Friday, December 14, 2012

Little Ol' Us at The Raleigh Rare Beer Festival!

Haw River Farmhouse Ales has been lucky enough to be invited to pour at the Raleigh Rare Beer Festival in Raleigh on January 26th, one of only two breweries-in-planning* (or maybe three, depending on whether our friends at Trophy Brewing get their doors open before the 26th), alongside some of the biggest names in craft brewing from around the state and the country.

To say we're both incredibly humbled and a bit anxious would be a slight understatement. The fact is that pretty much everything we could possibly pour could be classified by some as "rare beer", since you can't really get any of it anywhere until we open our doors next year. So in an effort to not be "those lame guys that think they can hang with the Big Boys & Girls", we put on our thinking caps and have put together a lineup of "alternate versions" of some of the recipes we're planning that we hope you'll enjoy. Here's what's on deck at this point:

  • A bourbon-barrel aged version of our Flanders Red on Cherries, aged for a year in a Heaven Hill barrel we acquired early last year and nestled safely into a corner in our third bedroom on top of 50 pounds of Michigan-grown Balaton Tart cherries.
  • A "breakfast" version of our Belgian-style Dubbel, brewed with a couple pounds of flaked organic oats and finished with roasted organic cocoa nibs and freshly ground Sumatra & Tanzania Peaberry coffee beans.
  • A sour version of Hiverna, our Winter Harvest Saison, brewed with pumpkin, butternut squash and sweet potatoes and specially aged on Brettanomyces, Lactobacillous, and a handful of French oak chips.
  • A 100% Brettanomyces Brux Trois version of our Cotton Pickin' Farmhouse IPA, dry-hopped with big fancy American hops like Citra, Amarillo & Simcoe.

We're also planning to bring a few surprises, including a few growlers of test batches of Communal, our ~3.2%ABV Table Beer, and perhaps some very limited samples of the results of our wild yeast collection experiments. We'll make a few last minute calls on whatever "extras" we have in tow for the day.

So as of today (December 14th), there still appear to be general admission tickets available, so make sure you reserve your spot now if you want to be there—it's pretty much guaranteed to sell out at some point! By the way, the festival is also a fundraiser for Pints for Prostates, so a portion of your ticket price goes to a great cause. We'll see you there! 

* By the way, the other brewery-in-planning is Quest Brewing out of South Carolina, who, based on what we've heard about what they have planned, we're really excited about. Check them out on Facebook and Twitter, if you're so inclined.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Home, Sweet Home...

After almost two years of relentless searching and several months of inspections, discussions, and nail-biting, Haw River Farmhouse Ales has found its new home!

Haw River Farmhouse Ales is proud to be the newest member of
the Saxapahaw business community. Can't wait to open in 2013!

(click this image to take a little closer look...)

Just last week, we signed a three year lease on the space that will become Haw River Farmhouse Ales in 2013, smack dab in the middle of our hometown of Saxapahaw, NC. Our new 3000 sqft+ home is located in the old Dye House building directly below The Eddy Pub, and just alongside The Haw River Ballroom, the Saxapahaw General Store and a number of other great neighbors. The majestic Haw River itself tumbles by just two hundred feet south from what will become our little outdoor seating area.

The recently restored building is an admirable testament to our hopes and plans with the brewery buildout and operation—it's geothermally heated, has solar arrays atop the roof, and is itself a reclaimed existing structure that utilizes found objects from the old mill as a number of its structural components. To say we're really excited about our location is a rather dramatic understatement—we cannot wait to show each and every one of you what we have planned for this space.

So stay tuned, everyone! We've got some really awesome ideas for the experience we know you'll love, and as we move forward designing the space and building out the brewery, we'll make sure to post photos, videos, updates and more, to help keep you in the loop and let you know how things are progressing! We're working hard to get beer in your glasses as soon as we can!! Please let us know if you'd like to come out to take a look in person or if you ever find yourself in Saxapahaw. We're always happy to have you swing by to say hello!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What Are You Thankful For?

We just wanted to take a moment out of our admittedly busy schedule to tell all of you something we've been meaning to say for quite some time:

Thank you.

Thank You, those of you who have liked us on Facebook or followed us on Twitter, and those of you who have told your friends and families about what we have planned when we open our doors here in Saxapahaw in 2013.

Thank You, those of you who have come out to our pouring events over the past year or two to learn more about Haw River Farmhouse Ales and try samples of our beer, and to those of you who have come back for seconds and thirds.

A ridiculously big Thank You to our 42 Barn Raisers, who have put your money where your heart is and supported our idea financially, before we've even signed our lease or ordered our equipment. Your loyal enthusiasm for what we're doing means more than we can put into words.

Thank You to those of you in the midst of the North Carolina craft beer scene who have written online or in print about us, who have told other craft aficionados what we're working on, who have bragged online about getting a bottle or two of our beer and shared photos and descriptions of our libations with your friends.

Thank You to the farmers, vendors, landowners and local residents here in Alamance County who have made time in your own busy schedules to speak with us about growing some of our ingredients, about sourcing equipment and supplies, about pitching in next year when we get our doors open by cleaning kegs, filling growlers or working the booth at an event.

Thank You, bartenders, restauranteurs, shop owners and buyers who have already let us know they'd like to carry Haw River Farmhouse Ales' tap handles, our bottles, our growlers, once we get kegs & bottles filled next year and get beer out the door and into your glasses.

And finally, a big Thank You to the brewers and business owners who have entertained many of our dumb questions with straight faces, who have offered to let us peek behind their doors, and who have selflessly provided information that most other industries would consider taboo—the craft beer industry is the very definition of altruistic, and for that, we're so thankful.

So this Thanksgiving, we both just want to say THANK YOU to each and every one of you reading this right now. Without you, we wouldn't even be close to realizing our dreams or becoming what we hope will become a compelling, complementary addition to the thriving North Carolina beer family, and we want you to know we're ever so appreciative of everyone out there who's been a part of this journey so far.

—Ben & Dawnya

PS: Just so ya know, we're about to kick this baby into high gear, so all of you who have been waiting for news on where the brewery's going to be, what the timeline on our opening is, and just what the heck has been going on for the past six months or so are in for a real treat. For now, enjoy a nice meal with the extended family, and we'll fill you in within the next couple of weeks; from where we're standing, 2013's gonna be a big year for Haw River Farmhouse Ales filled with fun and awesomeness, and we hope you'll be along for the ride.

PPS: Don't forget that North Carolina beer pairs wonderfully with both green bean casserole and annoying in-laws! Have a great Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Put that Spent Grain to Use!

A few weeks ago, Haw River Farmhouse Ales was lucky enough to have been invited to pour our beer alongside some of the most promising upstart breweries in the state, helping to raise funds to benefit the Triangle's oldest no-kill animal shelter, Second Chance Pet Adoptions. The awesome folks at Steel String Craft Brewery, Deep River Brewing Company, Four Saints Brewing Company and newcomers to the scene, Raleigh Brewing Company and Crank Arm Brewery, were all in attendance at Rockfish Seafood Grill in Durham for a night of great beer and great people.

As part of the effort, each of the breweries made dog biscuits from the spent grain left over from our batches of beer, and then made them available to attendees who made a $2 donation to the cause. Our treats went over like gangbusters, and we had a couple folks ask for the recipe, so here you go. Needless to say, you can easily double or triple the recipe (we needed a bunch for the event, but they keep pretty well):

• 2 cups spent grain (just make sure there are no hops included... hops are poisonous to dogs)
• 1 cup unbleached flour
• 1/2 cup natural peanut butter (make sure you include any of the oil as well)

• 1 egg

Mix ingredients thoroughly (don't be afraid to use your hands, to help to make sure everything's distributed well). Press into a large baking sheet (or two, if you're doubling the recipe) in a dense, consistent layer about 1/4"-1/2" thick. Score into the shapes you want (or use a cookie cutter shaped like a dog bone or something fun; Martha Stewart, of all people, has some that come in a few sizes that you can get at PetSmart) and bake at 350F for 30 minutes. After a half hour, take the sheet(s) out and cut all the way through the score marks to completely separate the individual treats, then bake at 225F for an hour. Brush each with an egg wash on the tops & sides, then bake another 3-5 hours or so (depending on how thick they are, how hot your over is, etc) or until dry and completely firm when you press them with your finger (they should feel like, well, a dog biscuit). Turn off the oven and leave the pan(s) in there until they're cooled (this helps to make them as dry and solid as possible).

By the way, for those of you out there who would like to try this recipe, but you've not yet delved into brewing your own beer, you can usually email your local neighborhood brewery and they'll be happy to allow you to swing by to fill a small bucket or two (the raw spent grain freezes well) next time they're cleaning up after a brewday. Or heck, we can always save a little for you next time we brew, as well—feel free to drop a line and we'll set aside a few bags' worth when we next drum up a batch!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Our Barn Raiser Fundraising Efforts: A Question & Answer Session

The response to our Barn Raiser fundraising has been humbling so far, as we've had an outpouring of support from both friends and family since we started offering them in January, as well as those who have heard what we have planned with Haw River Farmhouse Ales and are excited about what's in store. We do, however, get questions from folks fairly often asking about why we're selling them, what's included, how they can get one, etc, so we thought it might be helpful to put a little Q&A post together on our blog, to help explain things in a little more detail. If you've heard what we have planned and are interested in helping us get our doors open later his year, but still have questions or comments after reading through things, please don't hesitate to drop us an email and let us know. We love hearing from the folks in our community!

With your help, our Barn Raiser Founders Collections
will help us fund part of our brewery when we open later this year.

What the heck is a Barn Raiser?
We're planning to open our brewery a little later this year and are currently in the external "fundraising" portion of the start-up phase. And while a lot of our friends and peers starting up their own breweries decided that crowd-funding websites (such as Kickstarter or IndieGoGo) would be the best route to take for raising a few dollars, we decided we wanted to take on a more independent approach and offer custom, unique collections of high-end merchandise and one-of-a-kind opportunities for craft beer aficionados and small business supporters here in our community.

Why are you guys selling them?
We wanted to give our supporters the opportunity to get their hands on some unique and limited-edition stuff before we get our doors open, and we thought this might be an interesting alternative to the crowd-funding sites we mentioned above that have gained popularity lately. The revenue raised will help us bridge a gap in our start-up budget, of course, and allows us to keep our fundraising a little closer to the community than simply going to a bank and signing on for a big ol' loan. The money brought in from our Barn Raisers certainly won't fund our entire brewery, but it's a great way for us to set aside a little chunk of what we're doing and share it with our community.

I want to support what you're doing, but those prices look a bit steep for my budget. Anything else I can do to help?
First off, we're touched that this question actually does come up rather often at our events and public pourings—to have our friends tell us they want to give us financial assistance and be involved, but that we've not provided them the opportunity, is humbling, to say the least. And we never meant to exclude some of our closest friends and supporters by creating packages that included levels of merchandise that raise the price point a bit high. So we've heard your concerns and have decided to offer a smaller level we're calling the Barn Raiser Enthusiast, which should be available by the time you're reading this! We can't do it without every single one of you, so we want to make sure you can hop on board with us from the beginning and join the fun!

So what's in each of the "levels", and how are they different?
We started with two levels (the Barn Raiser Founder and Barn Raiser Premium) around the beginning of the year and have just released a third, less-expensive option in May, the Barn Raiser Enthusiast, for those folks who have expressed interest in what we're offering, but have a little more of a modest budget. Take a look below for a run-down of everything we include in each of the collections!

The Barn Raiser Enthusiast
Our Barn Raiser Enthusiast includes your very own Barn Raiser's t-shirt (a different cut and shirt design are available for men or women), an imprinted Belgian-style footed glass, a Barn Raising Founder certificate, a set of exclusive stickers and a single admission ticket to our private Barn Raiser's Founders party to be held before we open to the public. The perfect size for the beer lover in your life, our Barn Raiser Enthusiast is being sold for only $95.

The Barn Raiser Founder
Our Barn Raiser Founder includes everything in the Enthusiast, as well as an extra Belgian-style tulip glass, a set of unique stoneware coasters in a hand-numbered gift box, a wall-mounted bottle opener, a two-year membership to our Barn Raiser Founder's Club (which gets you discounts on merchandise, exclusive growler fills, special access to bottle releases, and much more once we're open), and a hand-numbered raffle ticket for the chance to win a day in the brewhouse (brewing a batch of your very own beer that will be sold in bottles, with 100% of the profits being donated to the 501c3 of your choice). The Barn Raiser Founder is a great choice for that special craft beer lover or drinkin' buddy in your life and sells for only $295.

The Barn Raiser Premium

Finally, our Barn Raiser Premium includes everything in the other two boxes, as well as an extra admission ticket to our private Barn Raiser's party, an extra raffle ticket for two chances to win a day in the brewhouse and a donation to the charity of your choice, a second Barn Raiser t-shirt (so you can have one for "him" and one for "her"), a piece of original art from our very awesome illustrator Nathan Golub, a wood wall-hanging with custom artwork you can display in your home, a lifetime membership to our Barn Raiser Founder's Club, and a single bottle of the very rare, very exclusive beer we'll have on tap at the private Barn Raiser's party, so you can bring home a little something special to age or share with friends! This one's the Cadillac of Barn Raisers for couples or the true craft beer aficionado, and sells for only $495.

What makes a shirt and a couple of coasters so special?
Every piece included in each box has been designed exclusively for inclusion in our Barn Raiser Collections, and will only be available to those who get in from the start and never be sold separately at any other point. We hope this helps add value to the pieces we've chosen to include in each of our Barn Raiser boxes.

Can't I just buy one of those nifty (shirts, glasses, coasters, stickers, et al) separately?
We'd love to, of course, but we think it wouldn't necessarily be fair to the Barn Raiser Founders who have supported us by investing in a full Barn Raiser box. We love the fact that so many friends and fans want to help us out, so we've tried to make it a bit more approachable by creating a smaller Collection for a more nominal price. If that's outside your price range, we'd certainly appreciate you letting your friends know about what we're doing, becoming our fan on Facebook or following us on Twitter, and seeing you come out to one of our future pouring events around the Triangle and Triad regions of NC!

What is the money raised by sales of the Barn Raiser Collections being put toward?
Every dollar raised by our Barn Raisers goes toward our general start-up budget, which includes budgeting for brewhouse equipment, ingredients, oak barrels and fermenters, operating costs, and more. We're also in discussions with a few local farmers to set up contracts with them to grow some of our ingredients, so your contribution will help us achieve some of our sustainability and local sourcing goals as well.

Are you actually "raising a barn"?
That's certainly our plan in the long-term, but our initial location when our doors open this year won't be a barn just yet. We expect to set up shop in a very cool centralized location here in Saxapahaw (details on our location are almost finalized, so sign up for our mailing list and keep an eye out for our announcement very, very soon!), and then organically grow into both our brand and our permanent home over the next few years, to the point where we can build our own barn/brewery/taproom on the edge of town when it's financially and feasibly sound.

Sounds fun. I'm in! Where the heck can I buy one?
First off, we think you're awesome. Now that that's been made clear, you can simply head to our online store over at, select the level of Barn Raiser you'd like to purchase, and then we'll get everything packed up and shipped to you for free within a couple days of your order!

Now that we've had a chance to explain some of the details involved with our Barn Raisers, we want to hear from you! Still got questions about what we're doing? Comments? Complaints? We want to you to drop us a line! If you like where we're headed and you think you may have friends who would also be interested, please feel free to forward this page to them or suggest they follow us on Facebook. Like we said earlier, we can't do this without you, and we appreciate every ounce of support from each and every one of you!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Beast from the Yeast is Growing!

Since we started our wild yeast collection experiment a few months ago, we've had more than a few folks contact us via email or approach us at events and mention they'd noticed us because of our blog post or heard someone discussing what we're doing. Seems there's a lot of interest from a range of different folks about what we're attempting to do, and from what we can tell, most of you are as excited as we are about what we're hoping to find.

Recently, we were lucky enough to have been invited to pour at Homebrewed Raleigh, alongside our friends at Carrboro's very own Steel String Brewery and a number of awesomely talented homebrewers from around the Triangle area. During the second session of the event, an enthusiastic couple came by our table to try the beer we were pouring (we brought a cask of our Farmhouse IPA, a hoppy Witbier and a special Spring version of our Saison, made with locally-malted barley from our friends at Riverbend Malt House in Asheville, NC) and mentioned they'd read the earlier blog post about our little experiment. As the conversation continued, we learned that one of them currently works at a local university as a research specialist, spending a majority of her time watching yeast cells under a microscope (serendipity is a clever creature sometimes, no? :) After hearing her questions and concerns about what we had planned (I believe her words were along the lines of "you'll want to try not to kill anybody with that..." but I digress), we decided it made a bit more sense to have our new friend take a look at our collected samples and give us her feedback and advice.

Each of the four vials were collected from spots
around Saxapahaw, NC a few months ago.

So here's a little update on where we are with the experiment these days. Last weekend, we handed off 4 vials of our wild yeast cultures to our new friend, so she can plate each of them, freeze down a sample on a variety of media, and then move forward isolating individual strains that potentially exhibit the qualities we're looking for in a brewer's yeast (the amount of sugar the yeast will eat [called "attenuation"], the alcohol tolerance of the particular strain, the ability for it to clump together and fall out of solution [called "flocculation"] after it's done doing its thing...). Right now, there exists in each vial a miasma of all kinds of living beasts (some friendly, some a bit more dastardly), so it's important to try to grow up single colonies of yeast cells in an effort to tell them apart and separate each of them into individual "neighborhoods", so we can really see what we're looking at, and (down the road) pitch the right amounts of each type into the beer we're making. Did I mention I'm glad we now have help with this?

This is an example of Brettanomyces Bruxellensis,
one of a many organisms we're hoping to find in our samples.

Once the strains are isolated and we can actually take a look at pure cultures, we're going to get DNA sequenced for the ones we want (so we can potentially identify them and match them up with existing strains), then pull a few into a very simple beer recipe (90-100% base malt, with a little specialty malt thrown in for a bit of body & sweetness, depending on the types of yeast we end up with and are testing out). These will be split evenly into a number of small fermenters, so we can let the aroma and flavor qualities of the yeast shine and see what we've got. We'll ferment the beer out and measure the sugars, and then analyze the results from a number of angles.

If we end up with an appealing outcome, we're hoping we can bank the yeast(s) with a service such as the one White Labs offers, and then be able to order that particular strain whenever we want to brew a new batch of a particular style. It'll be like having our own unique library of Saxapahaw yeast to use for the beer we make!

A secondary goal we have is to be able to gather data on what true spontaneous fermentation here in central North Carolina might look like, and then collect the data we need to attempt to control certain aspects of the process for a future batch of wild fermented lambic. But coolships and spontaneous fermentation is a subject worthy of another blog post. Stay tuned, folks—this is getting fun. ;)

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Beast from the Yeast

Those of you who follow us on Facebook (what, not you? Shame on you...) may have heard about a little wild yeast experiment we're currently working on. While the planning for the brewery is going well and finally moving forward after a few months of arduous location scouting (we'll have another blog post with details on this one very soon), we've been working on harvesting some wild yeast from our hometown of Saxapahaw, NC, as both a nod to our Belgian brethren across the pond and an exploration of just how "local" we can attempt to create a beer recipe.

A little birds-eye perspective on where we placed each of our collectors.

Our experiment began a few weeks ago by creating 3000mL of "starter wort" using carbon-filtered water and several ounces of light DME (that's basically a sugar water made from dried malt powder and a little yeast nutrient thrown in for good measure). We acquired a few small Pyrex containers and removed the center of the plastic lid with a utility knife, so we could "seal" the container but leave a nice big hole in the top to let the bugs in. We then sanitized the containers along with some cheesecloth and assembled each of our "yeast traps" by adding the wort, placing the cheesecloth across the top, then sealing the whole thing with the lid, leaving a nice, big, open hole in each for the yeast (and other things) to come on through. With the containers filled and prepared, we ventured out to a few spots in Saxapahaw to see what we could harvest.

The fig tree atop the hill
where Saturdays in Saxapahaw
is held each summer.
Sample A was placed beneath the fig tree that sits atop the hill overlooking the spot where Saxapahaw hosts its Saturdays in Saxapahaw events each summer (if you haven't been to one, you're missing out — follow SXPHW on Facebook for the upcoming schedule, which always includes really great bands every weekend). It's a little early for the tree to bear fruit, of course, but we wanted to see if some of the yeast might live there in the "off season", as it were.

The fireplace just off the Haw River,
south of the Rivermill apartments.
Sample B was brought in from a small perch on a stone wall just off the bank of the Haw River, which runs directly through Saxapahaw on its way down to Jordan Lake (then the Cape Fear River, then the Atlantic Ocean). Our hope with this one was to find out if the flow of the river might bring interesting things from the west, where it starts all the way from around Kernersville, NC. (Incidentally, when we picked this one up after a couple days' exposure, it looked like some wild critter — a raccoon perhaps? — had tried to get at the sweet wort inside. Luckily, the cheesecloth held fast and the varmint was deterred).

On the stone wall that surrounds
the patio upstairs at the Rivermill.
Sample C was placed just a bit closer to home, on the wall that surrounds the patio just outside the door of our apartment. We figured this was a nice, central location that would provide pretty reliable exposure from a number of different sources from all over Saxapahaw. Plus it was easier to keep an eye on it.

And Sample D we decided to actually leave inside our apartment, on the windowsill, just to find out if the "funk" might differ between inside and outside. Didn't have much hope for this one, but when we collected it after a few days, we were pleasantly surprised with a tart, floral, bready aroma.

After a few days of leaving our containers out in the cool, dry weather, we collected our samples, brought them inside, then transferred each of them into their own sanitized glass container (removing any mold that had gained purchase on the surface so as to try to cut down on too many off flavors or harmful bacteria from the start). Each container was covered with sanitized aluminum foil, so there'd be a bit of oxygen transfer to allow any yeast to grow a bit longer, then left alone to settle out.

After a few more days at room temperature, we made another "starter batch" of our DME-wort (twice as much this time), then pitched each wild yeast starter into sanitized half-gallon growlers with air-locks, like you see in the photo below.

Our wild yeast samples, safe and sound back at the homestead.
It's been a few weeks as of the time of this post, and so far, we've got fantastic growth in our "Fig Tree" sample and moderate growth in the Windowsill container (strangely enough). None of the samples have much of an off-aroma (none of them can safely be tasted just yet, just in case anything dangerous is present, which should be killed over the next few weeks as the pH drops in the samples), with the River and Windowsill samples smelling the cleanest (a varying degree of lemony, tart, spiceiness in each) so far. As things progress, we'll document in more detail the difference between each, and what we notice in the appearance, aroma and (eventually) taste of each sample.

Keep an eye on our Facebook page and this blog for a follow-up post over the next few weeks, spotlighting what we discover when we get these beasties grown up a bit more and under a microscope! Assuming we can get viable yeast from one (or all!) of our samples, we're planning to brew something rather special to be placed in a very cool 10g cask we picked up from one of our favorite beer bars in Raleigh a few weeks ago. Stay tuned, wild beer fans!

Postscript: In case you're wondering, the little note on each container says "Please don't drink me, disturb me or throw me away. I'm a yeast experiment left by someone who lives in the Rivermill Apartments. Thanks!"