Spring is a time of renewal, and growth. In McCall, high up in the Salmon River Mountains the snow often lingers, triggering a restlessness as the mud mixes with rain, and the south facing patches under the pines are the only spots one can smell the dirt, and spy the green grass reaching towards the sun. Restlessness turns to energy and movement as spring in the mountains shifts to summer. The Lake, the trails, the birds, and the people return. In the brewery and pub, renewal, growth, energy, and movement were no less present.
Renewal in spirit started off well, when SRB was awarded silver at the North American Beer Awards for our P.F.D. Pale, in Idaho Falls on May 31st. This is the United States second largest judged beer event, based off of entries, including breweries from outside the U.S.A. We entered the P.F.D. into the American Pale Ale style, which this year had the most entries of any category. Our Pale went up against 91 other pales, and came out with silver.
In April and May, growth was the theme, as the brewery was “unplugged” for a few days, allowing for the installation of SRB’s new line up of Premier Stainless System uni-tank fermenters, a brite tank, and the brand new glycol system needed for temperature control.
These wonders of fermentation, and conditioning are HAPPY additions. High quality stainless steel, excellent temperature control, easy to clean.The first 4 years of fermenting beer in the original, old converted dairy tanks, was truly an education, and a cutting of the cloth as growing professional brewers. It forced us to focus extremely closely on proper cleaning and sanitation procedures, due to the open nature of the dairy tanks, coupled with our rookie status in 2008. They offered us an intriguing insight to what brewers have used for centuries, i.e. open tanks. (and still use today). We also feel we “paid our dues” hand scrubbing each tank after every fermenting session. All of this allowed us to appreciate the delivery of the new modern tanks exponentially more.
The difference is striking really. The new tanks vertical orientation allow us to pack more tanks in our small brewery, which means more available production. 1,400 barrels per year up from 600 barrels (a barrel is 31 gallons). We also invested in 300 new kegs to compliment the growth in fermentation space, our awesome keg washer, “E.P.A. for I.P.A.” (Thanks for the name James!), and a slough of other miscellaneous items associated with this type of growth.
Who would have guessed that the 150% increase in production capability would be maxed out by JUNE? We think our beer is delicious. We really do believe in our beer, and have been told time and again by pub go’ers, our network of draft beer accounts, and by many of our fellow industry colleagues, that they believe in our beer too. But 3 months of breathing room, and then WHAM, at capacity?!? Wow, humbled, and scrambling. Our partners in distribution to the Central and Southern Idaho region, Craig Stein Beverage, believe in us too, and played a huge part in getting our beer into the hands of 3 times the amount of accounts we had through self distribution, in a remarkably short amount of time. We simply would never have imagined telling them to SLOW/STOP opening new accounts, inside 6 months.
Energy and movement arrived at our pub Memorial day. Summer weather showed up a week or two earlier than the last few years, and with it the people. We were pleased to offer 22 oz bottles of beer in our pub to greet the mass of summer pub go’ers. It is all hand bottling right now, so it was expected we would struggle to keep up, and struggle we did. When we were able to take a day to focus on bottling, we had a blast though.
We have a few ideas to raise efficiency with our manual bottling process, but until we acquire a semi-automated bottling, or canning unit, it will likely remain a holiday, special release offering only.
Energy and movement is at the root of our pub experience. Grill masters buzzing around putting together picnic table after picnic table of food, servers flying around with trays of cold beer, and hot food off of the grill, pub goe’rs flowing in after a day on the lake, river or trail, musicians rocking out on the stage. Everything about SRB’s pub was in action, and at times absolutely over flowing with activity. Even with a 7 day a week beer production schedule, by the end of July the pub was down to ZERO SRB beers on tap for a 24 hour period, and then weeks of 3 or 4 standard offerings. We plan for success, but we did not expect a summer like this.
Renewal, growth, energy, and movement. Cycles abound, and as we transition into our fall stretch we look forward to learning from this last Spring to Summer period, staying stoked with our vision to craft excellent beer, creating the best customer experience, supporting live music, and building on this time, to become a better brewery, and a better pub.