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The early bird gets the beer

Last Saturday we woke up early and headed to the Bidwell farmer’s market. It was our fourth time at the market, but in the past we’ve only brought promises and t shirts. “We’re opening a brewery!” we’d cheerfully say. “When?” At that we’d scratch our heads and shrug a bit. “We don’t know. Soon?”

Well, you know the deal. One of us has probably had that exact conversation with each person reading this at least twice.

Our first fill of the day

This time, though! This time, we brought beer. Some people were expecting us. Others remembered us from years past and were discovering that we had opened. And still more people were hearing about this “beer” thing for the first time. Everyone seemed enthusiastic, though, and despite it being a rather wet and dreary day the beer sold by hotcakes.

We brought a sixtel (1/6 bbl, or slightly over 5 US gallons) of The Jam #1: Manifest IPA. It was gone in under an hour. Our 1/2 bbl kegs of Frank and the Whale lasted until noon, but by the time many people were getting to the market we had packed up and left. We will have another sixtel of Manifest on Saturday — which by then will be the last of it that will ever be made — but if you want it, you should show up early. We kicked last week’s keg before 9:15. It’s not our fault people are lining up like we’re debuting an Apple product!

(Okay, that’s an exaggeration. It was only one guy, and we knew him. Thanks, Tim!)

I needed another photo. Why not the transit of Venus? Space is awesome. (Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, licensed under Creative Commons)

As we were cleaning up, Ethan said that this was what he envisioned for Community Beer Works. A few people asked us what the “community” in our name meant, and, well, this was it. When you buy a growler from us, you’re buying it from us. Not an employee of a store that bought it from a distributor that picked it up from a brewery halfway across the country. The guy pouring the beer is the guy who made it. That’s not to disparage other breweries or methods of buying beer: I certainly haven’t met every brewer whose beer I’ve enjoyed, and to assert that it’s morally superior to avoid good beer bars and stores goes beyond silly and into insulting. However: we quite like that you have the option. Think of it as a band manning their own merch table.

We’re going to try to bring more beer in the future, but right now we really can’t: every drop of beer we make is spoken for as soon as it’s kegged. I’m sure you’re wondering why we don’t just get more equipment so we can make more beer. To that I say: we are on top of it! Two 3 bbl brite tanks should be arriving soon, and once we get our glycol chilling system in place they’ll be expanding our capacity by 2/3. On Monday, realizing we were going to need a bigger boat (Of beer. At Bidwell. I think this was an poorly thought out reference.), we ordered two more 1.5 bbl conical fermenters. We’ll have a better capacity soon, which will also let us fill growlers out of our brewery. Yes, we’re holding off on that for now, because you can get growler fills from us at Bidwell in the meantime. Once we have the beer, you’ll be hearing official retail hours.

One thing people kept asking us was, “Can I try a sample?” The Bidwell crowd has an uncanny knack for asking the tough questions. No, not right now. We’re sorry about that. That is — wait for it — yet another permit, one which happens to cost $1,000. We’ll be getting it, don’t worry, but we’re going to hold off for a bit. Hopefully you understand: the money will instead go towards increased fermentation capacity, which will lead to more beer which will increase the probability that we will actually be there when you try to fill a growler at 12:30.

"Just take the goddamn picture, Dan"

Now then, on to non-Bidwell news. On Tuesday Rudy and Ethan took a ride out to Lockport to visit McCollum Orchards, a fantastic 100-acre farm operation headed by Rich and Bree Woodbridge. The farm dates back to 1832 and was established by Hiram and Joel McCollum, who were also founders of Lockport itself. Rich and Bree are the sixth generation to own the farm and have resumed growing after a period of inactivity: they will shortly begin retail operations concentrating on heirloom pears and apples, as well as vegetables and eventually herbs.

Fruits and vegetables are nice, but what brought us out there was hops! Rich and Bree are craft beer afficionados and have dedicated a half-acre to testing hop varietals, assessing their robustness in this particular soil and microclimate. They’ve put in a remarkable number of types: Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Nugget, Magnum, Fuggles and Willamette all growing happily a mere 45 minunte drive from our brewery. Come harvest time, expect us to incorporate as much of their hops as we can. And hey, who knows? We might even have a farm-direct wet-hopped beer on offer for their Buffalo Beer Week farm-to-table dinner.

See you all bright eyed and bushy tailed on Saturday.

3 comments on “The early bird gets the beer

  1. Chas on

    I tried Frank at the Blue Monk last weekend. It was a delicious brew – quite hoppy but I love the American Pale Ale style, so I was set. Can’t wait to see what you guys do next. Keep up the good work.

  2. Chas on

    Oh – and a question: can we bring our own (non CBW) growler) as long as it is of equal size?

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