Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wow. Hardcore.

This post has nothing to do with beer. Definitely don't get beer courage and try this. This is some hardcore shi_.

Oh fine, I'll just say it. This is some hardcore shit.


Thanks to A.W. for sending it out.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Regional Breweries

At the top of this page are the words "Drink Local.  Really, that's all we ask."  Oh sure, I'm not gonna lie and tell you I'm not gonna be happy when you decide to buy a beer produced by us (eventually), but I really do believe that the focus and energy of our local brewery community needs to be centered around helping us all to succeed.  Every bar, restaurant, hotel, grocery store, convenience store or whatever should all have local products available.  And when each and every one of them does, we will have succeeded tremendously in convincing our regional population about all of the good things that are associated with drinking great local products.

I mentioned the explosion of local breweries popping up in the region lately, so presented as a public service, is the list of breweries currently operating or planning to operate in the region.  If I've missed anyone, please let me know and I will add to the list:


I know there are others making plans to produce beer, but I couldn't find a website or other confirmation.  I also know I left out some of the breweries operating in the larger region, which I would be happy to list if I get the information or as I think of them.

Cheers!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

People Say the Nicest Things

We don't normally toot our own horns, but sometimes it's nice to recognize the kindness extended to you.  In this case, one of the very well done and very well read blogs about cycling in Spokane has taken the time to give our brewery (and the cycling obsessed owner) a very nice shout out - Get Your Thirst On.

Pat, sincerely, in the sincere way that word can be sincerely used sometimes, thank you.

Beer Physics

A website at physics.org has started collecting information about the physics and science of beer at http://www.physics.org/cheersphysics/#/.  Right now there are only three quiz questions, but a bit of other information along side it.

And, for a quick interview with the creators, Gizmodo found an excuse to start drinking early in the day and ask them a few questions about their website: http://gizmodo.com/5968567/the-secret-science-in-a-pint-of-beer.

And, after an intensive study session of hard-core science like that, I think you deserve a beer, don't you?  I know I do.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ten More Days

Ten days from now, on December 27, I will get the thing right after Christmas that I most wanted this year - our first brew.  I had hoped for a bit earlier, but when you are six months behind, what do six more days matter? 

For some reason, the "New" part of the New Year has always been appropriate for me as I start or finish jobs or projects at that point, or in some way there is often a new beginning that occurs with the new year.  This year will be the same as we really embark on brewing with a fresh, clean 2013 right in front of us.

AND, yes, I have been asked repeatedly about open houses, grand openings, first beers, etc.  Since this has come together on a very difficult to establish timeline, we are going to hold off on having our first "public" event until we have 1) beer to drink and 2) more than one style of beer to drink.  That means waiting a few more weeks until we have a few brews under our belt and some batches in the conditioning tanks, but don't worry, you will get your invite.  Probably right here.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Don't Read Unless You Were at MHS With Me


Today you'll have to excuse my reminiscences.  If trips down memory lane aren't your thing, particularly someone else's, just tune in later.

For the last 10 years, we have operated a business in Moscow, the Alehouse. It was a wonderful way to get to return to the city and spend some time there intermittently about 20 years after moving away. Today, though, the purpose of my meeting was to tell the employees that we were selling our business to the longtime manager, Wendy. She has been treating like it was hers for years, so there is no doubt she will do a phenomenal job with the place and I have no regrets other than the occasional opportunity to relive the memories of living there.

I spent 3+ important years of my life in Moscow, Idaho; the ninth-grade, the 10th grade, and 11th grade. I was in town a bit before that and certainly returned many times after that, but that relatively brief period was my full-time residence.  They say that lasting memories are created by intensity of feeling, and if  that is the case, then those three years must have been very intense. Which is a funny thing to say considering what a mellow little town it was and how little seem to happen while I was there.  On a top line view, I went to school, hung out with friends - that's about it.  In retrospect, however, a monumental amount of stuff that has collected in the memory banks happened.  

So yesterday, when I arrived early for my meeting (yes, I agree, that never happens) I took the opportunity to drive up and down a few streets and say goodbye for now.

I drove around downtown, where I can remember virtually every store that was on those streets nearly 30 years ago and on which I used to able to name a surprising number of the folks on the sidewalks at any given moment.  I drove by the music store where we bought albums and cassettes.  The video parlor where we used to hang out.  The movie theater where we used to meet.  The tobacco store where . . . never mind.

I drove by the house we moved into when we arrived in town and then the house that we moved into a year later.  I drove by Moscow Junior High and the field-house.  I drove by the streets were cute girls lived that I probably drove up and down too many times just hoping to catch a glimpse or start a conversation. I drove by East City Park, the home of pick-up basketball games and the namesake offense on the junior high team.  I drove by Don's house, where, for some reason, I clearly remember parking my car on his foot.  I drove by Tami's house, the spot for many after school shenanigans and the famous Craig "What Would I Do If I Was Batman" story.  I drove by Diane's house, the starting and ending point for a few late-night walks.  I drove through the neighborhood of Lonnie and Craig and Bruce and Shannon and many others. I drove by Kendra's garage, where she backed out her father's prized Corvette to take us to a Sadie Hawkins.  I drove by Kim's house, the scene of many hours of MTV on the screen and maybe a couple of prank pizza delivery calls to an unnamed high school teacher.  I drove by Sara's house, the scene of at least one of my most enduring childhood embarrassment stories (which I will save for another time).  I drove by Tom's house, a place down the alley from my house and of many memories, including, and don't tell Jim or Susan, a memorable party after his parents left him for the weekend once. And, of course, I drove by MHS, the scene of many many memories from many people named and unnamed so far.

The thing that was striking was how quiet it was that morning while I drove around. I appreciated that there were very few people on the streets to remind me that new people occupy these homes and walk the streets. On the other hand, it did make me want to stop and tell a one couple walking along in the light snow that they should be aware of how important those quiet streets are, how important the community is, and how many memories are made there every day.

Thanks Moscow for all of the wonderful memories and that important piece of my childhood. Thanks to all my Moscow junior high and high school friends and connections for searing so many good times and thoughts into my mind.  I enjoyed my drive and I enjoyed my years there.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Baby Steps . . .

At this point, every step seems like a victory, even the tiny ones that are actually forward.  So, today, we are ordering our first delivery of yeast and scheduling our first brews.  They won't take place for a number of days, but at least we are starting to look at a PRODUCTION schedule instead of a construction unschedule or a license wait or something else that just doesn't feel as good.

Do I wish I was looking forward to a beer later today from our brewery, of course.  Am I looking forward to having someone else's great beer later today, yes, absolutely.

And speaking of a beer later today, it's great to be getting back into production at the same time there is a giant surge of breweries opening in the region and interest in beer is at an all-time high.  I get asked by non-industry folks regularly whether I am bothered by all the competition or whether there are too many new breweries.  The answer is an emphatic and absolute "No!"  I think the brewery industry has been unusually supportive of other breweries all along.  I suppose if you work in some industries where every sale by your competition is a lost sale to you and that is your only focus, then you can get bogged down in thinking that defeating your competition is the only goal.

For a variety of reasons, the craft brewing industry hasn't operated like that and I hope it never will.  I think maybe it's because we have spent years battling so many outside forces, like bad distributors or the brewing behemoths who wanted to squash our nascent efforts.  I remember very clearly standing at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver in 1999 and looking over the floor from a mezzanine area.  At that time, Budweiser produced just a touch over 50% of ALL beer consumed in the United States.  It struck me that as I looked over the hundreds of brewery booths, that every single one of them on the floor and every single one of us in the industry not on the floor and even the other big guys like Coors and Miller, that all together we were still were not selling as much beer as Budweiser.  It was a bit baffling to me, particularly since I think they were in their burping-frog-advertising phase, but I think that uphill struggle from day one has forged friendships among the folks in the industry.

Craft brewing is now not just working for market share overall against those gigantic brands, but also gigantic brands masquerading as craft beer (Blue Moon & Shocktop - I'm looking at you . . .).  The numbers don't lie, however, and we are making progress.  And for a good reason - our beer tastes better, it's better for our local economies, it's more environmentally friendly, we can offer more variations seasonally and, most importantly, our beer tastes better.  Yeah, it warranted mentioning twice.

Anyway, our journey continues.  I'm thankful for our own opportunities and I'm glad so many others are getting the chance to make their own beers and follow their own dreams.  I want every single regional brewery to succeed by having our region embrace us and ask for local products at the bars and restaurants we all frequent.  Cheers!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Updated Customer Service Agreeement

Getting River City Brewing up and running as a new brewery, I have had to read lots of vendor contracts, supplier terms and customer service agreements.  I finally got one that told the truth about the relationship between me, paying customer, and them, faceless giant corporation.

MegaGlobalCorp Customer "Service" Agreement

Effective Date: This Customer Service Agreement is entered into on the earliest of the following dates: when you first use our services or product, the date you think about using our services or product, the date you first look at our website, the date you see one of our commercials, or the date you are born. 

MegaGlobalCorp Terms and Conditions: The terms and conditions in this agreement may be changed by MegaGlobalCorp whenever we want by printing them on a piece of paper in size 3 font.  Maybe we will mail this paper to you, but maybe we won't.  Maybe we will post it on our website or maybe will we post it in the "cloud" or maybe we will put it in a file drawer in a state on the opposite side of the country from you.  Such changes to terms and conditions will apply to you as soon as we think of them.  

Customer Terms and Conditions: The terms and conditions that apply to our contractual relationship may be changed by you, the customer, in the following ways or times: never.  You may not negotiate, suggest or complain about the terms and conditions, provided, however, if you get approximately 1,000,000 of your friends to complain at the same time and make an uncomfortable stink in the media, we may temporarily change the particular terms or conditions that will make the media attention go away.

Payment Terms: Customer will pay all charges, fines, penalties, interest and CEO compensation bonus assessment on time.  "On time" shall be defined as several days ahead of the due date of your bill or invoice to allow us to "process" your payment.  While we may be able to accept your order online or by telephone, create or inventory a product, package it and deliver it anywhere on the planet within 48 hours, we cannot "process" your payment in less than 7 days and that is only if there is no federal, state, county, city, neighborhood or Sri Lankan holiday during said 7-day processing period.  If there is such a holiday, or even just a nice potluck dinner, then you are out of luck, unless you pre-pay your bill ahead of your services or products and then we may still add a fine, penalty, interest or CEO compensation bonus assessment.

Responsibilities of MegaGlobalCorp:  MegaGlobalCorp accepts no responsibility whatsoever, of any kind or condition, ever or under any circumstances.  Use of our services or product is explicitly (meaning that we wrote it down on a piece of paper that you may or may not know about) conditioned on waiver of all claims, lawsuits, complaints or Facebook taunts against us.  This total denial of any responsibility is subject to the following specific exceptions: If we are providing investment or banking services, we are responsible for one particular retired couple looking happy standing on a beach with a setting sun or walking under falling leaves; If we are providing cellular telephone services, we are responsible for soldiers returning safely from war and surprising families on holidays, and our smartphone products are responsible for pictures of newborn babies being sent to the only technologically adept grandparents in the country; If we are supplying alcohol products or restaurant services, we are responsible for cheerleaders, tight sweaters and men cheering loudly at sports shown on televisions; If we are providing medical services, we are responsible for band-aids on the knees of 8-year olds with baseball mitts on their laps and people with disabilities taking their first halting steps, and we take credit for adorable nurses and handsome young doctors, but not the sleep-deprived, stressed out people who actually provide medical services; If we are providing any other product or service, just accept that we aren't responsible to you for anything, ever.

Availability by telephone: You, the customer, shall be available to hear about our current or expanded services at all times of the day and night, but specifically available by repeated phone calls while you are eating or trying to watch the season finale of your favorite TV show.  We, MegaGlobalCorp, will be available during our call center service hours which will last approximately 8 hours but in a timezone several away from yours.  If we call you, you had better answer the phone, or we will call you back every 10 minutes until you do.  If you call us, we will put you on hold for an extended time, but, and this is important, we will have a recording telling you that your call is important to us.

Availability by e-mail or online: You will be subject to receipt of e-mails several times a day urging you to buy our products and services.  You agree to follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, read oddly specific and targeted banner ads on every website you visit, and agree to have us track your electronic footprint better than the FBI can.  We agree to provide online means for you to send us money and place orders, but you may not send an e-mail to us under any circumstances to ask a question or complain.  If we provide a place online to fill out a form, you must spend an extended time checking boxes and selecting drop-down choices, but may not explain your problem in words, and when you hit "submit" the system will indicate there is an error, no matter how many times you try.

Enforcement:  We will use all means permitted by law and some not permitted by law to enforce the terms and conditions of our agreement.  If we need the laws changed, we have lobbyists who can make sure that happens too.

Acceptance: Please acknowledge acceptance the terms and conditions of our agreement by clicking on a box that refers to this agreement but doesn't state it, by removing wrapping from our product, by using any of our services or by looking intently at our product, or by breathing.

Thank you and from all of us at MegaGlobalCorp, we sincerely hope that you will continue producing income to give to us.





Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It's all coming together

I love it when a plan works out.  You know, you have an idea, you start thinking and obsessing.  Then you start figuring out how to make it work; you do some research, you cogitate, you ponder, you dream.  Then you actually start making a plan, adding some structure or bones to that dream or idea.  You start working out details, you run it up the flagpole, then you start getting your ducks in a row.  Then bit by bit by bit, your ideas and lists and thoughts turn into a plan . . . and then you work on it and slowly, your plan comes together.  The pieces fall into place and you look back and think "damn, it all came together and I made it happen."  That's when a plan works out.

Or, you could do it the way we created our brewery.  Do all that other stuff, make a plan, get halted in your tracks, waste time and money, get nowhere, then start up again just to run into a road block just as frustrating and long and hard and miserable as the last one. Then waste some more time and money.  Then, when you are just about to give up all hope and your bank statement has those little comical moths flying out when you open it . . . that's when it happens sometimes.

Today I started my day with an e-mail from the Tax and Trade Bureau saying that our application to operate a brewery had been approved.  I submitted it to the State of Washington and a perfectly pleasant WSLCB employee notified me an hour later that our application had been sent for final processing and we would have our permit sometime next week.

We are at the launch pad.  The tower is pulling away.  We are undertaking a countdown (sure, it's a week long, but still, a countdown) and we are about to blast off.  Or, maybe we will make beer instead, 'cause that's what it's all about.  I love it when it all comes together, even if the plan was wadded up, walked on, thrown away and burned but somehow, like the phoenix, it rises from the ashes. 

Giddy-up. 

Stravarific or Stravasaster?

My two loves in life, setting aside mortal concerns such as my lovely wife and children, are beer and bikes.  I don't ever mix my beer consumption and my two wheel participation, but given free time, one of those two things will be on the top of my list.  As a result, today we are going to set aside beer and breweries for discussion of a love it or hate it topic in cycling - Strava.  Considered by some to be the magic elixir which makes them go fast and by others as the bane of the entire purpose of cycling, it tends to be polarizing.

My introduction to Strava was similar to Facebook.  I resisted as long as I could, but I was eventually forced to get a Facebook page when something I wanted to do was being organized solely on the site.  Without an account, I wouldn't know about the details and I wanted to be part of it.

Last spring, the same thing happened with Strava.  Mr. Chauvin organized an informal time trail that was cleverly run exclusively over Strava.  You just showed up on the appointed day and rode the Strava course.  Ted then pulled out the times for that day and then posted "results" of that TT.  It was a springtime training thing and I wanted to tag along to see how I fared from week to week, so I signed up for Strava on the first day I headed out for the event.

The first thing that struck me, aside from how miserable time trial efforts are, is how simple and straightforward Strava worked.  You can upload a Garmin or similar file, but even without a cycling computer, you get out your smartphone, open the app, click on "start a ride", put your phone back into your pocket, ride your bike, and when you are done - click "finish".  That's all there is to it.  Afterwards, you have an entry on Strava's website that shows your route, elevations, speed and, if you have ridden over a programmed climb or route, a comparison of your time/speed over that section compared to every other Strava-dork who has done the same thing.  And that is true whether it's just you and your neighbor Joey who have ridden up the climb to your house or whether you ride the same route as the professionals who use Strava.  You know just how you compare, which can be gratifying or humbling.

But here's the problem.  Once you know where the Strava segments are, it's hard to not think about it and then find yourself speeding up with the idea of bagging the best time or, at least, a faster time than your prior ride over that segment.  And, depending on your personality, it can turn every damn ride into one gut-busting effort after another.  Day after day, ride after ride.

It also leads to undesirable behavior like Strava-poaching, which is the act of dropping back to be the last one to start a segment, use the riders with you as a pack to save effort and then hit the front of the group as the segment ends.  Bam, they pick up the fastest time of anyone in the group and a faster time than possible by themselves.  In this and other ways, it can also lead to constant hard efforts, either in a group or by yourself, all for the sake of the Strava records.

For some folks, that is a dream-come-true.  They have a training partner on every ride urging them on, even if that partner is only the communication between their ears and the looming Strava results.  I would normally call these folks triathletes, but I'm trying to be nice, so I won't.  But this also leads to Strava-cheats.  Not just poaching, but Strava records set, not on a bike, but on a motorcycle, scooter, car or even just with a pacer.  If you are, as one Spokanite is, doing it just for the sake of entertainment and to mess with other people, that can be amusing, but if you are doing it and pretending that you are just setting a personal best, well, that is called cheating and of the variety that is stupid and sad.

I have ridden some years with no bike computer, HR monitor or other recording device.  Other years I have faithfully strapped on my HR monitor and uploaded a Garmin file regularly.  Net result - when I ride my bike more I go faster; when I ride my bike less I can't go as fast.  Since I am at such a low spot on the improvement curve, I don't really need ways to be getting that extra percentage by improving the quality of my specific training.  Maybe that's foolish and smarter training with HR zones, intervals and even a power meter would eek out more from the time on the bike, but it would also cut into the reason I ride - for fun.

And, for me, that is the bottom line on Strava - it's neither the boon nor bane of riding.  Kept in perspective, it's another thing to talk about or, even better, laugh about over post-ride coffee or beers.  Not kept in perspective, it just becomes another way for people who would otherwise already be annoying about riding to be annoying about riding.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Getting the Band back together again

When Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company shut it's doors in September 2010, we had three excellent full-time brewers.  Laurie Kraus, who had brewed with Tom Fisher and started on day one with us, Greg Pillar, one of the brewer/owners at Holister Mountain Brewing, and Cody Ragan, who came to us years earlier with no brewing experience but who brought a great work ethic and thirst for knowledge (and beer).

As we had moved into that year, we knew that Laurie was approaching retirement and Cody had stepped up to begin sharing the head brewer duties, but we had not anticipated either losing our space nor a serious injury to Laurie during the moving process.  Trying to hold up a piece of wall that was being removed but had fallen free, Laurie suffered a painful injury tearing muscles in his arm/bicep off of their connections on the bone.  It is the kind of injury that hurts a lot and takes a long time to rehab at any age. As a result, though, Laurie was forced into retirement a bit earlier than expected. 

As we searched for new space to re-open the brewery, Cody worked for a steel erection company, putting together the girders for multi-story buildings around the Northwest.  Greg was hired by the new owners at the Steam Plant Grill to continue brewing beers there (you may have noticed that most of the line up of beers remained, albeit with new names, after the transfer of ownership). 

Flash forward the two years and Laurie, a guy who never stopped moving during the ten plus years he was at the brewery, is rumored to have slowed down at least and is enjoying retirement.  Cody was willing to give up his job welding steel framework together and we are pleased to have had him back on board as our Head Brewer for the last several months to help with the construction of the brewery.  Thankfully for us, it's more fun to make beer than skyscrapers - at least for Cody.  And, as of today, I am pleased to announce that we are also welcoming Greg back to the fold.  Along with his considerable brewing experience, Greg also has an excellent mechanical sense and the ability to fix anything in the brewery, so we are glad to have him back with us.

Cody and Greg will be putting the last pieces in place and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning in anticipation of the new year and the new beers just around the corner.  Hopefully we can lure Laurie back to help with some arduous tasting work as we develop recipes and to remind us how much better things are today than when HE had to do everything by himself. 

I'm looking forward to sharing a pint and hearing a few stories as we get revved up with our new venture.  And not too long from now, we will have an open house and y'all can come down to see the place, have a pint and hear a few of those stories too.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Delayed - Again

So, today really was the day that I hoped that a nameless supervisor in Washington D.C. would take pity on us and review our file to sign off on it.  Unfortunately, that didn't happen.  But Monday is another day, right?  Yes, for sure, there is a pony in that room somewhere.  (If you don't know that saying, ask in the comments.)

AND, today was the day that we were supposed to fire up the brewhouse for the first time in it's new location, but alas, that didn't happen either.

There was no apparent problem with permits or equipment.  No, this time it was for the simplest of reasons.  When we brew, we end up with several hundred pounds of "spent" grain.  In other words, we have run it through the grist mill, mixed it with hot water and extracted as much sugar from the grain as we can, but it leaves behind the bulk of each kernel that goes into the mash tun.  That grain has significant food value remaining.  In the past we have used a small amount of it for making spent grain pretzels or bread in restaurants, but we have a LOT more grain than can be used in that fashion without opening a commercial bakery specializing in spent grain products.  So, instead, we have arranged for a pig farmer to collect the spent grain which he uses to supplement the pig feed.  Win/win/win - We dispose of the grain with low cost and in an environmentally sound fashion; the pig farmer gets free, high-quality grain to supplement his feed; and the pigs get something tasty that they like.

Only problem today, the pig farmer has the barrels we use for this process and we couldn't get them back in time to brew today.  We use multiple 55-gallon plastic drums that the tops have been cut off, so they stand up to the weight and are reasonably moveable, but there isn't an easy substitute.  So stymied on that adventure today.

Oh well, Monday is another chance for our license, we will get the barrels back next week and River City Brewing will continue it's long and tortured process of coming to life.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

History Lesson

Everyone loves a history lesson, right?  Certainly better than a history lesion, eh? (What does that even mean? I have no idea).

Let's start over. 

Here is some history of River City Brewing.  Like many stories, this one starts long ago in a faraway place.  Like around 35 miles away - that dang far.  In July 1999, my family and I took over the Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company from Tom Fisher (although not the attached pub until a few years later). It was a great opportunity to take up the work of making, selling and talking about good beer.  There were relatively few bars and restaurants that really made craft beer an integral part of their operation - with a couple of notable standouts at the time being Moontime in Coeur d'Alene and the second operation by the same owners, The Elk, in Spokane.  Certainly there were others, but these two stood out with a rotating beer menu on the table and beer incorporated in some of their menu items.  They really got the idea behind the future of beer culture, but the tribe of us was relatively small in those days.  Mighty but still small.

Around this same period, our family was also involved in the development of Steam Plant Square - my parents' company had been focusing on historic renovations for a couple of decades at that point - and we saw the opportunity to create a great space for a brewpub in the heart of the building.  Since we believed in the brand and the great beers that we had developed, we made the same beers in the Steam Plant Grill in the smaller brewpub system installed there. 

And, then with the Idaho licensing, we had the opportunity to have another location in the state under the same license and a few years later we opened the Moscow Alehouse, again featuring Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company beers.

So, for a few years, we chugged along brewing and selling beer and making complimentary food in all three spots.  It was a good run and we had a lot of great people come through the brewery and the restaurants, both working with us and as customers.  But, as so often is the case, stuff happened and change came along.

First, our landlord in Coeur d'Alene decided that after we had worked so hard and for so many years to make his building a great spot for a restaurant, he decided that he wanted his own restaurant spot there and we had to leave.  The economy was in a free-fall in late 2010 and it made it very difficult to find a spot in which to relocate.  We moved the brewing equipment into storage and kept looking for spots to house a brewery and brewpub again, but without much luck.  Financing, location, accessibility for either the restaurant or brewery portion or something stymied our attempts to relocate.  Next, we had the opportunity to sell the Steam Plant Grill to the landlord and all of a sudden we went from a three-restaurant, two brewery company to a one restaurant outfit with all of the equipment for a brewery.  The economy and financing hadn't grown much yet, but the number of people drinking great local beer was growing, as were the number of restaurants that were formed around an appreciation for great beer.

A couple of quite years passed for us when we found a spot in which we could set up a smaller brewing operation, but get back into production.  We would have a lot less space, and gave up the aging bottling line, but we would be back making beer and at a time that the regional beer scene was growing by leaps and bounds.  That space is in Spokane and so it wasn't authentic to just make beer under the "Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company" name, so we have adopted another name that fits our spot a few blocks from the falls that run through downtown - River City Brewing.  We are, as the blog tells above and below, just on the verge of being able to make beer again.  We will make a couple of Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company favorites - Huckleberry Ale and the increasingly famous Stout, along with some new variations and seasonals under the River City Brewing name.  We couldn't be more excited and look forward to discussing all of this over a pint very soon.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Progress!

Yes, I checked first thing again today and no, no approval yet, but I am keeping my fingers crossed that tomorrow will be the day.

No, I have no rational reason for thinking that, but I can hope, can't I?

On other fronts, however, we have set this Friday, 12/7, for our first test run of the brewhouse.  No, Mr. Liquor Enforcement Person, we are not "making beer", but we are going to fire up the boiler, run some base grain through the mash tun and boil down some wort just to see how things work.  Our head brewer, Cody, will be testing extraction rates from our grain, but we will also be doing a bunch of other basic stuff like seeing if the boiler and hot liquor tank work fine; see if the fittings are all tight; checking on the function of pumps and connectors; seeing if seals are all in place; making sure drains don't have construction debris hidden in them; and basically just seeing if any problems arise or anything jumps out.

We don't have any yeast on the premises, so we can't turn the wort into beer, but we will move it through the various stations to make sure things work all along the way from the brewhouse to the fermentation tanks to the conditioning tanks, checking on parts, pieces and pumps at each place.  Fun, huh?

Actually, it is a lot of work and we will use several hundred dollars of grain in this test, but there is no better way to make sure everything is working.  And that, my friends, is the next step to getting to our first brew day.  And you know what comes after that, right?  Yes, BEER.

I'm excited.  I hope you will be too.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Morning and the feeling is . . .

Do you start out every morning the same way I do?  Do you look at the clock, wonder if you can just go back to sleep, but drag yourself out of bed anyway and then have this thought pop into your head?

WHAT IF TODAY IS THE DAY THE TTB FINALLY APPROVES THE RIVER CITY BREWERY LICENSE!!!!!!

I know you do, otherwise you wouldn't be checking this blog every day even though the lameness of not posting since July can be smelled right there on your screen (Lame has a very distinctive and funky odor).

Anyway, that is what I am doing every day and here are some details.  Right now we have our building permits closed out and our occupancy permit approved for the brewery.  Don't get me started on that whole thing, but at least it's done.  Also, we have done everything for the State of Washington, except give them something called a "TTB Brewer's Notice".

The TTB, for those of you not immersed in the arcane world of brewery regulations, is the Tax and Trade Bureau, which is a division of the United States Department of Treasury.  It used to be known as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), which I think gave us breweries a more dangerous and sinister edge, but a while ago they split up the department and gave the BATF name to the law enforcement side and started the TTB to make sure alcohol taxes got collected.  So basically the TTB Brewer's Notice says "yes, we the tax collectors give you permission to make beer because we are reasonably sure we will get paid."  I don't know, maybe there is more to it than that, but anyway, that is the piece of paper we need to give to the State and they are ready to issue our license.

At the TTB, we have given them everything they need, a process which started months and months ago, and our reviewer has approved our file and given it to her supervisor for final approval.  The file was sent from the reviewer to the supervisor 13 days ago.  THIRTEEN DAYS!  How long does it take?

So now, after I get out of my footie pajamas and get a shower, I then log onto the TTB Permits online website and check the status of our license.  So far, it reads the same every day "submitted by reviewer for supervisor approval", but one of these days very soon, it is going to read "YAHOO! GO MAKE BEER!" or at least something like that.

It's gonna be the best Christmas present I get this year (unless my wife stops by the motorcycle dealership . . . honey?).

Stay posted.  Beer making to begin in 3 . . . 2 . . .  1 . . .