Time continues to pass, the brewery doors open and close, open and close.
I’ve brought a few things through them recently that are noteworthy: local wild black currants, picked by moi, another open fermenter (La Tache’s sister, La Gordita), a hose trolley. The most interesting comings and goings are all of the people who have made a point to come up and visit the brewery in person. Early in the concept-phase of designing how this brewery would function, I was a little concerned that having people up at the brewery would get a little tiresome, seeing as how we live here. I didn’t know if we’d get people just showing up or hanging out; I knew many things I could apply to this general group of beer consumer, but I really had know way of knowing about them as individuals. I’ve been incredibly impressed with the knowledge and interest that people bring with them, the discussions that we can get into, and the rather noble way that we’re undertaking this business. It’s been energizing to be a part of something that others want to be a part of as well, and for so many positive reasons. At the bottom of the glass it’s still beer, but I’d rather find my truth through whimsical pursuits than rules that focus on right and wrong. It’s been great to engage with so many others that are in pursuit of similar types of fun and interest.
Our very first beer release months ago was that of Spencer; a blend of numerous Sahalie test brews that we’re aged on wild black currants in our first oak barrel. It was our ‘Hello, World!’ moment, and the beer held up very well. So well that it’s many of our Ale Club members absolutely favorite thing we’ve done to date (which numbers at a whopping 3 right now). Recently, I ventured out along the banks of Tumalo Creek and harvested this years’ crop of currants for next year’s Spencer. It took me 3 days of picking to get enough. It was wonderful work; threading myself along the bank of this wild creek and finding these tiny little berries in clusters…they only grow at the creeks’ edge on the north-facing side at a very specific altitude. During these hours spent scratching my arms and legs up, falling in the creek a few times, and cursing how small and spread out the bushes were, I also patted myself on the back a bit for a number of reasons…employing myself to spend a few afternoons by the river wasn’t the only one…
Breweries by and large are selling a commodity; a product that can be made in the amount to suit the customer’s demands. While many breweries these days are growing to meet that demand (and unable to provide for all interested parties), the issue is that they can’t produce enough, not that the beer cannot be produced in the quantities desired. I realized while gathering these berries that a large difference between The Ale Apothecary and other contemporary breweries is that our size allows us to undertake seemingly ridiculous tasks in order to create a specialty product, a limited product…something that we cannot produce more than what is produced even if we wanted to. At the end of my 3rd day, there we’re simply no more berries. I will never be able to produce 2 oak barrels in a single year of Spencer unless I order farmed currants. This may happen someday, but imagine the difference between a farmed berry and a wild one: chemical fertilizers and pests vs. 100% spontaneously natural environment. It’s the line that The Ale Apothecary toes as we develop this brewery from the ‘Art over Industry’ angle. It’s not about making a successful business in terms of dollars, but making a successful business in terms of life and how it’s lived.
Who knows, maybe in ten years we’ll build a huge factory filled with giant oak vats and a fleet of kuurnas. We’d make enough beer to send all over the world! If I still own the company at that point, the only way we could maintain it would be to DROP prices because at that point, we’d be producing a commodity (as opposed to a specialty) product.
That would make people happy. Then, I’d let our front desk girl know that I’m taking the family to Mexico where we could reminisce about all those crazy shenanigans we undertook before common sense set in.