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13. HUMMING ALONG

It seems impossible that it’s almost September. But here we are, with the last weekend of August upon us, and the brewery has been cranking out beers for 3 months already!

I’m sorry for the obscenely long delay in posts but things have been wonderfully busy since we opened our doors on Memorial Day weekend.  In an effort to get everyone caught up, I thought we’d recap a bit.


Our first day of pouring at the taproom was Saturday, May 27th.  Between Saturday at noon and Monday at 7pm we sold around 2,300 beers and almost 700 items from the kitchen!  Luckily, everyone seemed to spread themselves out across the three days.  We purposefully waited to post anything about opening until just a couple days beforehand to avoid an onslaught and it’s a good thing we did!


Since opening up we’ve enjoyed a nice steady stream of people from all over.  Local support and the regulars have been a huge constituent while each day we meet someone new and continue to expand that base of regulars.  Thursdays and Fridays have proven to be a good day to come when it’s not too busy while Saturdays and Sundays tend to get nice and crazy right around 3:30 each day.  

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Gabe has been hard at work, just barely able to keep up with demand, producing some truly incredible beers.  We started with 6 beers on draft and are now up to a steady 10.  The variety and quality have been impressive.  So far, including the beers on now, we’ve tapped the following:

Helles Lager
Grapefruit Hefeweizen
Idaho 7 Pale Ale
Nugget IPA
Fine Creek House Saison
Game Winner Citra/Amarillo IPA
Grizzly Wizard Tart Grisette
Azacca Sour Pale Ale
Grilled Peach Grodziskie
Thai Tea Milk Stout
Tractor Juice Belgian Double IPA
Farmhouse Fünke Blueberry Grisette
Citra Wakatu IPA
Turf and Twig Brown Ale
New Zealand Saison
Azacca Pale Ale
Kettle Soured Lemon Zest Cream Ale
Idaho 7 Double IPA
Czech Style Pilsner
Patersbier Belgian Table Beer

There's also many in the works from a Belgian Dubbel and Tripel to Barrel Aged Sours; from a Porter to a Sweet Potato Old Ale; from an Oktoberfest to a Weizenbock.

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Given our little 3-barrel system, some of these have only made it through 2 weekends before they’re gone and we’re on to something else.  Without any distribution, canning or bottling, we’re relying solely on pint and growler sales in the taproom.  Our Crowler machine will be here in around 5-6 weeks which we’re very excited about. In terms of production, it ought to keep Gabe even more on his toes than he already is.

In addition to our beers, Sarah along with Lisa, Chris, Beth and Pierre have been able to create some amazing food out of our small kitchen.  Sarah has been able to source locally more than we thought possible, and we’re producing as much as we can out of our own kitchen gardens.  Our menu has changed up every weekend with certain mainstays coming back but with new items making their way into the rotation each week.  We’ve been pleasantly surprised to see how much of our sales have been made up by food sales.

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Daniel already has the taproom running like a well-oiled machine which is amazing to see in action on those busy days.  Our entire staff has far exceeded expectations and certainly a big reason folks keep returning week after week. 

Our social media presence has no doubt been a big contributor to our success as well which falls into Hannah’s lap.  Through her business, To The Fourth, she has been able to convey the image and feel of what we see ourselves as accurately online which is no easy feat.  Her photos (all these in this post included) and targeted posts have had people’s mouths watering for the past three months!

Dan, or Mark Benusa as Virginia Craft Beer Magazine likes to call him, doing his male modeling thing.

Dan, or Mark Benusa as Virginia Craft Beer Magazine likes to call him, doing his male modeling thing.

With everyone holding down the fort so well at the taproom, it’s freed us up to do things like our first beer festival this past weekend.  Gabe, Hannah, Lauren and I all got to pour our Thai Tea Milk Stout and our Tart Grisette to eager festival goers at the Virginia Craft Brewers Fest in Charlottesville.  The response was fantastic and definitely encouraged us to look into doing more events.

This weekend we’re wrapping up the summer with our second cookout.  The previous one was a whole pig roast, a few weeks back, which resulted in our busiest day to date.  Hopefully this Sunday’s Half Chicken Extravaganza replicates that energy.  We’re also releasing our Cantaloupe Saison this weekend while Cook County Bluegrass makes their way back to our taproom.

All in all we’ve been extremely happy with turnout and response from everyone and there’s no doubt this will continue as Gabe, Sarah, Dan, Hannah and the entire team continue to help make this brewery a Powhatan mainstay and the intended escape for those in Richmond, Charlottesville and beyond.

I know I promise this every time, and usually end up failing miserably, but the intention truly is to keep up with this blog on a more regular basis.  With as many exciting things as we have going on out here there’s definitely not an excuse of a lack of material! 

Hope to see everyone out at the taproom soon.  Cheers,

-Mark  

 

12. COMING TOGETHER

It's hard to believe it has been a month and a half since I posted anything! First off, let me apologize for that. Secondly, let me make it up to everyone by sharing some great progress over that time!

Since the end of January, the painters have wrapped up everything they needed to do, inside and out.  Site work has also been completed with all grading finalized and walkways cut.  We've managed to plant dozens of trees between the brewery and the cottages and also spread a half dozen dump truck loads of mulch.  Planting boxes have been built and are ready to be filled while hop poles have been set.  Gardeners Laura, Suzanne and Alexander have everything planned out for the fruit trees and bushes and are ready to get them in the ground.

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Greg Harlow, our amazing electrician, is finalizing his work inside having hung all the outside gooseneck lights last week.  He can be seen below confidently inspecting his work.

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Just as much, if not more has changed indoors with the most exciting addition being equipment on the brewing floor.

High bay lights are installed so Gabe and Dan can finally see what they're doing in there.  Next step is the tedious work of installing glycol lines for the tanks which Gabe has bravely decided to take on himself.  Kettles are set with hood and duct work on their way.  The other week we received our licenses from both TTB and ABC which was a huge step.  This means water and certificate of occupancy from the county are all that's stopping us from smelling that sweet smell of brewing!  And, based on Gabe's Belgian Dubbel I'm currently enjoying, it's going to smell quite good!

Heading into the taproom reveals its own progress and steps towards that first beer poured at Fine Creek Brewing.

Walls are painted, beams are stained, and we've started to hang our funky schoolhouse lighting.  Cabinets are in behind the bar ready to be stocked with glassware and growlers (coming soon.) The majority of the kitchen equipment has also been delivered which means Sarah's warm handpies are that much closer to being in front of me!

While a lot of progress has been made, there's still plenty to go.  Next post ought to have a completed bar top, deck furniture, a beer garden, cleaned brewing equipment, glycol lines and maybe even some tap handles!  Keep checking back.  We're getting close!

 

-Mark

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11. MOVING INDOORS

While exterior work hasn't progressed too much since our last post, the tap room and brewing space are getting some great detail work.

This past weekend, we were all able to get in and have a family work weekend at the brewery.  Lauren and her mom, Ellen, spent their time putting up subway tile behind the bar; Lauren's dad, Jeff, and I spent the weekend trying to figure out how to hang slate; And my dad knocked out as much window and trim painting as he could.  All in all it was a successful weekend and we felt like me made some nice progress.

The day we were there working, the wood floors began to go down which really started to change the look of the taproom.  Wood wainscotting has been hung all around the walls and are ready to be painted while the drywall has already been primed.

In the production portion, drywall has been hung, primed and painted.  We decided to hang a corrugated metal wainscotting around the base of the walls so Gabe can go nuts with the hoses.  The walk-in cooler started to get its finishing touches while the carpenters started work on the large rolling barn doors that will go between the taproom and production area.  Tile has been laid, cleaned, grouted and quickly dirtied.

Less sightly (hence the lack of photos) but even more important items such as all of the septic tanks are almost completely installed.

Next up will be painting of the taproom, finishing of the wood floors, tiling of the bathroom, kitchen and behind the bar.  Some true signs of us getting close have occurred such as Gabe stuffing our chest freezer full of wonderful smelling hops!   Won't be long before we begin moving our equipment in which of course will warrant another post so be on the lookout!

-Mark

P.S. It's getting a bit nuts around here so I apologize for for a hastily written and a likely spelling error riddled post.  I probably wouldn't have even posted this if it weren't for my brother, Matt, bugging me so he can have a distraction at work.  You're welcome, Matt.

10. THE PUSH BEFORE THE WINTER

So it turns out, when you’re busy, it’s hard to keep up with blog posts.

And, until I can convince my wife, Lauren, to quit her job and become our head of marketing, we’ll just have to settle for my lame and sporadic construction update posts.

There’s been some amazing progress recently with construction and the building is really starting to take shape.  We’re in the midst of a serious push to wrap up some outside work so everyone can move indoors before the winter weather catches us.  Rough grading of the site around the brewery is done and Southside Electric is here today hooking up power to the building.  Next steps include septic tank install, well hookup, exterior painting, and everything that awaits us on the inside of the building.  

Thanks for keeping up with us and while I’m not going to make another promise I can’t keep to be better about posting, we do ask that you check back soon for updates! 

-Mark

Rough grading is almost done.  All we need is some grass seed and a whole lot of Adirondack chairs!

Rough grading is almost done.  All we need is some grass seed and a whole lot of Adirondack chairs!

Front entrance is ready for its concrete walkway.

Front entrance is ready for its concrete walkway.

All those stones we gathered on site are finally being put to use!

All those stones we gathered on site are finally being put to use!

Masons are putting the finishing touches on the outdoor fireplace.

Masons are putting the finishing touches on the outdoor fireplace.

Insulation has been completed on brewing space and taproom.

Insulation has been completed on brewing space and taproom.

Beams have been wrapped inside the taproom and fireplace is almost complete.

Beams have been wrapped inside the taproom and fireplace is almost complete.

Roof is officially done and paint colors are being tested!

Roof is officially done and paint colors are being tested!

9. ON SCHEDULE

I realized recently how long it’s been since I posted anything about the brewery construction.

Through all the sneak peaks Gabe has been posting on Facebook and Instagram I felt like we were covered.  However, when I step back, I realize just how much has happened since the last post about framing.  I kept waiting for one particular thing to happen that I could write about, and during that period of time, so many small things were occurring that resulted in a tremendous amount of progress without me even realizing it.

So, below is where we are now.  On track still to open around the beginning of April 2017.  Next steps for construction is the roof, board and batten siding, septic and drain field, and the start of interior finishes.  While construction progresses, Gabe is soaking up all he can while working at Champion Brewery in Charlottesville and brewing some incredible beers from home (most recently a cantaloupe saison and a peach gratzer – he’s on a fruit kick and it’s delicious!)

-Mark

Looking up the hill from future gardens towards West end, taproom side, of brewery.

Looking up the hill from future gardens towards West end, taproom side, of brewery.

Up on the deck looking South past outdoor fireplace towards future beer garden.

Up on the deck looking South past outdoor fireplace towards future beer garden.

Looking at the East end of the brewery (the brewing floor portion) down the hill towards the taproom.  All exterior brickwork is done with board and batten on the taproom portion of the building up next.

Looking at the East end of the brewery (the brewing floor portion) down the hill towards the taproom.  All exterior brickwork is done with board and batten on the taproom portion of the building up next.

Standing on the brewing floor, looking towards the taproom.

Standing on the brewing floor, looking towards the taproom.

From the attic space above the taproom looking down towards the brewing floor.  Concrete has been poured and cured with trench drain installed.  Cold room and grain room are framed out to the left.

From the attic space above the taproom looking down towards the brewing floor.  Concrete has been poured and cured with trench drain installed.  Cold room and grain room are framed out to the left.

Plumbing is complete throughout taproom and brewing floor.

Plumbing is complete throughout taproom and brewing floor.

Electrician has begun to place fixtures and outlets.

Electrician has begun to place fixtures and outlets.

Standing in the taproom with the brewing floor to your back.  Bar is on the right with the fireplace ahead.  Next step in here is finishing the wood wrap on the steel beams.

Standing in the taproom with the brewing floor to your back.  Bar is on the right with the fireplace ahead.  Next step in here is finishing the wood wrap on the steel beams.

Standing with fireplace at your back looking towards brewing floor with bar on the left.  Large opening into brewing floor will remain with sliding wood doors to be installed.

Standing with fireplace at your back looking towards brewing floor with bar on the left.  Large opening into brewing floor will remain with sliding wood doors to be installed.

Detail of beam and wood work.  Rough-cut ceiling joists will remain exposed.

Detail of beam and wood work.  Rough-cut ceiling joists will remain exposed.

Standing behind the bar (a view that Daniel, our taproom manager, will be VERY familiar with.)

Standing behind the bar (a view that Daniel, our taproom manager, will be VERY familiar with.)

Back down in the gardens looking up the hill.  Keep checking back for updates (which I promise to be better about!)

Back down in the gardens looking up the hill.  Keep checking back for updates (which I promise to be better about!)