Monthly Archives: December 2011

A winter with no snow and a brewery with no beer.

I know the title of this post sounds a bit depressing, but in many ways these 2 facts are blessings.

Without our usual snowpack this time of year, I’ve been able to accomplish many things in the building of this futuristic old world brewery that would have been much more complicated had there been a few feet of snow on the ground.  For instance, Dan Walker was able to help me load my full barrel into the brewery a few days ago.  If you remember, prior to the construction really getting underway, I combined a number of test batches into an oak barrel and added the wild black currant berries that were growing by Tumalo Creek on our property (with the help of child labor).  This barrel was moved down to neighbor Terry Skjersaa’s place down the road to wait until the dust settled.  Well, the dust hasn’t quite settled all the way, but with the snow holding off I figured it was best to get the barrel back into the brewery.

Dan Walker, neighbor and wilderness forklift operator, delivering the goods.

Across our gravel road, Eric Anderson (another neighbor), set up his mobile timber framing workshop in the garage of John Simonson (yes, another neighbor).  Eric is building a couple of gigantic and extremely heavy doors for The Ale Apothecary.  He’s using old-world techniques from Japan, France, and Neolithic times in order to do this, by the way.  Later, once these doors are installed, I’ll dedicate an entire post to the building of these things.  They are amazing!  I can’t resist giving you a taste, however.  In many ways, his approach to his craft parallels my approach to brewing beer:  building something with the least amount of ingredients possible, with clean & distinct lines, and using age-old techniques.  The result is one that may look (or taste) like it was relatively easy to make, and therein lies the riddle, the crux, or the challenge.  The trend in the brewing industry is to saturate the consumers’ palate with all sorts of strange ingredients or a ridiculous amount of hop bitterness…experiments that I have participated in to the fullest.  Good training ground and many a good beer, but in the end I always came back to brew beers with the least amount of ingredients possible in order to develop a flavor profile that allowed each ingredient to participate.  Complexity through simplicity (or something like that).  Take a look at this door:  the framing members act like a gate support with the French passing brace angling from the hinge side down to the swinging side to maintain the integrity of the door when it’s opened.  It also, by chance, forms a great big ‘A’!  The two doors, once installed, will subtly shout out our acronym to the world.  The framing members have been torched and oiled (an old Japanese method for preserving wood) while the interior paneling is made up of recycled Southern Pine from an 1880′s building built in Chicago.  This wood came from the ‘honey pile’ of Doug Treadwell (yet another neighbor in the building trade).

Eric Anderson, neighbor and timber framer, and one of the doors he's creating for The Ale Apothecary.

As the snow is imminent in the upcoming season, so is Sahalie from our little mountain brewery.  You’ll notice that the brew kettle is missing from the following picture; it is back at Frink’s shop, getting some final touch-ups.  With all of the money and energy I’ve spent on this project, now is not the time to rush into anything…let alone this beer that I’ve discovered.  This beer that includes ‘TIME’ as one of its major ingredients shouldn’t come from a brewery that was built randomly, haphazardly, or without pause for reflection concerning its own time and place.  Look for yourself- in the following picture you’ll be able to see where the doors will go, our 400L oak puncheon fermenting vessels, bottling tanks, and mash tun experiments.  Also, if you know where to look, you’ll see my grandfathers’ desk, my great-grandfathers’ bottles, and an oversized glass carboy used by both of them to distill water in the windswept flats of Eastern Washington.  As I’ve stated before, this brewery is designed to infuse a particular energy and quality into Sahalie, the beer named after my daughter.  Through the past, the future!  As our culture continues to increase speed and coat everything with temporary technology, many of us know how much more is possible if you simply slow down and take the time to absorb your surroundings.  This brewery is absorbing its surroundings right now, the same way the beer will once we begin brewing.

There is simply a lot to take in.

Current status of The Ale Apothecary


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