(My Mom used to call me C.B. I thought it was because of my great-grandfather, C.B. Neihart…)
It’s now well over a year into actual brewing, bottling, social media-ing, delivering, eventing, thinking, and living The Ale Apothecary. I do believe it’s time to sit back, sip on this Total Domination IPA from Ninkasi and seriously evaluate exactly where I’m at with this whole thing.
“You do that every night, honey!” Staci exclaims from the hot tub as she sips on the same.
We do consume Apothecary beer, but not every night. Usually one bottle from each batch to check that the bottle conditioning has ‘gone off’ and every once in a while to celebrate something important to us (about 2 bottles per month). Still, this is a fantastic amount in the scheme of things. Our Ale Club members get 3 bottles per quarter. Jeff H. told me today that he and a couple close friends consumed all 3 of his El Cuatro one night after planning on opening just one. He said it might be the very best beer he’s ever had. That beer has all been sold off now. In fact, Jeff H. bought the last 2 available bottles directly from the brewery.
Do you see what this means?
I do believe it means that, within a relatively short span of time, I’ve reached my goals.
In another early blog post, I imagined a brewer trading beer for meat or some other subsistence item…it was an important vision for me to help define the core of this project. The project is mostly small brewery stuff, but the overall impact much greater (ideally). An experiment in honor, integrity, and personal relationships that ends up bigger than the beer and more important than the beer itself. The beer is the vehicle. The project is, and always has been about how far can I pull (or push) our ‘general way of life’ in a direction that feels better for me and my family, hopefully encouraging others to take part. This is ultimately for my children, as far as I can tell. A big lesson in the form of our life. Money (i.e. business) is the reality of our current existence, unfortunately. This is a core concept for me. I think I would have been a pretty good hunter/gatherer. Work hard for a bit, eat well, lay around some. I’m not too fond of what the drive for the almighty dollar does to our society. But! In order for me to fulfill the goals I have with the skill set that I have, I must bend like a reed in the wind. Do the business thing. Build a brewery. Live ‘FREE’. At least, live as free as possible chained to my own personal creation…more on that later. Perhaps not. Anyone owned and operated a small business before?? Simple living, made difficult by yours truly. It’s a gift.
Anyway, the brewery is kicking ass! We’re getting excellent press, offers from folks who’d like to bring our beer to Washington, California, Idaho, British Columbia. The beer looks and tastes great. My processes are tighter and more predictable. I have a young lad who is going to help me develop the brewery in the next phase. Jeffrey is young and has Apothecary values. He sees an opportunity for himself to earn an honest living while retaining those values. I hope I can provide that opportunity! I’m trying to provide it for myself first, then shower it upon others (just like the oxygen masks in the airplanes). However, with the brewery so busy and the beer so rare and difficult to make, I am finding myself struggling to do what I said I’d do from the beginning.
Saying the word ‘no’.
Not everyone gets to be a part of our brewery. Some can’t afford the beer. Others can’t get their hands on it. Many miss an opportunity to come visit because I’m too busy. We can only entertain so many Ale Club members. Some just showed up too late, already! While this has been part of the plan from the get-go, I hadn’t imagined that this brewery concept would resonate with so many people where it would actually become an issue. I would very much like to get my beer into anyone’s hands that wanted it! This would mean my treasured values would be shared and celebrated with others. Herein lies the dilemma for my next project. Project ‘What’s Next’. No. Let’s refer to it as ‘Project WTF’. As in “WTF DO I DO NOW?”
Sahati came out recently. I meant to blog it’s unveiling like the El Cuatro because, more than any other beer, it defines our brewery’s values. Chop a tree down in our yard, make old world beer with our hands and share it with friends. However, when making this beer, I’ve realize that I can’t just keep cutting spruce limbs off my trees every time I brew. I’d run out of limbs and endanger the health of the trees here. What does that mean? Order spruce? Harvest it from my neighbors? Our black currant beer, Spencer, is almost ready for our Ale Club members. We have only been able to make one oak barrel of this beer each year due to the number of berries available by the creek. Because of this, we can’t afford to put a label on the bottles, yet it is by far our most revered beer (perhaps in part due to it’s rarity).
Maybe you see where I’m going with this. I think that this brewery is telling me what I already know and believe. That human beings (in our current existence) are not sustainable creatures in the way that I imagine our potential. Does it matter? I don’t know. I think no matter what, our culture will go the way of the ancient Greeks and Egyptians someday. So does it matter? In a funny way, the idea of oblivion makes it matter that much more. Putting meaningful effort into something is important…it may be the most important. If everything is temporary, let us at least be temporarily entranced as often as possible.
The brewery, in thought, is my entrancement that I’m trying to share with others…however, with the pressure of the modern world, has great potential to become a personal burden that distracts me from my original mission & goals. My small little brewery holds a physical and mental leash on my attentiveness to my children, my wife and my friends. Many of my favorite hobbies have been severely neglected. The sustainability of the original concept is being tested pretty hard right now as I set up to brew two more batches of Sahati this week and as I look for solutions for brewery wastewater reuse/recycling/disposal. The financial state of the brewery is held captive by it’s inability to grow in it’s current form. OMG! I think I’m following some sort of entrepreneurial rite of passage here.
But, as things are only temporary, I am looking to involve others who share my vision in order to make some changes. Who knows where we’ll be next year, but with the same principles and some serious out-of-the-box thinking, I can envision a future where we all can get what we want out of this brewery. Staci calls it ‘Breaking the Boat’. When goals are met, it’s time to set new ones. In order to reach these new goals, a different set of skills and resources are needed. The original boat that got The Ale Apothecary here is not suitable for the next phase of the journey…in fact, she’s loaded down pretty heavy and I’m concerned that if things continue, my time will be spent doing more baling than brewing.
Last year saw the brewery produce 5 world-class beers. Insane. I am humbled by the reception and extremely proud of our accomplishments. This next year will see at least one new beer, a stout, inspired by my late great Mom. She was a stout drinker & I think I’m going to call it ‘CB’ or ’Chicken Butt’. Sahalie and (TBFKA) La Tache will be brewed steadily. El Cuatro, Sahati, and Spencer will be offered in the amounts we can sustain. Most importantly, Project WTF is officially underway as of this post!