorta like Bud 55, but, you know, like… less bubbly, kinda? Tee, hee, hee…".

Not to mention the name. I get it, I do. You're throwing it back in the face of the folks who refer to light, lousy, watered-down beer as "chick beer". Ha, ha. So if that's actually the case, why then did you decide to produce yet another light, lousy, watered-down beer and slap this ever-so-witty name on it? Oops. Looks like you fell backward into the hole you just dug.

The way I see it, these decisions, in general, are usually made just like you might picture: at polished tables full of Marketing People®, who shove a bunch of what other polls tell them is "beer" in front of an Optimally Diverse® group of females, then ask them all questions afterward (either that, or someone without a clue comes up with an idea they think is awesome, and no one tells them otherwise, for whatever reason). "This one doesn't like dark beer, so Our New Product® should be light." "This one has gas, so let's make Our New Product® less carbonated". That sorta thing. Most boardrooms' marketing decisions are based on stats and surveys (even, sadly, on a smaller firm's basis) or even worse, the client's whims, instead of common sense, creative experience or real guts. Of course, it's much easier for a small brewery to try a batch of something interesting, market it toward women (if and however they decide to do so), and then figure out whether it's a success or not. Or even better, most small craft brewers I know just make good beer that PEOPLE love, no matter how many X chromosomes they may have been born with.

When we open next year, Haw River Farmhouse Ales intends to brew Belgian- and French-style beers (with a little Southern flair, of course), many of which may appeal more toward women than others (our flagship Saison is delicious, ladies!). If the Ad Wizards that came up with Chick Beer would have looked into actual existing styles of craft beer and who enjoys actually drinking them (or hell, I don't know… off the top of my head, walk around GABF for a couple days with a list of all the vendors' offerings and ask those of the fairer sex which they consider their favorite), they might be onto something. I know plenty of women that will choose a Bell's Oarsman or a Dogfish Head Festina Peche over a MGD64 any ol' day, so why couldn't Chick Beer be based on a Berliner Weisse, for example?

I don't have the stats in front of me, but if I had to guess, I'd say that more women drink wine than men. So instead of targeting a portion of the potential craft beer market that happen to be women, why not reach those same customers by targeting your campaign to wine drinkers? Or recreational runners? Or teachers? Or graphic designers? Some of these might seem silly, but you get the idea: they're all areas where the percentages of women either exceed those of men, have increased greatly in the past few decades, or at least outweigh the current market segment women hold within the craft beer audience (which, according to Chick Beer, is 25% of all craft beer drinkers). By treating women like, you know, actual people who have interests and judgement, you can target the women for which you're aiming, but without speaking down to them or playing into the (already) tired cliche of pink bottles filled with flat, flavorless beer.

Sit tight, gals. We're planning to open Haw River's doors next Memorial Day, and we'll have plenty of great beer I think you'll like. Although it probably won't have strawberries floating in it… is that okay?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Off-Centered and Headed North: Days Three & Four

In case you missed our first post on the subject, take a look here to catch up a little, and then read below and enjoy a summary of Days 3 & 4 of our recent trip across the northeast United States, talking to brewmasters, farmers, business owners and other folks in the industry, discussing our plans and even bringing back a few ideas for our own brewery, Haw River Farmhouse Ales, which we're planning to open next Memorial Day 2012.

Okay, no more messin' around... we have many researchings to do.

. . .

Monday, May 23rd

By Monday morning, we realized it might be smarter to pace ourselves a little for the rest of our trip. :) We started heading east across Maryland, and decided to stop at Barley & Hops Grill & Microbrewery in Frederick (Dawnya grew up near and still has family in Baltimore, so in an effort to expedite our schedule and maximize exposure to new places while out and about, we decided to skip Clipper City, Max's Taproom, Flying Dog and a whole host of other great spots in Maryland, since we're up that way a few times a year anyway and can always catch them on a holiday trip or weekend away).

Very cool idea of integrating the brewing process with
a mainstream, approachable "neighborhood" restaurant setting.

I wasn't sure what to expect when we pulled into Barley & Hops, which looked, from the outside at least, to have been converted from a TGI Fridays (or something similar... I thought I might have to check my "flair level" before entering) smack dab in the middle of a strip mall parking lot. It was a pleasant surprise when we walked through the door, the first thing we noticed was a grain elevator traversing a few feet above our heads, heading to our left and leading to a vast array of shining copper-clad, stainless steel brewing equipment, all visible to the patrons in the dining and bar areas. Guess it's not a TGI Friday's any more.

These are the types of decisions
I don't mind having to make.
As we were seated, we noticed small touches that appealed to us. The globe candles on each table were filled with malted two-row. Stacks of 55-pound bags of grain surrounded the dining room. Decorative hop bines were woven throughout some of the woodwork over the bar. This place was meant to cater to the everyday diner, but was definitely built for the beer lover.

We ordered a flight of everything they had on tap, and I asked to try their cask-conditioned Sugarloaf Saison on their hand pump (which they were out of... boo). Luckily, they had the Saison on their regular tap, which was included with our flight (all delicious beers, by the way... their stout was outstanding). The food was great, with a number of veggie-centric options, and the staff was friendly, knowledgeable and attentive (when we arrived, there weren't too many folks in the dining room—it was a Monday afternoon, after all). We missed their brewmaster by just a few minutes, but overall, we had an unexpected great time visiting Barley & Hops.

Since we weren't actually heading through Baltimore, we decided to head east toward Delaware across a few of Maryland's more rural roads, where we found fantastic examples of some rustic farmhouses. One of the concepts that we're considering for Haw River Farmhouse Ales is to design and build a barn-style structure to house both the brewery and a small brewpub, so we wanted to make sure we tracked down and photographed a variety of farmhouse buildings and barns as we traveled.

Just one of many beautiful farm buildings
we ran across during our travels.

So as not to overload our day, we decided to simply head east into Delaware (with a quick stop in Marriottsville to pick up some beach house keys for that evening! Thanks Lew!), pointing ourselves toward the original Dogfish Head Brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

Sorta like Graceland,
but with more beer.

And fewer blue-haired old ladies.
Being able to visit Dogfish Head was a true treat. We decided to sit outside to take advantage of the cooler-than-usual evening, and were led to a table beside a few arbor-trellises of various hop strains. Nice touch. As we took our seat, we couldn't help but notice the sheer number of "all-star" brews on the menu. We were excited.

Dogfish Head takes pride in trying new things. Their motto is "Off-centered Ales for Off-centered People" and it really shows in the selection of beer they craft, the quality of food they offer and the decor within the brewpub they run. We were able to try one of their brewpub exclusives (which I'd been itchin' to try for awhile) called Noble Rot, a farmhouse saison-style wild fermented with grapes, their Black & Red, a mint-raspberry stout, and a test-batch of their famous 120 Minute IPA (they recently had problems with this recipe, which they've just now finalized the fix, so when we were there, they had one of their test batches on tap).

Good thing this was the last stop for the evening.
The 120 Minute alone is 18% ABV (and 100% delicious).

After dinner, we took a little break and walked down to the beach, stuck our toes in the sand... and then figured it made sense to pop back into the Dogfish Head pub on the way back for a nightcap (and apparently $250+ worth of stuff to bring back home) before we left. On our stop back in, I was able to try their newly-released Hellhound on my Ale (a tribute to blues legend Robert Johnson) which had much more of a lemony bite (in a very good way) than I thought it would have. We met a few folks who were on a similar trip to ours (although I think theirs was "just for the heck of it", rather than a... ahem... research trip), shared some stories and another beer or two, then grabbed a cab south to Ocean Isle to hit the sack and cap our Monday.

Barley & Hops Grill & Microbrewery | Frederick, MD
Brew of Note: Schifferstadt Stout
What We Brought Back: Barley & Hops was a really interesting spot. What looked like a converted chain restaurant when we drove up turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise inside: these folks really love brewing beer. Their brewing system and ingredients were an integral part of the decor: full bags of malted barley were stacked alongside the rows of booths, clear glass panels encased the brew system and you have to basically duck beneath the chute on the way in that delivers the grains from the silo out front into the mash tun for brewing. So I can appreciate the fact that this "mainstream"-style restaurant/brewpub really pushes the boundaries of what their audience knows and may be interested in learning about the brewing process in general. With our own brewery, it'll be important to keep in mind that not everybody is as big of a couple of beer nerds as we might be, so there's a balancing act.
On the Web:

Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales | Rehoboth Beach, DE
Brew of Note: Noble Rot, Black & Red, Hellhound on my Ale... the list goes on...
What We Brought Back: To a beer lover, Dogfish Head is one of a few mecca-type locations in the country. Owner Sam Caligione is somewhat of a craft beer "rockstar" in the community, with books, TV shows and partnerships with celebrity chefs all dotting his resume. But there were some small touches Dogfish Head made that stood out to us: they place great importance on locally-sourced ingredients for their food menu, as well as local support for their community. We recently got t-shirts made for Haw River Ales that read "Think Global. Live Local. Drink Southern." We were pleased to see a chalkboard in the Dogfish brewpub that lists all their local resources and vendors, stating in green and blue chalk at the top "Think Global. Eat & Drink Local." Hopefully this is some sort of omen from the brewing gods that means we're on the right track.
On the Web:

. . .

Tuesday, May 24th

After a quick bagel and a coffee, we said goodbye to Ocean Isle, MD and headed north: Destination Philly. Dawnya and I were both excited about heading to our first stop, Monk's Cafe, for lunch. One of the first sour beers we ever tried was a Monk's Cafe Flemish Red, and it could be argued that this single beer was the catalyst that eventually set into motion events that would lead to our decision to have Haw River Farmhouse Ales focus on traditional French- and Belgian-style farmhouse styles.

This rather humble facade
belongs to one of the best
beer bars in America.
Let me start off by confessing that this country boy is not a big fan of driving in the "big city"—never have been, probably never will be. Make fun of me, I don't care. I can certainly do it, I just don't like it. Okay, now that that's out of the way, I can let you know that we eventually did find a parking spot fairly close to Monk's Cafe in downtown Philadelphia. And as soon as we walked in, I knew it was worth the stress level of getting there.

Tight rows of dark wood, dusty shelves of unread books and bottle after bottle of magical elixir greeted us as we took refuge from the sweltering heat outside, grabbing two seats at the 12-stool bar. Monk's isn't a brewery, per se (although they do have a few "house-branded" beers that are brewed by Brouwerij Van Steenberge in Belgium just for them, the Flemish Red mentioned above being their flagship of sorts), but they have an incomparable selection of great beers, both from around the country and across the globe.

We had a pint of their Monk's Cafe Flemish Red straight from the tap, of course, and tried a bottle of their collaboration with Cantillon, which was simply ridiculous. We ordered the mussels and frites, we had another sour or two (and was able to try a Lost Abbey Red Poppy, which I was excited to see there, since Lost Abbey doesn't show up in NC) and we happened to bump into the Pennsylvania Market Manager for Ommegang, of all people (coincidentally enough, she sat right down next to us for lunch as we were chatting with the bartender about our brewery). We had a great time.

We'd heard about a reputable bottle shop called Bella Vista in the area, so since we were already in Philly, we headed that way (it was a short walk from Monk's). When we arrived, we were dismayed to see that the shop was more of a wholesale/distributor open to the public, with cases of beer for sale, rather than single bottles. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with being able to buy a case of Russian River Supplication; I'm just not sure walking back through the neighborhood we had just strolled through with a hundred dollar case of beer on my shoulders would have been such a hot idea. For a few reasons.

A little disheartened, we headed back to our parking spot, only to find we showed up 10 minutes past the expiration of the meter. Kudos to you, City of Brotherly Love for being Johnny on the Spot with those parking tickets! As we pulled away from our spot, we headed toward Yards Brewing Company, another brewery in the area we'd heard great things about.

Glad we decided to pop into Yards. We just missed the tour,
but the beer was great, the patrons were friendly,
and the owner was willing to chat with us for a few.
Yards was one of the friendliest brewpubs we visited while traveling. As we cozied up to the bar, we ordered a flight (noticing a trend here?) and a few pints not available in small glasses. Yards brews what they call their "Ales of the Revolution" series, which includes beers based on historic figures from our country's past and their own beer recipes. We were able to try General Washington's Tavern Porter, Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce Ale and Thomas Jefferson's Tavern Ale while we were there (the spruce beer appealed to us a lot more than I thought it would). And as we were wrapping up our visit to Yards, owner Tom Kehoe stopped by our seats to visit for a few minutes and then wish us luck on our travels.

Eclectic both on the outside and in,
Earth Bread + Brewery was one of the more unique stops
we made during our travels.
Our next stop was just across town to Earth Bread + Brewery, which turned out to be truly one of the most unique and appealing spots we visited on our trip. I found one of the most interesting facets of Earth Bread to be the fact that they brew all "one-off" batches of beer; they have no true flagship, maintain no annual offerings, and don't distribute, which means if you want a pint of Earth Bread's beer, you're heading into Earth Bread to drink it. And there's certainly nothing wrong with that; the beauty of it is that this was seriously some of the best beer we tried during our two week travels. 

The small brew system resides in a section of
sunken floor just past the bar. Pretty cool.
We were able to sit down to speak with owners Tom Baker and Peggy Zwerver to got some great information regarding both practical brewing and cost-effective food service. Tom's main focus is keeping his beer and his food both simple and delicious. Earth Bread highlights local, seasonal specialties on its menu board, and strives to reflect the same aspects in its revolving beer menu. From their own website: "Our tenet is founded upon honesty, sustainability, environmental stewardship and a sense of place in our community. We embrace the connection between people and the foods we eat, emphasizing local and organic ingredients and products, and the producers and farmers with whom we work." I can certainly get behind that.

Exhausted from another productive day of brewery- and bar-hopping, we headed west to Downington to visit another of our favorite breweries, Victory Brewing Company. Surprisingly busy for late on a Monday evening, Victory offered both a range of our favorites and a few brewpub exclusives. We had the chance to try a cask-conditioned version of their fantastic HopDevil IPA, as well as a few summer seasonals and others not available in North Carolina. Had it been a little earlier in the day, we would have stuck around a bit longer.

Our visit to the Victory brewpub would have been twice as great
if we hadn't been so exhausted from... well, drinking beer all day.
We tried to make it to a hotel in Scranton that evening, but exhaustion (and a fire-breathing, razor-wire-antlered mammoth-deer hybrid beast that almost ran smack-dab into the front of our car traveling 70mph along the PA turnpike) kept us from making it that far. Found a little place in Allentown, Pennsylvania after deciding it was time to get off the road and hit the sack after a long day.

Wednesday morning, we point ourselves toward Cooperstown, NY, but it ain't for the baseball... (to be continued)

Monk's Cafe | Philadelphia, PA
Brew of Note: Monk's Cafe Cuvee de Monk's Gueuze
What We Brought Back: Like we mentioned above, the Monk's Cafe Flemish Red was the first sour beer we'd ever had, so visiting Monk's Cafe while we were in Philadelphia was a no-brainer. The bar itself had a great, friendly feel, and one of the ideas we had while we were sitting at the bar there was to either carry a range of "import" beers from Belgium (since we're producing "Carolina versions" of Belgian and French beers, it might benefit our customers to have access to genuine Belgian beer by the bottle) or have a few guest taps that carry Belgian-style beers from other NC craft breweries.
On the Web:

Yards Brewing Company | Philadelphia, PA
Brew of Note: Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce Ale
What We Brought Back: Yards Brewing Company seems like a true neighborhood brewpub and business, located in the Northern Liberties neighborhood in Philly. When we sat down, we joined a handful of local guys, some tourists, a few of the brewers and owner Tom Kehoe, all sitting at the bar together.As a hub for the neighborhood, Yards succeeds by leaps and bounds. Our hope is that the Haw River Farmhouse will become a similar hub for the neighborhood one day.
On the Web:

Earth Bread + Brewery | Philadelphia, PA
Brew of Note: Gryphon
What We Brought Back: Tom & Peggy have something very special in Earth Bread + Brewery. We had the chance to sit down and speak with both of them, and learned a good deal about the balance between creating a viable business and responsible steward of the community's resources. We've considered building our own brick oven for Haw River Ales to  They brew each batch as a stand-alone product; never do they repeat a batch's recipe exactly. Although this would cause nightmares for distributors or local accounts for most breweries, Earth Bread serves its beer only in its own brewpub, which means they have the freedom to experiment and offer innovative beers that can only be found in one place. You have to respect that.
On the Web:

Victory Brewing Company | Downington, PA
Brew of Note: Cask-conditioned HopDevil
What We Brought Back: The Victory brewpub was a huge, bustling restaurant-style establishment with both plenty of bar space and dining area alike. They utilized reconditioned pieces of old copper brew systems to make their corner booths, which I thought was a great idea and exuded a polished, unique presence within the pub. This facet sparked a conversation between Dawnya and I that evening that has since evolved into our researching reconditioned barns within the area to help build our own facility. But more on that later...
On the Web:

Friday, June 17, 2011

Our Beer Tour/Research Trip: Days One & Two

My business partner Dawnya and I recently took a little vacation (ahem… research excursion) throughout the northeast US in an effort to visit as many breweries, beer bars, hops farms and bottle shops as possible, to talk to folks in the industry, gather as much information as we could and then return with some ideas and concepts for Haw River Farmhouse Ales, the small craft brewery we plan to open Memorial Day 2012. Before we left, I shot emails to most of the places on our list, so we didn't just end up popping in unannounced. Most folks got back in touch before we split, and we ended up getting the chance to talk to a range of talented, fascinating people over our two-week travels.

One happy traveler.
Over the next couple weeks, I'll be posting daily summaries of our trip, including the places we stopped by, the great people we spoke with and the fantastic beers we tried, and then reiterating some of the aspects of the businesses that impressed us, including ideas we had that may work well for what we have planned with Haw River Farmhouse Ales. This will hopefully give you, our newest fans, a better idea of what we're planning for the brewery next year when we open.

Enjoy the ride... I know we did. 

. . .

Saturday, May 21st

Impromptu jam session out front
of Fullsteam in Durham, NC.
We started our trip a day early (our original plan was to leave early Sunday morning to hit our first destination around lunchtime), since a friend of ours invited us to a private party at none other than Durham's own Fullsteam Brewery (by the way, congrat's to Nathan and Amy on their recent nuptials!). Fullsteam Brewery opened almost a year ago in the "do-it-yourself" district of downtown Durham, NC, and if you have yet to try one of their beers, you're really missing out. Founder and self-proclaimed "Chief Executive Optimist" Sean Lilly Wilson played a key role in getting the legal ABV-limit raised a few years ago in the state (visit for details), and he's continued forging ahead with some pretty innovative and unconventional takes on traditional styles of beer. Case in point: we had the chance to sample a very limited edition of something they called "Sullivan's Non-Sequitur", a farmhouse saison brewed with Cheerwine. Yep, that Cheerwine. (It was delicious, by the way, and tasted nothing like the sweet soda, since the yeast pretty much eats all that sugar).

After we left Fullsteam, we ran into some friends and popped by Durham's newest brewing establishment, Bull City Burger & Brewery. These guys just opened their doors a month or so ago, and we've been itching to get by to try some of their beer. When you go, don't miss out on Zach's Bowl of Pickled Stuff, the contents of which change daily based on whatever chef Zach Faulisi finds locally available he wants to pickle in-house. Pure brilliance.

Fullsteam Brewery | Durham, NC
Brew of Note: Summer Basil Farmhouse Ale
What We Brought Back: Fullsteam's motto is "plow-to-pint", which is a great verbal manifestation of a concept, and although they're in our own backyard, we're planning on using local, farm-grown ingredients in a lot of our beers as well ('course, that makes sense for a "farmhouse" brewery, no?). Their mission is also to "develop a Southern craft beer identity", which is at the top of our list as well (my personal assumption is that over the next decade, the beer market is going to shift away from the Big 3 and much more locally in a big, big way). Keep an eye out for the guys at Fullsteam... they're going places.
On the Web:

Bull City Burger & Brewery | Durham, NC
Brew of Note: Honorable Bell's Big Brown Ale
What We Brought Back: Once again, BCBB uses mostly locally-sourced ingredients in their food. Although they're definitely more of a food-centric restaurant that brews their own beer (it's not "Brewery & Burger", after all), the beers we tried all stood on their own. Locally-sourced food available to the patrons that visit our brewpub is definitely one of the aspects of our trip we encountered every day and one we brought back with us (and we have ideas for making it a bit unique—stay tuned!)
On the Web:

. . .

Sunday, May 22nd
Off to a good start (with a couple of mild headaches left over from our unplanned festivities Saturday night), we hit the road and headed west an hour, to Foothills Brewing in Winston Salem, NC. There, we met a few friends of ours from the area for lunch and tried a few beers we'd not had the chance to try before (oddly enough, neither Dawnya nor I had actually ever visited the Foothills brewpub, even though it's only an hour away... I know, I know, I'm ashamed too). Dawnya ordered a flight and I couldn't resist the Barrel Aged Peoples' Porter (Peoples' Porter itself is such a great beer, but aged in an oak bourbon barrel? Please take my money, kind sir.)

No, we didn't find any secret stash of
Sexual Chocolate anywhere, so stop asking.

Heading north into Virginia after visiting Foothills, we noticed Pilot Mountain on the horizon. Again, although growing up in North Carolina and living only two hours away most of my life, I'm ashamed to say I never actually knew there was a Pilot Mountain, after which Foothills' Pilot Mountain Pale Ale is named. It was actually pretty cool.

I don't really see the face (must be the back of his head, I guess).

Our next stop was Blacksburg, VA. Pulling into town, you start to notice things. Turkeys, in fact. A lot of turkeys (or statues of big cartoon-y turkeys, at least). Plus, everything's painted red and orange (yeah, red and orange). For those not really into college sports, Blacksburg is home to the Virginia Tech Hokies, which, according to some folks I've asked, is apparently some sort of castrated turkey (or, according to my mother, it's from some arbitrary line in a cheer... as an ECU graduate, I'll choose to believe the former).

Standouts at Bull & Bones were
the witbier, the dopplebock
and the dry stout.
Bull & Bones Brewery was our next destination, which is located in a strip mall of sorts. Walking in, you notice a definite "sports bar" vibe (there are TVs everywhere); there's a super-polished sheen over everything that personally didn't appeal to us (don't get me wrong, it's a nice place; I just tend to lean toward more rustic, hand-crafted breweries). Actually, let me rephrase that, in an attempt at fairness: If I lived close to Bull & Bones, I could see myself coming here rather often. It just wasn't what I was looking for on our trip. That said, they sported a number of very solid beers, from their Sun Lit Wit to their St. Maeve's Stout, which was a little thinner than I like my stouts, but tasty nonetheless. Their Dopplebock was outstanding as well.

We headed up the Appalachian Mountains to the Wintergreen area, where we found Blue Mountain Brewery & Hop Farm. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, Dawnya and I started noticing details of what we might like to incorporate in our own brewery. "Look, they have hop bines along trellises in the front." "Hey that's cool, there's a branded grain silo in the back." "I dig the 'winery/vineyard' feel to this place." We quickly found Blue Mountain to be an extremely family-friendly place, and we decided to sit outside to take advantage of the nice weather (we'd soon find out storms can plow through town pretty quickly up there). Although we weren't able to get a few of the beers I'd heard were good (for seasonal reasons), we ended up with a couple flights and tried a delicious Weizenbock (it may have actually been a Kristalweizen... I left my notebook in the car at Blue Mountain) and a really good Altbier, which you can't find in too many places these days.

We also decided to bring home a six-pack of their canned flagship Full Nelson Pale Ale and a 750mL bottle of their bottle-conditioned Belgian Tripel called Mandolin, rather gracefully designed and packaged with a cork and cage, that's residing on our beer shelf, begging to be opened soon.

Blue Mountain Brewery was awesome. Looked like
a great place to bring your family on a weekend afternoon.

Toward the end of the night, clouds started building and we wanted to make sure we made it to Devil's Backbone before the sky opened up (plus we were sitting outside at Blue Mountain). Making it south to Roseland just in time (man, you guys get some insane thunderstorms up there), we slid into the front door of the Devil's Backbone brewpub to be greeted with a couple of smiling hostesses, a whole lot of shiny woodgrain and a dozen or so stuffed animals (as in "taxidermied", not "Fozzie Bear").

Devil's Backbone was like home.
But with delicious pints of beer.
And a stuffed moose.
I'm not sure if it was because of the Shakespearean storm outside or because we were exhausted after our first full day on the road, but Devil's Backbone had a rustic charm to it unlike any other location on our trip. As would become our norm, we ordered a flight of their mainstays and sampled some really delicious beer. Their Eight Point IPA was a standout (I ordered a pint or two after the flight), as was their take on a farmhouse Saison, called Inspirado. We ended up staying a little later than we intended in order to let the rain die back down, and had the chance to meet a few locals and try some additional brews before we hit the road to Charlottesville to find our hotel (got a little lost on the way, pulled into a parking lot to turn around, and happened upon the coolest vehicle I've ever seen: The Wahooptie Tailgater... yes, those are tap faucets on the side).

Too bad the place was closed. I would have
traded in my VW in a skinny minute.
After waking up Monday morning, we headed east into Maryland and ended up a little off-centered for the day... (to be continued)

Foothills Brewing | Winston-Salem, NC
Brew of Note: Barrel Aged Peoples' Porter
What We Brought Back: Foothills has amazing beer, but they also have some damn sharp branding. Each of their products has its own distinct brand, and they share a familial look & feel across the board. As a trained and schooled graphic designer, I can appreciate this brand continuity between product lines (and you'd be surprised how many of the places we stopped on our trip didn't quite grasp this concept).
On the Web:

Bull & Bones | Blacksburg, VA
Brew of Note: Dopplebock
What We Brought Back: Our visit to Bull & Bones gave us some great ideas as to what we don't want to do with our brewery (no offense to Bull & Bones, which did have some really great beer... it just had a lot of things that weren't on par with what we're looking to do with our own place, and that's sort of the point of this little section of the blog entry). They had this strip of frosted ice running down the bar that was pretty cool (although I'm not a big fan of the "frosted glass", so take that for what it's worth).
On the Web:

Blue Mountain Brewery & Hopfarm | Afton, VA
Brew of Note: Full Nelson Virginia Pale Ale

What We Brought Back: Just as Blue Mountain centers their place around family gatherings, so we plan to do as well. Our idea at this point is to have a split pub area (half inside, half outside) with a few long communal tables, so folks can bring their families and friends and stay awhile (assuming we can get clearance, we'll even invite the canine members of your family to the outside half!). We also dug the fact that Blue Mountain grew some of their own hops (Cascade and Centennial, for those wondering). Climate permitting (we're testing a few rhizomes now, so we'll see what we can grow and how it jibes with what we have planned), we'll have a few bines on the farm, the flowers from which will hopefully end up in special small batches of either our Autumn Harvest Saison or something else we're considering brewing...
On the Web:

Devil's Backbone Brewing | Roseland, VA
Brew of Note: Inspirado
What We Brought Back: This was a very cozy, very friendly-feeling place. A lot of polished, exposed wood, high ceilings and comfy corner nooks. Luckily, the beer held up as well—their saison was one of the best we tried on our trip. We got some great ideas from the general look of Devil's Backbone, and were able to confirm some of the concepts we have for the brewpub area we'll want in our own brewery. Because we're planning a farmhouse brewpub in semi-rural North Carolina, it makes sense to use reclaimed wood (for aesthetic reasons, as well as sustainability ones) and leave exposed a few structural components.
On the Web:

Friday, April 1, 2011

Organic or Local or Seasonal (or Does it Matter)?

As I've mentioned before, the market for craft beer in North Carolina (both brewing it and appreciating it) is a lively and healthy beast these days. Just about every small brewery in the state has a solid, tasty example of a dark stout, a crystal-clear lager, a fruity weizen… the list goes on, and it's certainly an enjoyable one to explore. But more interesting to me (as a self-proclaimed beer snob and potential entrepreneur within this segment of the community) are the lengths to which some of these progressive breweries are going in order to become more sustainable and more socially responsible, all while brewing a solid pint of beer.

Mother Earth Brewing in Kinston utilizes an array of solar panels for power, pulls tap handles made from bamboo, walks around on eco carpet and utilizes a tankless water heater for their hot liquor. They even use old blue jeans as insulation within their walls and their head brewer Josh recently traded his car for a bike. That's pretty awesome.

Highland Brewing Company in Asheville adopted the Swannanoa River, participating in annual cleanup efforts. And instead of charging for their brewery tours, they request the donation of canned food items that are then provided to the Manna Food Bank.

Durham's Fullsteam Brewery takes pride in their lofty mission to "develop a Southern craft beer identity". They also have a test recipe in the works called "300 Mile", which will be made with ingredients found only within a 300-mile radius of their headquarters in central NC (an ambitious goal, if you're familiar with the process of brewing beer).

This last project is one after my own heart. Next spring, we're planning to open our own brewery called Haw River Farmhouse Ales in Saxapahaw, North Carolina, just west of the Triangle region of the state. Saxapahaw is located in what could be considered "rural" NC, although it's about as progressive as they come. Although the bustling little town only covers a shade over five square miles of North Carolina's backyard, it boasts a number of cultural and natural draws, and between the Saxapahaw General Store, the Eddy Pub, the Haw River Wine Trail, Paperhand Puppet Intervention, the Hawbridge School… (the list goes on, so apologies if you're being left out), Saxapahaw is growing into quite a regional destination with a unique personality.

So when we decided to plant our brew-soaked feet in Saxapahaw, the first question we asked while looking at our recipe collection was "What should Haw River Farmhouse Ales brew?" One of our earliest desires was to establish a Belgian-style farmhouse brewery, which we thought would fit perfectly into the area for a number of reasons, so we then had to ask ourselves what type of beer would make the most sense, and then more importantly, how that beer should be made. Should our ingredients be traditional Belgian (imported), or locally sourced? Should they be organic? Should they be seasonal, and therefore more natural? And how do these decisions impact both the cost and availability of what we'll offer our patrons? And further, will it matter to the folks who tip back a pint either way?

The challenge with locally sourcing a brewery's ingredients in this manner lies in the geographic availability of such ingredients (hence my interest in and appreciation for Fullsteam's 300 Mile project). Unlike a small restaurant, which can more easily source most of its ingredients from local farms and dairies, a brewery and its product line both have specific needs; hops and barley usually can't just be planted in your backyard garden with great results, at least not on a commercial scale (and even after the grain is harvested, it needs to be malted, a process which only a few companies in the world handle on a large scale these days), to say nothing of any added adjuncts, fruit, sugars, specialty grains, etc. North Carolina State University has a few pilot programs in place researching regional hops development, but last I checked, the closest maltster was more than a few miles away.

I recently asked our Facebook and Twitter followers which they preferred in their favorite brew: locally-sourced ingredients or organically-grown ingredients? The consensus seemed to be split, for the most part — many preferred local ingredients, while slightly fewer found organic ingredients of importance (my assumption is that general "ignorance" of the brewing process may have lent some weight to these particular results). Also, I assume folks that don't really care how their beer is made probably didn't bother to answer, since I know there are plenty out there who don't find it important (oh, you crazy Miller Chill drinkers and your inebriated indifference…). In a perfect world, we'd be able to source local, organic ingredients and brew beer with those raw building blocks mere days after they're harvested (and for the record, that's our goal at Haw River Farmhouse Ales). But with a brewery, that's not really an option just yet. The ingredients are certainly available, but if you order 55-pound bags of organic grain from hundreds of miles away, how does that affect the net impact on your goals?

So what do you think? Is it better for a brewery to create local brews using non-traditional ingredients (which in turn, may or may not be responsibly grown), or should they look toward organic ingredients from further away than seems to make sense? Is certified organic beer a trendy phase on the fringe of a movement, or a harbinger of craft beer's next step into its increasing market share? Do brewers have the same social responsibilities as, say, chefs? Or do challenges with sourcing ingredients give beermakers a "pass" with their customers? For that matter, do their customers even care? So many questions and options… I think I'll go have a beer.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Our Plan, Our Name, Our Beers!

Been a while since our first blog post. Sorry about that – we've been busy brewing test batches (and test batches, and test batches...)! The good news is that we've pulled together and polished what will eventually become the final concept for the new brewery (which, if you're reading this, you can probably see reflected at least somewhat in the header above). The plan is to open our new brewery, Haw River Farmhouse Ales, in Saxapahaw, North Carolina on Memorial Day 2012.

Haw River Farmhouse Ales will handcraft small batches of Belgian- and French-style ales using locally-sourced ingredients in each of our beers and certified organic ingredients where possible. Our goal is to approach our recipes, our process and our community responsibilities in a similar manner to the small farmhouse breweries located in France and Belgium from centuries past. Because North Carolina is quickly becoming a major player in the U.S. craft beer industry, we decided we didn't simply want to produce yet another American Lager or India Pale Ale; there are many skilled North Carolina brewers producing fine examples of such beers in our own backyard. Instead, we hope to complement the budding Carolina craft beer community by exploring a slightly less tapped style of beer (please forgive my awful pun) here in our great state, all while giving each beer we produce its own voice reflecting the traditions and history of North Carolina and the surrounding region. By brewing using local ingredients and adding our own little creative spin to things, we hope to craft unique beers based on traditional Belgian techniques and styles that you can only find coming from Haw River Farmhouse Ales in North Carolina.

For the past few weeks, we've been working hard fine tuning a few of our favorite recipes in an effort to establish what we hope will be the first three styles of beer available next Memorial Day when we open our doors. Because we're planning on producing small batches, we'll have plenty of other beers available from time to time on a limited basis (more details on these coming soon), but we'd like to be able to offer a few "flagship" beers on a year-round schedule.

The first will be a golden Saison, traditionally made by farmhouse breweries during the Wallonian spring as a light, refreshing beer for the farmhands to drink while working during the sultry days of summer. Haw River Farmhouse Ales' version uses organic pilsner malt, organic Hallertau hops and local North Carolina honey, finishes dry, crisp and fruity, and will weigh in at around 5%ABV for a truly sessionable, thirst-quenching brew.

What we're planning for our second beer is a light, fruity, slightly grassy Belgian Pale Ale, something of a "Belgian beer for everyone". Balanced by a crisp bitterness in the backend that pushes an aroma of Cascade and Sorachi Ace hops, this beer will also measure about 5%ABV.

To round out our lineup, the third beer we're planning to have available is our Belgian Chocolate Stout. We're brewing a pitch-black milk stout using Amarillo hops for bitterness and flaked rye for body, then fermenting it at higher-than-normal temperatures with a Belgian yeast, which lends a slight citrusy character to the aroma, flavor and finish that complements the roasty chocolate notes perfectly.

Like I said, we've got a few more batches in test mode, to be released on a limited basis (and when they're polished up and perfected): a Wild Black Saison (made with local Buckwheat honey and funky yeast), a Belgian IPA (dry hopped with 3 different types of hops, as well as North Carolina wildflowers), a Peach Witbier (using local North Carolina peaches), a special series of Bières de Garde to be released every few months in bottles, another special series of brews that will celebrate North Carolina and its special residents, seasonal rarities that celebrate the harvest cycles and natural lifelines of the ingredients… we've got a few ideas. The key at this point is that we get the three specialties we'd like to have available year-round perfected, and then go from there. Stay tuned for more detailed updates over the new few weeks, including information on becoming involved in participating in private tasting sessions. À votre santé!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Just getting started...

As many of you may know, I've recently been... ahem... "introduced" to the opportunity to hunt down a new line of work (actually, I sold my share of my design firm Springboard Eydo to my former business partners, and could start a new one, I guess... just not sure I'm up for sitting in front of a computer 8-10 hours a day again for the next umpteen years...)

But I digress. After graduating college in '99 and deciding to start my first graphic design company (then, just a one-man shop called Perpetua Interactive), I told myself I'd sell whatever I had going on my fortieth birthday and open a restaurant. I figured the change would do me good, and I always loved the idea of using whatever creative mind I've been given to craft unique dishes and a culinary experience in the "formal setting" of a restaurant establishment.

So in October 2010, when I decided to potentially wrap up my formal graphic design career, my first thought was that I'd get an early start (I'll be 34 in February) on that restaurant business I'd always wanted to chase down. But tugging at the back of my mind was my newfound love for all things beer. Over the past year or so, I've learned to better appreciate what real beer has been over the centuries and is today, what it tastes like, what goes into it, and how it's created. I've experienced the dry, fruitiness of a saison, the malty complexity of a baltic porter, the acidic tartness of an oude gueuze, and have had the pleasure of finding the time to fine-tune my own beer making skills. The idea of my own restaurant quickly gave way to that of a bustling brewpub, which has since evolved into a desire to start a craft brewery.

The beer business in North Carolina is booming (to understate things just a tad). From Durham's Fullsteam, to Asheville's Highland, to Farmville's Duck Rabbit, along with promising newcomers like Mystery Brewing Company and Roth Brewing, the NC craft beer scene is certainly on its way up. If we're to open a new brewery, it has to carve its own little niche in the blossoming arena that is becoming Carolina Beer Country, working alongside and in concert with our fellow brewers, helping to move forward the exciting and unique identity North Carolina is quickly acquiring within craft beer circles.

We have ideas. Good ones. I've spent the last 20 years of my life having to push creative out the door on a timeline, so applying whatever skills I have to beer recipes and branding should come naturally, at least (I hope). This isn't to say that there isn't a lot of hard work in my future — there certainly is (and then some). And because the area is bustling with both established craft breweries and newcomers alike, it's important that we don't simply open the doors on a brewery that bottles yet another pale ale or stout with a fancy label. So stay tuned for what I hope will be a host of great developments and innovative directions over the next few months. It's gonna be a fun ride.