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730 days of Community Beer Works

Er, 731 days. Thanks, leap year.

Exactly two years ago, I went to my friend Ethan’s house. My homebrewing and beer blogging compatriot had an idea that I desperately wanted in on: he wanted to start a brewery. Six of us sat in his basement (with Matt there in spirit) as we discussed the 10 gallon batch brewery co-op that we were going to create.

Obviously a few things changed: thankfully we realized that 10 gallon batches was Mel-Gibson-voicemail level insane at a commercial level (hell, 1.5 barrels isn’t much better!). As for being a co-op, NYS shot that one down pretty quickly, saying co-ops were for farms. It may have been a non-starter for other reasons too, so it’s good that we got past the idea at the start.

The rest remained. Community Beer Works. The dedication to the community. The people I am now proud to call my friends.

One of our first meetings

And now, two years later, we have beer! The journey we started on 5/24/10 ended in a sense on 4/20/12: we are no longer starting a brewery, we are operating it. Now, of course, there is an entirely different set of challenges to deal with, but with more immediate benefits. We’re brewing Frank on Saturday, but instead of responding to “when can we drink your beer?” with “I don’t know, soon I hope!” like you got through the entirety of 2011 I can say “The batch we are brewing in two days should be on tap two weeks from today.”

We’re refining our process, learning, adapting. And upgrading: yes, already! A nanobrewery’s small batches are wonderful for customization and nimble movements (like, say, “Hey let’s brew an IPA for the hell of it!”) but there is a rather large drawback in that when people really seem to like it, as you do, it tends to get consumed about as fast as we can make it.

To that end: two 3 bbl brite tanks are on order, which will increase our capacity by 2/3: we brew two 1.5 bbl batches of The Whale, let the yeast have at them in two 1.5 bbl fermenters and then combine them in one 3 bbl brite tank, leaving the fermenters free and ready to house more unfermented beer.

The Whale's new taphandle

We’ll need this capacity if we want to fill growlers at our brewery and the Bidwell farmer’s market. We have no announcements on dates for either of those, but I want to explain what’s going on with Bidwell a bit as I mentioned it a few times at Beerology and people got really excited. I mean, it’s a cool idea, right? Get some cucumbers, a bit of goat cheese, maybe a loaf of raisin bread and pick up a growler fill while you’re there. That requires a separate license, of course, and we have it. We’re ready to go! Except we also need liability insurance to protect us against anybody doing something stupid with half a gallon of our beer and a motor vehicle.

Every bar and growler-filling brewery needs insurance, so this is nothing outrageous, but as the market is considered a special event we need to have insurance for every week we’re there. Our initial estimates for it were prohibitively expensive: you’d have needed to be a thirsty, thirsty lot to make it worthwhile for us. We’re confident that we’ll be able to find a solution that works for us, which is great because filling growlers at Bidwell has been something we’ve planned on for, well, about two years. Hopefully we’ll have news for you soon.

One final note: I’ve been refraining from talking about it on the blog because I know most of you really don’t care (and this is coming from the guy who posted two months of “still building that cooler!” updates), but: we’re nearly done with Kickstarter! There are only a handful of people whose rewards aren’t in their hands or the mail as you read this, and all of them besides Betsy Hipp, Eugene Cunningham and Jonathan Hart have set up when and where to get them. If you’re one of those three people, please get in touch with me: your email addresses are no good, people!

I’ve promised a long Kickstarter post with detailed data about demographics and so on, and that’s coming. I started work on it this week and, well, it’s going to be long. There will probably be two: The Data: An Unexpected Journey and Things To Know If You Do This Yourself: There And Back Again. Look for those in June, most likely, and in the meantime if you have a question you’d like us to answer about our Kickstarter experience, let me know!

4 comments on “730 days of Community Beer Works

  1. Ethan on

    Here Here! What Dave said… who thought Beer-O-Vision would lead to this? Certainly, not I. Congrats to you, to us, and hey: to Frank.

  2. Ethan on

    Al, we will, but we’re holding off on our on-site retail until we have a feel for how much beer we’re selling at The Farmer’s Market. This will take us a couple of weeks there to assess. But growlers sales at the brewery will be announced with great fanfare, which you should hear plenty well via the usual channels.

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