To say, "this brewery has been a long time coming" is sure to be the most predictable way to start a blog about a new brewery starting up.
But, there’s no denying its truthfulness. The rumblings of a brewery could first be heard almost 8 years ago between my wife Lauren and I, and the sheer amount of time and mental energy put towards it since then has been mind-boggling. So much has happened just in the past couple years that I thought I would start this blog out not only with an overused expression but also with a quick recap of some highlights.
Before that, I’d like to take a quick moment to mention who we are, or at least, who we see ourselves being by the time we open sometime in spring 2017. Fine Creek Brewing Company is technically speaking a family-owned nano farm brewery in Powhatan County, Virginia. Since the term 'nano farm brewery' sounds, frankly, ridiculous, I think we’ll just stick with small community brewery. Fine Creek Brewing is nestled in a rural setting with enough room to grow a small portion of our ingredients. And, given that we’d like our customers to be able to take full advantage of our site, we plan on acquiring a farm brewery license in order to allow full use of the space. From our brewery and tasting room, we plan to offer a wide variety of interesting and unique beers rooted in brewing tradition, to connect our personal experiences with a particular beer style with the surrounding community.
Our brewery, while only housing a 3-barrel system and mostly 7-barrel fermenters to start with, is being built with room to grow. We don’t see ourselves focusing much, if any, on distribution right out of the gate. We’d like to show our friends and neighbors just how delicious fresh beer can be by putting the tasting room sales first before bottling or canning. Given that we’re admittedly not in the most densely populated area, we plan on putting a lot of emphasis on the tasting room and site to truly create a complete experience encompassing the beer.
We plan on putting a lot of emphasis on the tasting room and site to truly create a complete experience encompassing the beer.
Our tasting room will open with limited hours, likely Thur-Sat, until we get our feet firmly planted beneath us. Alongside our tastings, full pours, and growlers we’ll serve a small chalkboard menu of casual food items ranging from flatbreads to fritters, charcuterie boards to panini, all homemade and all focusing on the idea of sharing with family and friends.
This entire project has been a collaborative effort from its first conception. Whether it be the years spent as simply ideas in space being tossed around between our family or those more recent since the hiring of Gabe, our head brewer, when physical progress started being made. Before anything could progress, we needed to get Powhatan County to allow breweries to even exist in settings like ours. After months of prep, discussions with the county, and delayed meetings, we finally were able to get our Board of Supervisors to unanimously pass our project.
From there, we jumped head first into planning the building and site which has been a moving target for many months. It turns out, there’s a reason people don’t build many breweries out in the country as the challenges have come at us from every angle. But, we’ve finally landed on as close to final drawings as we’re ever going to get.
While plans were being molded, the site has been prepped. This began with small-scale projects done ourselves like dismantling sheds and outbuildings and salvaging whatever wood and stone we could.
From there, a site was cleared for our well and the well was dug, gaining access to Powhatan’s finest water! We made sure to take plenty of breaks from the work with trips to places like Asheville for research.
The next step was getting the site surveyed and perimeters drawn so we could start to see how the brewery would sit on the property.
With building plans underway and the start of site work near on the horizon, equipment selection was next on the list. Gabe and I spent many hours discussing different sizes, new versus used, and every other option we could think of. We went from planning to start with at least a 5 barrel system to convincing ourselves that a 1.5 barrel pilot system was the way to go. After the owner at Burial Beer Co in Asheville was generous enough to give us his time and insight, we decided that a 3 barrel system was the sweet spot we were looking for. We knew it would be too small to last us very long but at the same time it would be big enough to produce the quantity needed to get us up and running.
If they had known that the truck would show up 8 hours late, at night, in the pouring rain, without a lift gate, I imagine they would have changed their minds.
Fate handed us a much needed break when we found a used, complete 3 barrel system for sale up in Oyster Bay, NY. After driving up to look into it, we decided to purchase the entire package. The next step was getting it back home. Luckily for us, both Gabe and I have fathers that are gluttons for punishment and agreed that we should all four drive up there, dismantle the system, and get it loaded onto a tractor trailer to be sent back down to Powhatan. If they had known that the truck would show up 8 hours late, at night, in the pouring rain, without a lift gate, I imagine they would have changed their minds.
After what had to be one of the worst experiences (minus all that quality time together) any of us had had in a while, we managed to get the equipment home in one piece and safely into storage back in Powhatan.
Going back through these photos and remembering how long ago it was that some of this took place, it’shard to believe that it’s all really about to begin. While it has indeed been a long road, I have a funny feeling that things are about to speed up in a very real way. Please keep up with the progress here as well as on our facebook page. We look forward to sharing our beer, our passion and our community with you in Spring 2017!