What’s in a Name? Part II

Holystone is dead! Long live Holystone!

brew-ha-ha

So in the last post (What’s in a Name? Part I) you were given the story of the birth of Holystone Brewing. Now let me tell you about the death of Holystone… Ok, so it is nothing too dramatic. We had always said that we could never open a commercial brewery using the name Holystone mainly because Charleston already has Holy City Brewing and Stone Brewing is obviously big enough to tell us we can’t use the word Stone in our name. Would they give us trouble if we tried to open with that name? Maybe. Possibly. Probably not. Whatever.

The truth behind it all is that I have this little logo that I drew up about 4 years ago and had been sitting on. It was this little cartoonish octopus with a hop cone for a head. I called it the octohops. When I launched this blog, I used the logo to represent the blog. Pearce (and everyone else for that matter) loved it. I never really thought about it, but people were asking us left and right if it was our brewery logo. I kept saying no, but Pearce kept pushing me on it saying we SHOULD adopt it, if for nothing else, our homebrew operation…

We knew that we were going to stop using Holystone but I fought using this to represent anything other than the blog. I was thinking, “Why would we use this throw away little logo…” “Octohops Homebrew has a nice ring to it,” Pearce said. I wasn’t convinced.

8hops512

But I was wrong.

There, Pearce. I admitted it in a public forum! Haha!

It would seem that not only do people really think it is a cool logo, they have let us know that they would totally buy t-shirts and stickers and hats that have this logo on them. And they have already! We launched www.octohops.com yesterday and have already sold a couple of t-shirts without people even really knowing the store was open.

So there you have it. We are adopting the Octohops as our logo for our homebrew operation, and maybe we will even take it into our commercial venture as well.  How would you like to help us in this journey and be a part of the adventure? Well, if you feel so inclined, then please consider purchasing one of our articles or clothing or a sticker (and hopefully other items in the near future…)

You can do so by visiting www.octohops.com.

Be a part of turning our vision into reality.

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www.octohops.com

 

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What’s in a Name? Part I

Are you curious yet about what we will be calling ourselves as professional brewers?
Well, don’t hold your breath…

breath

I promise that this blog will be the first public place that we announce our commercial name, but we aren’t ready to do that just yet. One reason is that our vision and branding MAY be location dependent. What that means is that we know HOW we want our brewery to be run and WHERE we would like for it to be, but in reality, it may just not work out that way. Of the several locations that we are pursuing, each has its own personality that may or may not work with the name or names that we would like to use. I know that is vague, but at some point in the future it will make more sense. Alas, don’t fret. You will love the name and branding when we do reveal it.

In the meantime, allow me to spin a tale about the original naming of our homebrew operation and in a subsequent post, the renaming of our homebrew operation.

When Pearce and I first started brewing together, we knew that adding a name to our operation would make it seem like it was more than it really was; a hobby. But we also wanted to immediately add a little credibility to what we “might” do in the future. That being said, naming anything these days is next to impossible if you ever plan to use terms or phrases or names that are actual people, places or things. Basically, if you think of something that isn’t a gobbledegook mash-up of non-words, a minimum of 5 people have already had the thought ahead of you and have bought every instance or combination of letters that would make up a decent domain. This reminds me of the SNL skit about Dillon Edwards Investments

Pearce and I have our own ideas about what makes a good name, but we agreed that we wanted something that represented our love of the coast, the history of our area and was also a subtle nod to our faith. Talk about a tall order. Well cleanliness is next to Godliness and any good brewer knows that the art of brewing is 10% recipe, 10% skill, and 80% cleaning and sanitation. Our research for the right name led us to a historical item that was once used to clean the wooden decks of ships. The item was known as a holystone, a porous type of sandstone, that legend says was first gathered from the ruined church of St. Helens Cathedral on the Isle of Wight. A holy relic used for cleaning and purification?  It represented our coastal heritage, our dedication to brewing sanitation standards, and had just enough veiled faith context as to create intrigue. How perfect! We adopted the name Holystone Brewing and started making our presence known. That is until we decided to change our name…

true-holystone

Stay tuned for the next episode of Planning to Brew where we talk about the death of Holystone and the birth of a new name and brand. You will not want to miss out on that story. Speaking of not missing out… Have you subscribed yet? Just add your email address and we will notify you whenever there is a new post. Scared of spam and other nefarious things from giving out your email addy? Fear not. We will never spam you or sell your information.

Until next time my friends…

Getting Our Hands Dirty

I have gotten some really great feedback recently from readers and people following our journey. The recurring feedback from numerous folks after last week’s post about taking a brewing course was that “school learning” is no substitute for hands-on experience. I could not agree with you more. You guys just didn’t give me a chance to tell you about it yet…

IMG_2596I met Chris Winn from Tradesman Brewing this past year. He was one of those guys that would show up in People You Might Know on Facebook. One day I checked out his profile and realized that we had SEVERAL friends in common from SEVERAL different social groups, the most glaring being the cycling community and the local beer community. I was wondering how we had so many mutual friends and had not really crossed paths. As if his ears were burning, I got a friend request from him and accepted that same week.

Not too long after that, I reached out to him and asked if he ever needed any help at the brewery. My schedule was flexible and I was willing to come put in some hours. He told me that I was welcome anytime. The first time I went was a week after Thanksgiving. Pearce was out of town that week so he wasn’t able to make it, but I went ahead. I met Chris at the brewery at the butt-crack of dawn that day, and he and Scott (co-owner and head brewer) proceeded to put me to work. From sun up to sun down, they let me do as much as I was willing, which was everything at that point. Even though the day was long and the work was not easy, I knew that the smell of grains cooking and converting was a future I would be happy with.

So for the past few months, Pearce and I have been putting in hours when we were able. Chris (and Eulie and Scott too) has been teaching and giving us opportunities to learn the business from the ground up. Brewing is such a small part of actually running a brewery and we have been learning about all of the aspects. Crushing, mashing, brewing, cooling, transferring, propagating, pitching, fermenting, harvesting, cleaning, sanitizing, crashing, carbonating, kegging, packaging, distributing, ordering, managing, travelling and especially tasting… I even got to go work the World Beer Festival in Columbia, SC with these guys.

The beer community in Charleston is really awesome and it seems like almost ALL of the brewers and beer folk in this town are great and willing to help each other succeed. I want to thank Chris, Scott and Eulie for giving us the opportunity to get our hands dirty and learn more about the business that we want to be a part of. If you are local readers then please stop in at Tradesman and give a high five to the crew for being so awesome and willing to let us be a part.

Old Fool in the Old School

I realize that neither Pearce nor I have any formal training as brewmasters. You probably have thought to yourself, “What are these yay-hoos gonna do once presented with large scale commercial brewing equipment?” Well, you are right. We don’t know how to brew on commercial brewing equipment. But we aren’t afraid to learn either.

Currently, Pearce and I are both enrolled in an online course from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and being administered through Blue Ridge Community College Craft Beer Academy in Hendersonville, NC. Some people may ask why we would go through a semi-regional community college in order to get a certificate in brewing through an internationally recognized organization whose mission it is to advance education and professional development in the science and technologies of brewing, distilling and related industries… Well there are a couple of reasons. The first is that neither of us have the extra time, nor the extra finances, nor the capacity to get into the Siebel Institute and World Brewing Academy. The second is that most of the other courses are taught in person out in Oregon or in the North East. But the true kicker that caused us to choose this particular course is that the class is taught in conjunction with and under the supervision of Oskar Blues Brewery. All of our class videos are actually filmed at the OB location in Brevard, NC. Oh yeah… we also get to go spend a day working at the OB brewery at the end of the course. Hands on experience at one of the coolest breweries around could not be passed up.

oskar_blues_brewery_2014

And by the way… This course is not a cakewalk. I was talking to my wife the other day and telling her about the section I was studying on Yeast Husbandry and Handling. Sounds dirty doesn’t it? I was throwing out terms like propagation, flocculation, cropping characteristics, subculturing onto agar slopes, and autolysation as a cause of “meatiness.” She looked at me and said, “Your beer conversation has become so much more refined. Careful or you will fall into a less desirable social standing among your peers because of your perceived beer nerdiness.” I have paraphrased. She may have just looked at me and called me a dork.

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So, at the end of this course, we will both have the opportunity to get a General Brewing Certificate from the IBD. But guess what. That still doesn’t make us brewmasters. We are well aware of that. But we both are voracious learners and we understand that when starting a new business, it is best to know the business from the bottom up. We will be more prepared in the commercial realm than if we were trying to do this having only been homebrewers. The more you know, amirite?

With that being said, and if you have actually made it to the end of this post, I would like to tell you that we have had several SUPER exciting things happen over the past couple of weeks. We have had super strategic meetings with municipal staff, legal experts, financial institutions and advisors. I am hoping to make several important announcements in the next month or so that may answer some questions about the ifs and whens and wheres of a commercial brewing endeavor. Make sure to subscribe in order to be notified when we post.

Thanks folks. Be well.

 

Is there room for more breweries?

So one of the most asked questions that we have been asked is, “Is the market saturated in Charleston?” or “Is there enough room for another brewery in Charleston?”

We have been working on our business plan very diligently and this question is one that HAS to be answered before we move forward.

The research that we have done makes the answer a bit elusive and somewhat difficult to determine, although there have yet to be any indications of market saturation in regional markets with a very high density of breweries per capita. This is good news for us and for the Charleston beer scene in general.

Portland, Oregon has the distinction of having more craft breweries than any other city in the world at 52 (current as of our research), and they continue to grow. In the greater Portland area, they boast more than 70 total breweries. Charleston currently has 11 Breweries. To put this into perspective, the population of the Greater Charleston area is around 698,000 while Portland’s population around 610,000. The Charleston area has a greater population than Portland, while the greater Portland area has more than 6 times the number of active breweries in operation.  With the explosive growth experienced by almost every craft brewery in the greater Charleston area, it is a reasonable conclusion that the greater Charleston area has room for growth of the craft beer industry.

I AM starting to get concerned about the ever-dwindling shelf space and tap availability. I have even seen reference to SKU-maggedon, or the overabundance of craft-beers for retailers who will eventually not have space no matter how high-quality and well-differentiated the beer is. I DO think that this is catastrophic thinking and fear-mongering, but I WILL keep my eyes on it.

Regardless, as far as I am concerned is that YES, there is room for another brewery here in Charleston. It might as well be us.

 

Award Winning Homebrewers

This past week, we won our first homebrew competition.

I had not been super concerned with entering competitions until recently. When we first got started brewing, it was all about having fun and making great beer. I sort of felt like I didn’t need some “certified judge” telling me what might or might not be technically wrong with the beer we were making as long as we liked it and our friends liked it.

mericas-mugThat attitude changed when we decided to pursue going commercial. Pearce convinced me that entering competitions wasn’t about validation of our recipes. It was truly about learning from qualified people AND bolstering our reputation as brewers. At this point, we have no street cred in the brewing community and we are really rookie want-to-be-brewers.  If we enter some competitions and fail to impress the judges, then we will be able to take the critical feedback that they give us and improve our product. If we enter and win ribbons… well, that at least validates that we aren’t dolts.

Our first competition was the Savannah Brewers League ‘Merica’s Mug competition. This one crossed our radar a bit too late and instead of preparing and entering beers brewed specifically for the competition, we entered the two beers that we had on hand at the time. One was a heavily Mosaic hopped American Pale Ale that for some reason I entered as an American IPA. The other was an aggressive and seriously strong double IPA. Both of the beers had slight flaws that we knew about. The APA was sweeter than intended and the DIPA was not quite where we wanted it either. Regardless, we thought they were pretty damn good. The judges, on the other hand, thought differently. They provided detailed feedback about the flaws in the beers. Both beers were deemed to have had issues with fermentation control which may have led to off-flavors. The first beer was not entered in the correct category and it was considered too “fruity” and sweet with not enough hop character.  The second beer was considered “pleasant” yet not hoppy enough by one judge and “not a good example” by the other and was deemed to have a possible diacetyl issue… Live and learn. In all seriousness, though, we took the feedback from the judges as constructive and it will lead to a better understanding of brewing in future batches.

judge-feedback

After digesting the feedback we tightened our processes and really dialed in our fermentation temperature control. We studied a little more about what made beer better. We kept brewing and kept tweaking our process.

IMG_3335So we entered two beers into a regional homebrew competition called Brewtopia 2.2 several weeks ago. This is NOT your typical homebrew competition where you can enter any BJCP style beer, but rather a very specific brewing competition. The rules stated that we could submit ANY type of beer as long as primary fermentation was accomplished by a French Saison yeast (specifically Wyeast 3711 or WLP590.) Pearce and I were excited about the opportunity to take things out of the box a bit. We developed a recipe for a Saison aged on vanilla beans and figs as well as a Saison d’Hiver (a Winter Saison) brewed with winter vegetables and aged on beets. Raise your hand if you are thirsty. We totally over did it with the beets on the Saison d’Hiver and we knew it, but we entered it anyway because WTH not? I was pretty pumped about the Vanilla Fig Saison though. It turned out really nice.
I have realized that this post is much longer than I wanted it to be so I will leave it at this… We took 1st Place with the Vanilla Fig and 4th place with the Saison d’Hiver. We won our first homebrew competition. Does this mean we will become award winning commercial brewers? No. But at least we know that we are building a foundation to become great brewers.

If you are a homebrewer and you HAVEN’T entered a competition yet, let me challenge you to do so. Go fo BJCP certified competitions, if possible, or ones with a reputation for providing scoring sheets. The resulting feedback from the judges will make you a better brewer.

 

 

The Background Story – Part I

How We Started Brewing

Pearce and I were friends before we started brewing together. We actually met through a mutual friend (this is your shout-out Jason Trotta) in the triathlon community. That’s right, Pearce and I are triathletes. Don’t be so surprised. We have been known to crush that shiz.

PH-tri
Triathlon & Beer go together like bacon & anything.

I am pretty sure that both Pearce and I could have been considered beer connoisseurs (read: snobs, geeks, a-holes) before we knew each other. If nothing else, you could say that we appreciated the finer craftings of barley, water and hops. I am not sure where Pearce’s interest in craft-beer came from (I will ask him and update his profile) but I can tell you that Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Pete’s Wicked Ale were the first beers to touch these lips and I never looked back. (I also went to a hippie college ((App State)) where you were actually made fun of for drinking macro-brewed American lagers.) This love of beer and getting outside, while not the glue that holds this friendship together, made it easy for Pearce and me to have something to rally around. I know that “me” doesn’t seem correct in that sentence, but, according to grammar, it is so no trolling…

There have been a lot of Saturday mornings where Pearce and I go out and ride bikes or run and then will have a “brewery lunch.” That is that thing where we burn a bunch of calories and then negate the effort by heading over to Coast Brewing or Revelry Brewing and grabbing some BBQ and a couple of beers. I think it is a common practice among those in the know.

One day while we were hanging out, Pearce said, “I think we should brew some beer.” I, being one to never back down from a challenge, said, “Okay.” So off we went to the LHBS (local home brew shop) to purchase the goods with which our own craft was born.

English Nut Brown - Yes, I know...
English Nut Brown – Yes, I know…

We met up at his house one day and proceeded to brew up our first batch, an English Nut Brown Ale. We chose an easy to brew kit with the knowledge that we wanted to get at least one easy brew under our belt before diving into IPAs and Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stouts and Spontaneously Fermented American Wild Ales.

It was funny, because even though neither of us had done this before, there was something familiar about it. We felt like we were naturals. When the brew day was done, we were hooked. Even though we would have to wait several weeks before tasting the first fruits of our first labor, we knew that we were destined to brew beer. I know, I know. We were just a couple of newbz who had not even produced a drinkable product. But still. Sometimes you just know.

Over the next year or so, we produced several batches of beer, we built a fermentation chamber to help us control temperature during fermentation, we started kegging and we upgraded our equipment a couple of times.  We still had not taken the leap into all-grain brewing, but the story of that transition is for another day.

In the next background post I will tell you about the name we chose to call our homebrew endeavors and about our first homebrew “competition.” Please make sure to subscribe to this blog to get notified whenever new posts are made. I look forward to you coming along on this journey with us…

brew2 chilling ferm-chamber siphon
bottling2 bottling bottled open

 

 

Planning to Brew

Hello all.

I appreciate you coming by to check out this little piece of the blogosphere. My name is Hank and, along with my brew partner Pearce, we are planning to open a commercial brewery in the next 12-18 months. This website will hopefully document the ups and the downs and all the in-betweens of going from homebrewing to brewing beer for a living. I will be making updates as often as is interesting which I am hoping will be once to a couple of times a week.

Please make sure to sign up to be notified of new posts and please feel free to send questions or leave comments and feedback.

Join us on this trip.