Sapwood Cellars Progress: December

After 18 months of thinking, writing, and planning we’ve finally reached the “action” phase of opening Sapwood Cellars! On December 18th we met with the landlords, shared a few test brews, and picked up the keys to the brewery. Luckily for us, the building already contained several essential brewery elements: bar, cold room, floor drain, bathrooms etc. That will save us a tremendous amount of both time and money, allowing us to start bigger than we initially planned.

Once the free-rent-clock began ticking, we needed to focus on the aspects requiring the most lead time. We’d had an engineer conduct a site survey several months ago to ensure there were no deal breakers, so he was ready to work on the brewhouse layout. Considering our initial concept was to buy wort, we came a long way to end up buying a 10 bbl brewhouse with 20 bbl hot liquor tank. We chose Forgeworks after talking to a few breweries (like Foam Brewers in Burlington and Little Machine Beer Company in Denver) as well as considering price and delivery timeline (ours is scheduled for 3/26). With hindsight, we should have put the down payment before signing, but it was too risky without having a space to put the equipment if the lease fell through.

Earlier delivery of the brewhouse may not have moved up our opening much anyway, while we can apply for our Federal TTB Brewer’s Notice with the equipment layout, a Maryland Class 5 brewery license requires an inspection of the installed equipment. In the next week, the layout should be finalized, which is the last document required to submit our TTB application. We’ve got our fingers crossed that we’ll receive it by the time the equipment is installed, which looks promising given the 43-day average in October. Once we get our TTB application submitted we’ll start on our state and local licenses.

Next up will be the cold-side equipment. This is a quicker turnaround because breweries are always ordering more tanks, and there is less customization than a brew house. We’ve waffled on the mix of tanks to allow us to produce a wide variety of beers both clean and sour, but with enough capacity for occasional small-scale canning runs. As fermentors get bigger, the price doesn’t scale with volume. If we were brewing mostly stouts and sours, we wouldn’t worry about the excess head space of fermenting 10 bbls in 20 bbl tanks to start, but after talking to several brewers, we decided to avoid the risk of dry-hop aromatics stripping into that head space.

The question we get most is whether we’ve decided on our opening day tap list. Not yet, but we’re both brewing test batches, including beer to serve at our first beer festival the Love Thy Beer Winter Warmer Showcase in Silver Spring, MD on February 16th!


Sapwood Cellars Sour Red

Sapwood Cellars Tasting Room