Brave New (Old) Brewery…same as it ever was?

Winter weather has been upon us here up at the Apothecary for a while now…I’ve experienced issues with ice blocking my brewery doors, worrying about overnight temperatures during bottle conditioning, and difficulties getting my supplies and product in and out.  Overall, it’s been manageable but quite a bit more intense than I imagined (this might reek of a pattern to any of you long-time blog readers…I probably should have called my little brewery ‘Blind’!).  However, even with snow removal adding up to 3 hours to my ‘normal’ work day and , this experience is invigorating.

Next years' El Cuatro in primary fermentation at The Ale Apothecary.

Next years’ El Cuatro in primary fermentation at The Ale Apothecary.

I’ve been rewarded with a total of 6 beer vintages so far; 1 Spencer, 2 (TBFKA) La Tache, and 3 Sahalie.  All have been extremely well received.  My favorite recent experience was in Portland at a bottle share to celebrate The Commons brewery year-anniversary.  The admission fee was a bottle of something special, and folks brought amazing beers to share.  The first thing I saw was all 3 years of the Dissident from Deschutes Brewery as I set a bottle of Sahalie on the bar.  I moved away to taste other beers and was standing and sipping when a group of a few beer lovers raved about this beer they’d never heard of before that was currently blowing their minds: Sahalie.  Wow.  Super humbling.  We got to talking and I discovered that they are beer buyers for a well-established specialty beer market.  Hmmm.  Weird.

This type of thing (the hmmm….weird) has been happening quite a bit more frequently as of late.  The brewery is just about up and running at full capacity; meaning, I’m almost to the point where I can accurately predict output to a certain degree, just at the time when people are beginning to take notice.  All in all, it’s forced me to consider, if you can believe it, ‘What’s Next’.  If you’ve read past blog posts, you may remember how I predicted that this day might come?  How I would have to choose between growth and passion?  Well, it’s not nearly as black & white as I previously imagined (duh).  I have capped our Ale Club at 100 members for the time being to address this next phase…planning for the unknown future while trying to allow the brewery to be what it needs to be right now.  What it needs to be right now is the epic, mysterious brewery in the woods that supplies world-class beer experiences to some very special people (and to some very special retail outlets).  This is paramount.  However, with all of the interest and great feedback, I’d be silly to stop here.  While I have no idea what the future brings, I am certain that change will be part of it.  While I also immensely enjoy the physical labor, I’m currently doing 100% of it.  Things, for better or worse, do look a bit different on the other side of this hill that I recently went over…

SO, we are officially in Phase 3 whether I like it or not!  Here’s a reminder:
Phase 1: Build a small, old-world futuristic brewery in the woods.
Phase 2: Operate brewery at smallest possible level to determine feasibility and methodology.
Phase 3: Plan for future growth OR stay the course.
I said before that I’d be able to choose whether or not I entered Phase 3…this turns out not to be the case.  Phase 3 simply follows Phase 2, and it’s my job to ensure that this thing I gave birth to grows up with manners and integrity.  I can’t stop it from growing up, nor (with my current perspective) do I want to.

What does the future look like?  Good question.  Our website is nearly complete, and once it launches, will be able to define who we are to far more people than we are able to now.  Our beer is making it’s way out of state for the first time, all the way to Vermont!  (Off the record, our beer has ended up in Florida and New Jersey and Colorado, somehow.)  Beer lovers are everywhere, and with the way state laws are currently, it makes it extremely difficult to sell out-of-state. I see this changing in the future to allow easier shipments to more beer-savvy customers.  An alternate location for barrel- and bottle-aging is an option.  The current brewery may turn into just the brewhouse, where I can maintain my role and product integrity by conducting open fermentation and brewing techniques used here at the Apothecary.  Once the beer is in the barrel, I transport it to another location (with far more storage room) where the aging and bottling happens.  There are many more options than I can share here, but know that while the brewery will function as it is for some time now, down the road there will be changes of unknown variety.  Not very different from the entire history of this project, but now that our brewery has an identity and brands, don’t think I’m going to resist change in the name of ‘Old World’.  I call our beer ‘The Beer of the Future’ for many reasons; adapting to it and creating for it is my favorite part.

Here are a few examples of the reception that we’re receiving:

One of the top beers of 2012 (Weekly Pint).  The best review yet of Sahalie.

One of the 50 most wild brewers in America (Swedish beer blog).  Enjoy this read.

One of the standout breweries of 2012 (Beer West Magazine).  The mention us WAY near the bottom of the page, but we’re mentioned.

What the heck???  I’ll leave you with a link to a short video that my brother, Doug, made for the brewery.  This is his profession, so it’s totally worth watching, btw.  It was filmed right after brewing commenced in April of 2012, so much has changed, but it’s still a good vision on the brewery.  Enjoy!

The Ale Apothecary video

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6 responses to “Brave New (Old) Brewery…same as it ever was?

  • Michael Barr

    Exciting stuff, Paul! Congratulations on all your early success, it’s just incredible what you’re doing. Truly. Kudos to Doug on the great video too!

  • Jeff Clough

    I’ma watch the videos in a minute, but I wanted to say you can add Idaho to the list of (unofficial) states that your beer has ended up in. When my friends came through and your wife graciously gave us a tour, they purchased a couple bottles, plus I gave them my Spencer & TBFKA La Tache (both first-batch pre-label) because I can get more, and they can’t in Spokane…yet.
    Anyhoo, they took it to a tasting and had the same reaction with the crowd. Everyone was just completely blown away!
    Keep it goin’ man!
    P.S. I just got the pared-down version of my video interview up on our page. I was having some editing issues. Give ‘er a look!
    Cheers!

  • Sandy Allen

    Paul, your writing is amazing–something you should keep doing. So excited that this adventure took on its own life. Just reading the kudos to your beer by the writers is such an acknowledgement of what you have created. Happy that doing it your way has brought forward this result. You and Stacy will deal with it as it comes in your usual life is good way. Loved the video your Brother put together. Congratulations.

  • Manker

    Fun to see that you found our little note about you :) looing forward to hopefully try your beers one day. There is so much happening in the US and so many beers that one wants to try, so must be a sign that it is time to visit the US for a beer tour again.

    thats the downside of living in sweden, its often so difficult to try and see whats really happening in the US.

    Best,
    Magnus / Manker @ MankerBeer.com

  • Steve

    You can add New Mexico to your list of “somehow” states, where a bottle of Sahalie was very well received on New Years eve. Keep up the great work.

  • Mark B.

    Just so you know, in the print version of Beer West Magazine, it was right in the middle of the sidebar on page 63! I’ve gotten the same reaction from friends that it seems that everyone else has, which is a lot of positive feedback. I’ve even had people who don’t appreciate and don’t drink “normal” beer tell me that Sahalie was “really tasty”. I’ll be packing at least one bottle to an Oregon Brew Crew homebrew education event tomorrow to share and see what everyone thinks.

    Keep it up! I’ve been loving it and spreading the love to everyone I can.

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