Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Peace Tree Brewery Visit

I figure that I should catch you up on some of the things that we have been doing before we started the blog.  We thought it would be a good idea to visit some local breweries and see how things are done.  One in particular we knew we needed to visit was Peace Tree Brewing Company.  Based in Knoxville, Iowa this brewery has not been around more than 2 years, but they are already distributing to an extremely large number of stores, bars and restaurants around Iowa.  Brandon and Ryan had met Megan and Joe from Peace Tree while at a craft brewers conference in San Francisco a couple of months earlier and they had invited us to come out, ask any questions we needed to ask, tour the brewery and enjoy the beer!  It's pretty hard to say no to something like that!

Brandon, Brandon's wife, my girlfriend and myself took the short trip to Knoxville a few weeks ago.  Both Ryan and Dave had family events that were going on and were not able to make the trip.  We first arrived in the early evening and the entertainment had already begun.  A local duo (whom I can't remember for the life of me...memory is going at my old age apparently!) was playing and were very good!  The tap room had a great feel to it and really inspired Brandon and myself regarding how we wanted ours to look.  It was just the right size for a decent crowd to gather and listen to a small band playing on the recently constructed stage.  It felt a lot like a really comfy coffee house, to be perfectly honest!  A comfy coffee house that served great beer!

Megan gave us an initial tour of the facility and really helped us understand the importance of laying out how the brewhouse will look and function.  According to Megan, they had originally had a completely different design in mind for the building when someone asked, "Where are you going to put the silo?"  That immediately changed how they could set things up so they ended up drawing out the layout on a bar napkin...and it works really well!  Since it was just Brandon, our significant others and myself we were able to talk really specifically about their operation and it was incredibly informative.  Thanks Megan!!

After the tour we, of course, had to sample some of the beer!  Brandon had tried some before, but this was my first experience.  Blonde Fatale is definitely my favorite of the beer I tried that night.  It is a great Belgian style Blonde ale and I have definitely ordered it at Des Moines establishments since!  However, the Black River Gumbo Stout is a very close second place!

Later on we got another tour from Joe, the brewer.  His tour was originally intended for patrons who had come to listen to Nathan Moore (http://hippyfia​sco.com/) as well as for his webcast.  Apparently he and those in his crew had been streaming their lives over the web, live, throughout this tour.  Once that tour ended, Brandon and I snagged some time with Joe to talk some more about brewing on a larger scale.  Joe had a wealth of knowledge and appeared to be really eager to share knowledge about the craft.  Thanks Joe!  When we figured we had taken enough of Joe's time we went back out to listen to the rest of the show, and even got to participate a little with sock puppets, kazoos and makeshift drums!  It was pretty entertaining...particularly trying to watch Brandon work a kazoo! :)

Thanks again to everyone at Peace Tree for your hospitality, knowledge and wonderful beer!  We'll be back, I promise!

Monday, May 30, 2011

First Posting

So, here goes nothing!  I suppose this first post should have a little background about what is going on.  A few months ago Ryan came to me and a couple of other guys with an idea, "Let's start a nano-brewery!"  Ryan had been toying with this idea for quite some time, however Iowa had a rather restrictive law regarding alcohol content in beer that was not conducive to the craft beer drinkers of the world.  Essentially any beer brewed that is over 5% ABV is considered liquor and has to be sold to the state for distribution.  Imperial Stouts, IPA's and Belgians would pretty much all qualify and have to be either watered down or sold to the state.  That would be a huge barrier to an operation the size that he wanted.  However, on March 10, 2010 Governor Chet Culver signed into law a new, higher limit of 12% ABV before brew pubs had to sell their beverages to the state for distribution.  All of a sudden Barleywines, Imperial Stouts, Double IPA's and the like were able to be brewed and distributed from brew pubs all across Iowa without the heaps of red tape.

This one event is what could possibly allow Ryan's idea to be viable!  So, he reached out to Brandon, Dave and myself to see if we wanted to be a part of this little endeavor.  All four of us have been brewing in our garages and on our porches for awhile.  While Ryan, Brandon and Dave all have a strong appreciation for IPA's, I am more of a lover of the darker styles.  I don't care how hot it is outside, give me a good Irish Stout and I am a happy man!  Since we all like different styles for the most part, we all brew different styles as well.  So, we all bring a lot of different ideas to the table.

All those ideas, we feel, are perfect for the style of brewery we want to open.  We want to have only a few standard beers that are available at any time.  The rest, since we are brewing on a small scale, we can play around with and develop a wide assortment of styles.

Currently we are still trying to find the perfect name for the brewery.  We have had several meetings with charts and poster board taped to walls.  Each one of us has thrown a myriad of options into the mix, but nothing has really hit any of us as being a definite winner.  We want to indicate we are a local brewery servicing a local community, but don't want to be handcuffed if we are lucky enough to expand to distribute regionally.  We want a name that is catchy and that is easy to market, but we are definitely struggling with this part of the process.  It is such an important piece of the puzzle, we want to make sure we get it right.

We are all still working on recipes.  I recently re-worked my Numb Nut Brown Ale to be a little bit better.  It was a hit during a New Year's Eve party and all 5 gallons in the keg were finished off that night!  I am trying to wait for it to finish conditioning in the secondary fermenter before transferring to a keg next weekend.  Brandon has an American Ale that is almost ready for bottling and a Berlinner that is still fermenting.  Ryan and Dave are working on a couple of IPA recipes that we hope will be winners!

I think this has gone on long enough for a first edition, and if you have stuck with me this far, thanks!!  I'll keep updating and posting new thoughts and developments during our process.  This is an exciting adventure we have embarked on and we hope that it will be fulfilling for all of us!  Read along and enjoy the ride!