As you have probably seen and heard, construction of our new space (complete with on-site brewery and beer garden) saw significant delays over the past few months. The expected opening date was pushed back from September 2017 to February 2018.
Some of you may be wondering what the heck I've been up to over the last few months because, well, I was supposed to be brewing beer for you at our new brewery...and that brewery is still packed up in a warehouse in Raleigh at the moment.
So, I'll give you a little behind-the-scenes tour of what an unemployed brewer does in the months leading up to a brewery opening.
1. Lots of Test Batches
I've brewed more 5- and 10-gallon batches of beer in the last 6 months than I have in the last 3 years. Honestly, I hadn't done much brewing since we opened the store. Before we opened The Glass Jug in 2014, I was brewing regularly, having recently won several "Best of Show" awards at local competitions, such as the Carolina Quarterly Brew-Off and the NC Brewer's Cup. But, once the store opened, I didn't have a lot of time to keep brewing, so it took a back seat to selling beer.
When I started brewing regularly again, I realized that there were several new popular styles that I had not yet mastered because they rose to popularity during my brewing hiatus, so I set my sites on perfecting them.
I've now brewed many batches of hazy, soft, juicy New England-style IPAs, experimenting with different yeast strains, water chemistry, and hopping techniques. I've even started using the new "cryo" hops in some of these batches. These will become the base of our Opacity IPA series once we open our doors at the brewery.
I've also been working on perfecting a kettle soured Berliner Weisse recipe that will serve as a base for our Pi Series of beers and can be adjusted to brew seasonal Gose-style beers, as well. We've tried different souring methods, adjusted our process, and used different bacteria to see what works best.
The other styles we've been honing in on are saisons and full-bodied stouts. I'm looking for that perfectly dry, slightly spicy, highly carbonated, low-ester saison that will lend itself well to complementing the seasonal herbs, spices, and other adjuncts we want to experiment with. The richer stout will serve as a good base for barrel-aging in various barrels (check out these square barrels we're going to experiment with) and for additions of richer adjuncts like coffee, cocoa, and even candy cap mushrooms, as seen in our recent collaboration with Raleigh Brewing Company.
It has been great having this time to experiment and really hone in on some of these styles over the past few months and we are looking forward to scaling them up and brewing them for you to try once the brewery is in place.
2. Collaboration Beers
I'm lucky enough to have some great friends in the brewing industry who are very generous with their time, allowing me to come hang out and brew with them at their full-scale breweries. In 2017 alone, we have brewed collaboration beers with Raleigh Brewing, Durty Bull, Bond Brothers, Haw River, Mystery Brewing (twice), and Double Barley. And next week, I'll be brewing with New Anthem in Wilmington.
This has been great for many reasons. It has allowed us to test out some crazy recipe ideas like an imperial oatmealporter with mushrooms, a 15% ABV American Strong Ale, a Passionfruit IPA, and even a kettle-soured New England-Style double India pale saison (you might have to think about that one for a second).
It has also given me the opportunity to hang out with, learn from, and brew with some of the most talented brewers in the triangle. I've been able to ask questions and learn from all of their processes. I can honestly say I have picked up at least one new tip with every collaboration that we've brewed.
3. Building (and Buying) Things
There will be a lot of new "things" in the new space. All of it had to be built or bought.
I (and Katy) have spent full days shopping online to find the best deals on furniture...then driving to IKEA in Charlotte to pick some up. We've price compared the different crowler machines. I've purchased a used keg washer and had a custom grain mill assembled for us.
I've also spent time building new tables for our expanded front patio. I'll also be building a new bar-height drink rail that will live along the brewery-facing wall of the new event space and overflow seating area. I may not be a master carpenter, but I enjoy the challenge and I don't think the tables will collapse (soon, anyway).
4. Getting Involved in the Industry
Working two jobs has kept me from being fully involved in the craft beer industry to the extent I would like. It was all I could do to put in my 40 hour work week and help out at the store in the evenings and on weekends.
Now, with my time fully dedicated to craft beer, I've been able to do things I had not yet done, such as attend the Craft Brewer's Conference in DC then attend (and present at) the NC Craft Brewer's Conference a few weeks ago in Winston-Salem. I was also elected to a Board of Directors seat on the newly-formed Triangle Craft Beer Alliance (y'all should check it out if you haven't...big things coming!) where I serve as the chair of the events committee. We're planning some pretty awesome things for the Triangle craft beer scene in 2018.
Additionally, I've been able to attend events, seminars, and trade shows that I otherwise would not have made, all along the way building relationships and connections with industry experts, suppliers, and other brewers. I'm sure this will all pay dividends having a direct impact on the quality of the beer we brew.
5. Visiting Partners & Suppliers
I've been able to make a point to visit some of our suppliers and get to know and understand their businesses, and how they will be working together with us.
In Asheville, Katy and I spent some time with Brent at Riverbend Malt House. It's amazing to see how much their operation has grown since our last visit just a few years ago.
In Durham, I got an in-depth tour from Sebastian of Epiphany Craft Malt, and brought home some sample grains that we've been using in various test batches. The size of the equipment and the amount of measuring and testing that is incorporated in phenominal.
In Raleigh, I was giving the VIP tour of Glover Corp, where they can print just about anything. They were working on some tap handles for Four Saints Brewing Co. while I was there, and we are looking into working with Glover to create our crowler labels and keg collars, and we'll likely work with them on a few more projects in the future.
6. Blogging! (And Marketing, In General)
I've been able to dedicate a portion of each day to marketing for The Glass Jug, which has been hugely helpful. We've grown our presence on Instagram, which had been incredibly underutilized until recently. We're also now more active on Twitter, and I'm now (finally) taking the time to start blogging again - giving you all the inside scoop...for better or for worse!
I'm looking forward to making this a permanent part of my routine so that we can get info out to you more frequently and run a more transparent business. Plus, I'm tired of having the same conversations with each of you individually about how construction is going. Now I can tell you to just read the blog post!
I also redesigned and rebuilt our website on a new platform, and I redesigned our weekly newsletter that has gone out every Monday morning since before we opened the store and now reaches almost 3,500 subscribers every week. I'm definitely not a graphic designer, but I was able to use our new color palette and branding material from Gusto Design Co. to create something passable and hopefully you all find it informative (I'd love your feedback). If you haven't signed up for our newsletter, you should do so now.
I'm sure there are other things that I'm forgetting, like spending more quality time with my often-neglected dog who is happy to have me home, or playing 3 rounds of golf this year...the first rounds I've played in 3 years, but I'm sure you didn't come here to read about our dog and my terrible golf game.