We’re into the final sprint to both brewing and licensing. By luck or skill, they seem to be running at about the same pace. It’s a good thing too as Scott left his desk job at the end of June, and Mike is following him in July! Scott has spent the last 12-years in DC politics lobbying for consumer financial protections and Mike has spent his career working on the Consumer Price Index at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While we may have been able to hang onto our salaries a bit longer, it was impossible to imagine not pouring everything we have into launching Sapwood Cellars. There are still so many things that need to be finished before we can open, and we have to brew beers that are worth the efforts and risks of the last two years!
The plumbing company (B&B Piping Specialist) has started running glycol piping that will keep the fermentors cold despite the huge amount of heat generated by the yeast. While homebrewers often see a rise of 5°F (3°C) during peak fermentation, the larger scale (and lower surface-to-volume ratio) of 10 or 20 bbl cylindroconical fermentors leads to a feedback loop where fermentation raises the temperature and makes the yeast more active which increases the temperature even more. That “free-rise” can be desirable for a heat-loving saison yeast, but not for most other strains. Our dual 5 HP unit from G&D Chillers is scheduled to arrive in the next couple of weeks. We’ll be roof-mounting it as there isn’t a convenient location in the back of the brewery. B&B Piping is also busy running water pipes to the brewing area, hooking up the exhaust and natural gas to the boil kettle, and installing a tankless hot water heater.
We moved our brewhouse and tanks onto the sealed pad with the help of a pallet-jack and a few friends pushing. All that stainless was a tight fit, but we should be able to make it work. An expanded pad is one of our earlier planned upgrades, but the existing one worked out pretty well for something that came with the space!
On the test-batch side, Mike has been experimenting with low ABV beers to find ways to increase malt flavor and body in beers smaller than DIPAs. Trying mashing cold (to extract a higher proportion of proteins to carbohydrates) and using 100% rye and oat malt to increase beta glucans – pictured a 1.9% ABV Table IPA with Mosaic and Hallertau Blanc. Scott continues to focus on wringing the most from hops, as he goes into the final edits of his book on the subject. Our goal is to always have IPAs that showcase a wide range of characters, not just the same base beer with a different dry hop. Using a vareity of yeasts and grain bills isn’t an efficient way to brew, but it is worth it for us to keep pushing our craft.
If you want to hear more about our sour beer plan in person (and learn to blend), Mike will be speaking at Maryland Homebrew on Saturday, July 21st. We’re not planning to leave the homebrew community even if we aren’t brewing at home often. In June the BadAss homebrew club from Silver Spring dropped by for a tour and to learn about barrel maintenance, and Mike stopped by a BaltiBrew meeting at Nepenthe to talk sour beer.
The Maryland comptroller approved our Class 5M Production Brewery license! Once they process the payment we’ll be allowed to brew beer, as well as sell samples and beer to go (including growlers). We also have a Class 7 Wholesale license winding its way through that will allow us to self-distribute. We’re planning to do a few tap take-overs at least to build awareness, but actual distribution will be limited to start. We believe hoppy beers (especially hazy IPAs) are best at the source, and we want to make sure we always have enough at the brewery!
July 10th is our Howard County Liquor Board hearing. A Class D (Beer-only) license plus an onsite consumption permit are required for pours larger than 3 oz. We were lucky that the hearing for another applicant had to be pushed back, or we wouldn’t have gone until August. It takes at least month to receive approval after the hearing, so that gives you an earliest-possible estimate for a soft opening. The included zoning review already uncovered a minor issue with the planning documents for the building that require an update to the “usage” before the license can be issued, a process that we are told can take about a month to correct.
Plans for July
We’re skipping a Kickstarter/IndieGoGo because you can’t sell alcohol through these sites (and they take a chunk of the money). So, in July we’ll start selling merchandise through SapwoodCellars.com! This will include some of the usual stuff (shirts and glasses) and club memberships, but also a few unique experiences that we hope you’ll enjoy! We promise 100% of profits will go to the brewery, and paying our mortgages until we are selling beer!