2021: The Year In Review (Part The First).

TL;DR: it was a very good year for us, and we wish you all a happy and prosperous 2022!

I know I’ve said a few times that I’m trying not to let this blog be taken over with brewery news and focus more on theoretical, hypothetical and abstract beer (and business) things, but building & opening the brewery pretty much consumed about 118% of my brainpower for the entire year, and it’s been difficult to think about much else. Luckily, I got to spend some time noodling over various thoughts & ideas with customers, so “tales from the brewery” will likely contain a bit of that.

I think I also mentioned trying to get-in a post a month or so but …um… have I mentioned that building and opening the brewery has been all consuming? Anyway, I’m a bit behind; I promise to hang my head in shame at some point while typing this post. 🙂

Also always, if you’re interested in the day-to-day “what’s happening”, follow our Facebook, where I post several times each week with pix and a brief description of what’s going on.

Ok then! I’m going to fast-forward through the early timeline and focus my “year in review” on 21Q4 (the 4th quarter — Oct-Dec — of 2021). We took out the lease in Nov ’20 and opened 2nd weekend in Oct ’21. Nov-Dec ’20 was mostly getting architects lined up and arranging building contractors; 21Q1 involved a lot of discussing, ordering equipment, communicating plans, saying “no, not that; I said this!” and learning that there’s yet-another agency I need to work with. All good learning, all a tiny bit stressful, but all a ton of fun. 21Q2 was largely taking delivery of equipment (which involves arranging forklifts, etc.), submitting plans, waiting for comments, responding to comments, etc. 21Q3 is when the place got built-out. I could think of things to complain about, but I’m 85% thrilled and 92% happy with the remainder, so any complaining I did would just sound like whining, so I won’t. Unless you stop in and buy me a beer and really press me for something to gripe about! 😉

Oh look, it’s Oct 1 ’21, the Friday before we opened, already! Where to start? How about with The Bell…

Some friends came to visit a few weeks before opening and Al helped me run water through all the various tanks & pumps and pipes, checking for leaks and generally making sure things worked as expected (they did, mostly, even more so after a few quick adjustments & tightenings). Karen (“Mrs. Al”) commented “oh, you have a piano!” and I joked “well, we’re a beer place; I think it’s required by federal law!” I continued “…like the dartboard”, indicating that. Al mentioned “and a ship’s bell — where’s your ship’s bell?!” I had to confess that I did not have one. What with one thing and another, a few weeks later a lovely bell shows up and now we have one.

Ooo, but there’s a thing about the bell: many people want to know when we ring it. See, most drinking establishments I’ve been to that have a bell — granted, these are largely liquor bars, but no matter — ring it when there’s a big tip, and we’re a NO TIPPING place (more on that in a bit). So when do we ring the bell?! Well, there has been much discussion but it seems to be settling-in on birthdays, anniversaries and similar celebrations-of-people. I often quip “…or if you get up and dance on the bar (without hurting yourself or others!)”, though we’ve not had to ring it for that, yet, and I’m not sure whether the quality of the dancing would impact the enthusiasm of the ringing, but I think it feels most ManyFriends-ish to ring when one brings another to celebrate something special about them — birthdays, anniversaries, etc. It’s not hard & fast; I’m kind of winging it.

Then we made a couple of batches of beer, waited for it to be ready, got it into kegs and opened on Friday, Oct 8, 2021. (Some details omitted 😉 )

A lot happened in the next three months, and I’m almost certainly going to omit a bunch of things, probably inadvertently. Luckily, this is going to get long, so I’ll need to break it into parts, so I might have a shot at remembering something in a future post. Or not. None of it is life & death, but it was all very exciting for us, so I’ll try to document.

The first thing is the absolutely wonderful reception we got from all the townsfolk. Apparently, there had been some pent-up demand for a premium craft brewery in Saratoga and folks were more than ready to help us get going. Even though we only had 2 beers on tap (“SX1” American Pale Ale and “Pretty Purple” Porter) for the first two weeks.

Aside: we’ve got 16 taps, with 7 of them full of beer as I type this, and I’m making #8 on Monday (so it’ll be ready near the end of January). Our plan is: the first 5 will be our “always on” taps, with our “old reliable” recipes. The remainder will be seasonal, rotating, weird-experiments and what have you. There are a zillion styles of beer and I intent to try to make all of them over time. But the first 5 offer a nice stable variety of not-extreme along any given vector and the rest are “you get whatever we have at the time, and we’ll have it until it’s gone, then we’ll have something else”.

Where was I? Oh yes, the wonderful Saratogans! People have been wonderfully supportive (it may help that — at least they say — my beer is pretty good 😉 ) and patient with my “work in progress”. Most can see that we’re building A Thing here, and like the direction it’s going. I interpret others’ impatience as excitement about our shared future, and that seems to work for 99.44% of the folks I’ve met here. The others, I think, might be happier at one of the nearby other places, and that’s ok — we don’t judge! (Though I hope they’ll swing by every now & again to check on our progress, and see if they don’t also enjoy what we’re becoming, here.)

You know what? I’m going to write-up the NO TIPPING! thing in its own separate post. This is already long and I’m barely through opening weekend! Look for that …uh… “soon!”

Ok, so we get a lot of love from our neighbors, we sell a few beers, we brew a few more beers (up to 4 by our third weekend!) A ton of people have ideas for how to make things better. I try not to be defensive, but I’m excited, too, and everyone has a fantasy about how their brewery would work/look/be! Anyway, it’s all fun, we start getting some regulars, we put beers #5 & 6 online, each week is growing a bit better than the previous — and we aren’t even advertising or anything! — in general, things are going well.

Let’s say that’s a decent summary of up-through mid-November (if you want details, stop in & buy me a beer. You know I love to chat & tell stories! 🙂 ) We made a ton of new friends, got surprise visits from several old friends, we’re learning a ton, the place is developing into its adolescence with a promising young-adulthood on the horizon. I’ll close here & pick up tomorrow or, if not, Monday is brew day and there’s a fair bit of “watching water boil”, where I’ll try to advance us through part of the holidays.

Until then: a happy new year to all. Be healthy and grow prosperous! ❤

(Continued in Part 2)

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