2010 wasn’t bad really

So what’s up with everyone on the “Facecrack” hating on 2010?  What was really bad about it?  Sure the economy sucked and Dio died, but all in all if your still with us you’ve survived another year.  I’ve been amazed at how doom and gloom the media has been this year as if I should have expected the second coming by the end of the fiscal year.  Has it been rough for many unemployed this year?  You bet your ass it has, but we’re all still here aren’t we.  Let’s try something this year people, let’s try being more positive in 2011!  Look I’ve been caught up in it this past year too, I’ve had my share of down days, hell I’d even wager to say that I’ve made my life miserable at times by my own hand but through it all I feel like I’ve come out pretty bad ass.  As John Stewart said this year despite all of the political bull that goes on in Washington we still all go on living our lives, that’s what is so great about our country we can have different opinions and it doesn’t end in a over through of the government.   I want to thank all of those service men and woman out there doing their duty for all of us, I may not agree with war but I respect all of you with everything I got.

Little recap on the year for me.  The start of the year was located in Richland, Washington during some damn cold weather.  My wife and I got to experience a frozen Yakima River and we got to pour beer in snowy Ellensberg.  I was finally hitting my stride as a brewer and feeling pretty comfortable with it all.  My wife was making great friends at her work and despite not being too fond of the Tri-Cities we were doing really well.  Spring came and so did camping in Joseph, Oregon and frequent trips to Pendleton to visit our favorite coffee shop The Great Pacific.  Summer was hot in the brewery and I probably lost a good 5-10 pounds because of it.  I got to experience the Pendleton Roundup for the first time and loved it, Hells Canyon was sort of a disappointment but the driving on long bumpy Forest Service roads in the Volvo station wagon was a blast.  Still having an itch to move back to Oregon I encouraged my wife to apply for jobs close to Salem and she promptly received and offer which she took.  Now we’re back in Oregon I’m unemployed living in a trailer located in a horse pasture two weeks from closing on a new house.  So what’s up for the new year?  Rumor has it I’ll be working a new job and working on our first house, things are looking good.

Long Pause

Sorry to all for not posting for some time.  In the past couple of months my wife got a job back in Oregon, we made the move back to Oregon, and I became unemployed once again.    It’s been a really crazy month for me and my wife.

One of our goals when we moved back to the Valley was to finally take the plunge and by our first house, we have rented for a long time and as of late I have felt like we have been wasting our money on rent.  Rent in Washington was $1200.00 a month and with interests rates low, a good sized down payment, and bottoming out home prices we can easily come out way lower than that with mortgage, taxes, and home owners insurance.  Before you all start saying don’t buy don’t buy I know the challenges we are up against, I know someone wont just come fix things when something breaks, I know the debt involved.  Say what you will but for us I have been backwards and forwards on the numbers the risks and the benefits and I can say that it makes good sense for us to enter the home market.    I’ve remodeled homes, built homes, and fixed and replaced multitudes of things this allows us to purchase a livable fixer keeping our price $160k and lower.  My wife and I really like older homes so most of what we have looked at is 1950’s and older near downtown.  We did get first time home buyers jitters and backed out of our first home offer but I think we have a more clear idea of what we want now and how to get it.  Living in a trailer at my in-laws house is a driving factor as it feels cramped but I try to tell my wife and myself that we need to take this slow and make a decision that makes the most sense for us.

As far as my working career goes I really haven’t had much time to dive into it, I’m not lazy I’ve just had a lot to do and have had a lack of motivation which stems from a confusion of present self and future self.  I love brewing and it pulls at me all the time, I really do miss it even though I’ve only been without the sweet smell of mashing grains for no more than a month.  I have even talked to a local brewery but they didn’t seem too keen on needing the help right now and I’m not sure I want to work for them currently.  I told myself that I would either start something myself when we moved or at the very least be choosy about who I worked for.  Trouble is I don’t have a permanent location, money, or an abundance of breweries in the Salem area.  Working for a winery has crossed my mind as well and I think I’d be perfectly fine with that but beer is still my greatest interest.  By the way speaking of beer, Capital Market my god I never knew, very impressive beer selection.  So much for opening up a beer tasting room and store in Salem.  I spend a lot of time at the Beanery looking at houses and trying to figure out my life currently.  On the bright side I’ve fixed up an old bike to ride around town.  If anyone has any suggestions of people to talk to in the beer/wine/cider industry around here about jobs or possibly ventures I’m all ears.

It’s good to be back home!

Beer and Food Carts

A couple of months back I was enlightened to the Portland food cart scene.  It’s fantastic that Portland is willing to embrace this new upcoming industry that allows talented people to get into the food industry for way cheaper than owning a restaurant.  It got me thinking, I’ve never really thought that I could run a restaurant and a brewery at the same time, which is the traditional sense of a brew pub.  Food carts for me present a interesting situation however, what if the two where brought together?  I’m thinking that if a brewery could be put down town with a large parking lot I could have food carts to provide the food and I could provide the indoor and outdoor seating and of course the beer. More or less I’d have the brewpub atmosphere and hangout spot and the food would be provided by the food carts.

My wife’s aunt and uncle have been thinking of moving to Salem from Portland, her aunt is a very talented baker for Elephants Delicatessen in Portland.  It just happens that she has been toying with the idea of starting a food cart in Salem.  If I could make it work with permitting and regulations in theory I should be able to have a pub like area within the brewery, a “tasting room” as you will, then have a food cart or two to provide the food maybe even have the food delivered to the “tasting room” as to be more convenient to patrons.   To me this would take a lot of pressure off me to try to run and staff a restaurant and would take a lot of pressure off of me financially.  Do you all think this could be a viable model?

Fresh Hop IPA and Salem Brewery Wrap Up

So it’s that time of the year again, time for fresh hop IPA’s.  As a brewer it’s time to connect with the hop farmers that supply us with a ingredient so fundamental to many of the ale and lager styles that we make.  A fresh hop IPA  incorporates freshly picked hops, due to storage issues hops are usually dried to preserve them, using freshly picked “wet hops” lends a more grassy bright hop flavor and aroma that beery geeks crave this time of year.  This year’s beer at Ice Harbor has 100lbs of Amarillo and Centennial hops per 10bbl batch for the flavor and aroma addition.  I will say that making a fresh hop ale is a real pain in the rear our brewing system is not designed to deal with whole hop flowers, we use pelletized hops, so it clogs up the transfer and at the end I have to climb into the kettle and shovel out all of the spent hops.  Anyway I hope it was all worth it so far a couple of days into fermentation the fresh hop ale is showing signs of greatness.

I want to thank everyone that chimed in regarding starting a brewery in Salem.  I had a feeling there would be a positive response and I know that I can count on a great deal of support from the community.  I’m still not clear on what direction I should go at this point, I know that all of you would rather see a brewpub as that would give you a place to hang out and have a good time, but I’m not throwing out the possibility of starting out as a brewery with a tasting room (would still be a place to hang out just wouldn’t be able to get a full meal). Money at this point is a huge road block so the cheaper I can keep this thing the better.  If anyone out there knows some people I should talk to by all means let me know, I really need to make some contacts with the community to make this a possibility.  Or maybe I should start a wood fired pizza food cart in Salem, who knows???

Is it time Salem?

I recently commented on a Salem Blog called What’s Up With That after the author had discussed the lack of local brewpubs in downtown Salem.  I know what your thinking, McMennamins has two locations in Salem and The Ram is right across from Willamette University so why would Salem need more breweries?  However, let’s face it, these establishments are both chains. Don’t get me wrong, I like McMennamins a lot and while The Ram can make good beer I’ve always had my druthers about their food and atmosphere.  Really, it comes down to the fact that Salem really doesn’t have it’s own brewpub. Oregon has the largest number of breweries per capita in the country and the Willamette Valley is pretty much the beer capital of the world.  So why is it that Salem is a brewery dead zone?

I grew up in Silverton and my wife grew up in the Pratum area.  Both of us know the Salem area well; we have lived in and around Salem for most of our lives until last year when we moved up to Kenniwick, WA (Part of the Tri-Cities in south-east Washington). We’ve always thought it such a shame that if we wanted to go to a “real brewery” we had to head to Corvallis or Portland. I know that Salem is more of a blue collar crowd compared to Eugene, Corvallis, and Portland but that is changing.  Also I know from working up here in Kennewick that a blue collar crowd can more than support a local brewery.  There have been breweries that have tried and failed in Salem and I’ve always wondered if that was because of the population or because of the establishment, but I’m guessing the latter.  That fact got me thinking a lot as I became a full time brewer at Ice Harbor Brewing up here in Kennewick.

My wife and I will be moving back to the Willamette Valley next summer and we have seriously discussed starting a brewery in Salem.  For us right now it’s more of a dream than a reality but that really hinges on knowing if Salem is ready and if inverstors are willing to take a chance with us on this venture.  I’d really like to start something unique in Salem; we’ve talked about doing organic beers, Belgian beers, and even lagers as a way to separate ourselves from all of the over the top hop bomb breweries out there (even though we like making those too).  Ideally we would have 7-10 beers available and very tasty salads and wood fired pizzas (think something like American Dream in Corvallis). We’ve also thought about locations a lot and an obvious choice is a historical building downtown but we’ve even thought about doing a organic brewery in the Pringle Creek Sustainable Community development (which would be a blast!).

So what say you?  Is Salem ready for a unique, family friendly brewing establishment?  Or am I wasting my time?  Any comments would be greatly appreciated as every word of encouragement or discouragement will help us decide our path.

Brewing always brewing

Well it’s official, we have been up here for more than a year, actually I think I have even been at the brewery for close to one year as well.  Some time in early to mid August I started volunteering at Ice Harbor, back then I had no idea that I would ever become the assistant brewer, within a couple of months I had a good idea that things would be shaken up as things were just not working out with the at the time assistant.  I’m not sure “Assistant Brewer” is a good description of the assistant at Ice Harbor.  I’ve done 72 out of 112 batches this year so far and from what I can figure I’ve produced more than 800bbl of beer on my own so far as assistant.  I calculated it out the other day and so far this year I’ve produced somewhere around 25000 gallons of beer.  This is on a 10bbl system mind you that usually grosses more like 11 to 12bbl out of the kettle.  To put this in perspective the average brewpub probably produces between 200 to 300bbl a year, I’ve already brewed like I was at a small brewpub for 3 years or more. in less than a year (I’ve been assistant for 10 months).  Really for experience sake it’s more about how many batches you have made (Full Sail brewing has fermenters that are a capacity that is half of our annual production in one shot).  So I’ve done 80 batches which wile doesn’t seem like a lot really is.  The head brewer says I have the experience now where I should have no problem getting a brewing job down in Oregon, that is a good feeling the only problem will be trying to find an opening.

I’d still really like to open a brewery in Salem but I just not sure that my wife and I can afford it.  I’m seriously thinking of starting a nano-brewery just to get my foot in the door of the Salem market.  I know I know it’s not a brewpub, which I think would be really disappointing to a lot of Salemites but it’s probably all I can manage unless someone wants to invest in our place.  I’ve been trying to keep a finger on the pulse of Salem as long as I’ve been up here through blogs and such and I stumbled upon someone commenting that they wished there was a local brewery in downtown Salem, check out What’s Up With That? I made a comment.  My dream is to have a brewpub that makes worldclass beers not just over the top hop bombs and makes tasty handcrafted wood fired pizzas in a giant clay pizza oven.  Maybe someday…..

Wheat, endless fields of wheat

Need I say more?  There are a few things that are ubundant up here in the Tri-Cities, one is heat, two is dust, and three is wheat.  I’m still suffering through the heat, it makes me not think too straight, I burned my leg pretty good today, the heat has had a effect on my thought processes.  The temperature wasn’t too bad today though (the brewery was only a cool 91) and I think we’re going to have thunder storms tonight, I heard some rumbling off in the distance.