Thursday, September 29, 2011

Touring the new convention center - man this place is huge!

So we were invited by the Nashville CVB to tour the new convention center. It is massive and pretty breathtaking in its design and scope. I hope it brings lots of thirsty visitors to Nashville!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Last chance to get some Bells Bend Preservation Ale this weekend!

What a great time we had out at Sulphur Creek Farm in Bells Bend this past Saturday! Thanks to Eric, Keith, Barry, Rachael, Tom, and everyone who helped put it together. And thanks to T-Claw and the band for the square dancing! Even with the three or four hundred people who came out, it still felt like a down-home party.

Don't worry if you didn't make it out to get to try the Bells Bend Preservation Ale, brewed with hops grown right on the farm at Sulphur Creek. Despite some valiant efforts, we were not able to drink the entire batch in one go, so there are some kegs still left to serve at our Family Picnic birthday party this Saturday. We will have it on tap in the taproom and outside with the bands. If you like hoppy beers, you have to try this one!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fresh Hop Project #58 bottled Sept 15

It's fresh hop time! 200 lbs of fresh wet hops, one day off the vine, straight from Yakima Valley! This year, the fourth year in a row, our friend Darren suggested a curveball and sent us fresh Styrian Goldings. They are floral, slightly spicy hops normally used for styles like Saisons.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Making it easier to get your tour tickets

We have come up with a solution to the long lines on Saturdays - at least, we hope we have. The long lines are usually due to people getting their tour tickets - we have to check their IDs, everyone wants to pay individually, and so on. One "Yelp" reviewer put it succinctly - "seriously, fix your idiotic, inefficient set up first. It's just plain bad". Thanks Brian A. of Warren, Michigan! We never did hear back from you when we asked for suggestions, so here is what we came up with.

Our friend Lucas Hendrickson is manning a separate cash register in the corner, to the right of the bar. You will know him by the big "TOURS" sign over his head. If you want to pick up tickets you paid for online, or to purchase walk-up tickets, skip the beer line and go directly to him. If there is a line at this register, send someone from your party over to the beer line to get pints for everyone in your party. If you just want to buy a t-shirt or other merchandise, you can skip the beer line and do it at this register as well.

How does it work? Well, as Brandi our taproom manager put it this weekend, "eerily well. We couldn't believe it was Saturday, there was hardly ever a line to get beer, even on a busy Labor Day weekend." So, if you have read some reviews about our taproom and are prepared for long lines, you may be disappointed to just walk up and get your beer right away. But I bet lots of other people will be very happy! Seriously, we are trying to make everyone's experience better, and would appreciate any feedback you may have.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Silo is up!

Our new grain silo is here! We have been planning on adding a grain silo and getting away from buying our pale barley malts in bags since we moved to Division St last year. But more important projects kept popping up - new bottling line to name one. However, we got word from several of our barley suppliers to expect grain prices to skyrocket later this year. It has been a difficult planting season in the northwest where barley is grown. An extremely wet spring delayed planting the barley, and it is looking like the farmers won't get the yields they expected. Also, over in Europe, an extreme drought is making the harvest there look terrible. Plus, as more and more corn is used for producing ethanol (STUPIDEST IDEA EVER!), the lack of corn for animal feed is raising the price of barley as a substitute. Add it all together, and the price of your favorite beer will soon be going up for lots of brands. ABInBev has already announced plans to increase their prices in October.

But by putting a bulk grain silo in, we can save by buying the barley in bulk instead of by the bag. So the price increase on our barley will be somewhat mitigated by buying in bulk.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

It's Wet Hop Time in Tennessee!

Fresh Wet Hops steeping in our Lauter Tun

That time in the year when we call our friend Darren Gamache in Yakima valley, and ask him what he's picking. Darren's family owns the patent on the Amarillo hop variety, one of my favorites and the featured hop in our Pale Ale. I've gotten to be good friends with him over the past eight years, and he has always set us up with some freshly picked hops at harvest time. Over the past few years we have used Amarillo twice and then last year we chose Sorachi Ace. This year we decided to try a variety we had never used before - Styrian Goldings - hey, that's what Hop Project is all about, right?

We got in 200 lbs of freshly picked hops on Wednesday. Hops decomposed really quickly after they are off the vine - the boxes were already starting to get hot when they were delivered only 12 hours after being picked. We spread them out in our cold room and got them cooled off quickly.

We decided to use a method we had developed at the old Marathon brewery, but had not tried yet on our new system. We boiled the wort for the standard 75 minutes, and then transferred the wort back into our lauter tun, adding half the wet fresh hops in the lauter tun. We let the wort steep with the wet hops for 30 minutes, then chilled the wort down on the way to the fermenter. We then transferred another mash into the lauter tun, which still held the wet hops from the previous batch ( a kind of mash-hopping of the second batch). We then boiled the second batch, and used the other half of the wet hops again in the lauter tun with the second batch.

Sounded good on paper, but the wet hops made the second batch a sticky mess. Thank you to Quinn, our head brewer, for sticking it out over a 12 hour day to make sure we finished the brew.

The wort smelled amazing during the brew. I can't wait to taste the finished beer in a few weeks. It will be labelled as Hop Project #58 in stores.