Thursday, July 19, 2012

An epic novel is born. Apologies to weary eyes.

Recently I was invited to Russian River Brewing Company from a brewer and good friend Travis.  I finally found a moment to fly to the bay area and figured I had best visit some old friends and make some new ones. It's what I do.  My lovely, gracious, and oh so gorgeous wife gave me a few thousand flyer points and off I flew. Off to live a "glorified vagrant" life for 5 days.  When Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. is up and running, you'll probably notice some of the bay area influence.  I have many  family and friends here, and have frequented the area throughout the years gathering info, ideas, and sharing a few classy ales with some amazing people all over that area.  No one is a stranger in SF it seems, and I want to capture that  here in AZ.  Anyways, after very little planning I landed in COLD SFO and the B.A.R.T. became my savior.  A stop at toronado(hey spell check, quit changing it to tornado!) is always in order and a beer or two with the uh , friendly, uh, friendly like a sleeping alligator, bar tender and rented a truck up to Santa Rosa.  Every time I go to Lagunitas I am dumbfounded by their growth.  Lets be honest though, their pulled pork nachos deserve a spot in the pork and/or nacho Hall of Fames. This will be coming to a menu near you!  Onward to Russian River Brewing, a quick trip up the road.  The production facility is in an industrial park, and wreaks of spent grains and CO2 (more on the CO2 later). Upon entrance I see the infamous MoreBeer! 26 gallon brewing setup for their experimental brewing.  Yeah, the same one Tim and I bought and the sole reason this ridiculous idea got started.  That system  looked at me and said, "You bought yours because of me, hows that working chump".  So next, a brewery tour was in order.  The "Vinnie Way" was all over this place.  Rewind a bit. Vinnie Cilurzo (who was out of town on this occasion) is a brewing legend in the bay area and owns/operates Russian River Brewing Co.  If a word has come out of his mouth or written from his hand, it has probably been heard or read by me.  This trip was confirmation that, yes, he is insane in every good way.  The lab, the 60 bbl brewhouse, the fermentors, and the barrels.  Oh the barrels!  We made it into the taps and tasted the products.  A few unreleased beers, a few well known, and a few more touched me in the tongue and I touched back.  Great beers, as always, and with the brewers who made em.  I felt at home in the house that Pliny built.  We went to the pub and checked the 15bbl brewhouse there.  I ordered a vegan pizza and got beat up verbally by the Russian River brewing crew.  Punks!  The night will be remember as one of the greats.

Upon waking in an RV in the Russian River Parking lot at 6 a.m., I smelled something oh so sweet.  Grains!!!!! I was late to mash in!  Luckily, changing clothes wasn't part of the agenda, so I ran in to see Travis gripping coffee over the mash tun on the brew deck.  It's the system that Sam Calagione sold Vinnie a few years back, its, well, interesting. Damnation was being mashed and it was sassy in my nose. Not that I needed to confirm this, but brewers work HARD.  Sweat on a 45 degree morning is like a sunburn on a 110 degree day. Well... never mind, you get it.  A few ruff spots hear and there, and the lauter got to its thing flowing ahead of the boil.  I was the idiot who volunteered to mill grains for the next batch and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.  As the morning flew by I picked Travis's brain to borderline annoyance.  It was AWESOME.  What an amazing brewer that man be. He be real smart. Vinnie doesnt let ANYTHING with the initials O2 get by him.  CO2 is the only combatant to staling his beautiful beers and they sure use it.  I am not complaining, nor is the air-gas delivery guy, because this beer speaks for itself.  I caught the crazy bug even more and put some in my wallet. Crazy is good.

Getting back to SF for Breast Fest was a long traffic ridden drive.  The bridge held its breath as I crossed and I was in the city.  Breast Fest isn't a job for me to cover, but I met up with several faces I knew (Thanks Pitcher of Nectar for the tix).  A nice lil brewer laden group headed over to La Trappe after the fest. Sours and Belgians were flowing and I got to chat with Rodger and Claudia Davis formally of Drake's and Tripple Rock Fame.  They are starting Faction Brewing in the East Bay and we talked trials and tribulations.  Good stuff to hear from a legend.  A collaboration is in order with Faction next year sometime.  Some Sierra Nevada boys and I shared a few and talked some shop.   A few, or several, hours later the crowd finally slowed down and I slept on someones hotel room floor. With a Sheet and the window open.  Sore throats suck!

The next couple of days were filled with places such as Monks Kettle, Zeitgiesit, Southern Pacific brewing, and several more.  Berkeley was my last stop to visit the Drake's owned tap house, Jupiter, and my friend Jeff the brewmaster at Tripple Rock.  Ideas and beers were tossed around and off I went across the bay.  Another successful bay area recon trip (besides the 15 hr flight delay).  AZWBC will be better for it.

Where is the Toronado?

Travis and I sharing

Things need done.

Aaron getting his Aaron on.

We "bearded"
Barrel Love
The Vinnie Nail

Sharing with the brewers
The 15 bbl pub brewhouse
Travis and his B-I-L getting groovy at the pub

Bottling line 
Milling at the house that Pliny Built

Eating at the pork store on Hiaght/Ashbury is A MUST eveytime.

Breast Fest
Tree Beers!

Zietgiest and the trees.  We are getting trees at the pub.

These lights will be in the pub.

A lil gem that was Southern Pacific.

Like Whoa

Speaking the Gospel

Heat and Sun

OK back to earth, we found an architect that is weird enough even for me.  We had another visit to the proposed location (721 N. Arizona in Gilbert) and I thought the meeting went very well.  Thanks Eric at the Boulders for the referral. This means we have a contractor, an architect, a CPA, a lawyer, a building, and Gilbert City Council vote in order.  Life is good!  Lease negotiations are easy with good people.  We are blessed to have an easy going group to deal with.  I still say though, BEWARE homebrewers who want to go pro, these things can get mighty mighty risky!  You will pay for these minor things in the long run.  We will sign this lease as soon as we feel Gilbert officially approve's the plans.

Kickstarter swag is almost all here.  We decided, since the opening is still several months away, to look for possible locations to hold a AZWBC swag party.  This doesn't mean we are not going to send yours in the mail, it just means its much easier to hand it in person sans shipping.  Plus, parties are always fun.  Expect news on that soon.

Ok, back to planning, reading resumes, reading books and microscopes.  This one was too long, so next time I will talk about the Northern AZ yeast I collected, new recipes, and one last AZWBC tasting before we open.


1 comment:

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