New Brewhouse, Future Plans, Struggles, Teambuilding.....Mountain Lions
Dan from Hop Dogma here. Ya know, there truly is never a dull moment over at Hop Dogma. I'm starting to accept the fact that this place is just batshit crazy, in a good way of course. Since our shell-shocking move that rocked us to the core about six months ago, we really have been running on all cylinders at an impressive, productive, and exhaustive pace. So much is going on that it often feels like I'm caught in some crazy vortex that's ripping me in multiple directions, yet still constantly requiring complete focus and promptness to important deadlines and issues. It really can be overwhelming. Especially when, as a father of three young boys, I have so many exciting and joyous things to focus on at home. However, I still consider myself one of the luckiest people in this entire world. Besides having a beautiful family that means the world to me, I also get to do this crazy beer making stuff that helps foster so many of my own friendships and other peoples' as well. It's a hell of a lot of work but I truly do love it and consider myself privileged to be in this unique and rewarding industry. But enough of that. I just wanted to get that out there first.
Although we reopened our taproom a couple months ago, we are still brewing almost all of our beer offsite at a friend's brewery. Make no mistake about it, we are doing 100% of the brewing. Just working a heck of a lot harder to transport it and commuting daily to make it. It's not ideal. I was famous for being that guy who would wake up in the middle of the night worrying about my beers and drive down to the brewery to make sure things were okay. I can't really baby our beers that way currently with an hour and a half commute. So it's been a little frustrating. We are very grateful for our friend's at Benoit-Casper for extending their arms to help us so much. We will be forever grateful for this unparalleled act of generosity, but we can't wait to get our new brewhouse up and running too and get back to making beer exactly the way that we were before and even better. Right before we closed the previous location, we really felt we were making our best beer. With the move came the challenge of learning a brand new system and it's taken us a bit to fine tune our processes. Every brewhouse is a little different. We know that once we fire up our new one that it is going to take a little time to really get the kinks out and all but we are excited to announce that the new brewhouse arrived last week! Isn't it beautiful!?
Now, we can't exactly fire this guy up just yet. The permitting process has been a nightmare. We are still waiting for some final permits before we finish our floors and can organize and utilize the brewhouse. However, the good news is we are 99% of the way there. It's going to be a wonderful day to say the least when we mash in that first new beer at the new location. In many ways, this is when I will consider Hop Dogma to be truly back.
We have lots of plans for the new brewhouse. In addition to the new oversized 10bbl, we decided to keep our old 3bbl system online too. This will allow us to have a pilot system for building up confidence of new brewers, making smaller batches of styles we don't need too much of, experimentation, etc. We also plan to get a few 20bbl fermenters down the line and have already restarted our barrel program which we intend to be a vital part of our future offerings. One of things I am most excited about is our focus on brewing more lagers and continuing our process of refining them. Funny "fact", I am often criticized at my local watering hole for drinking light lagers such as PBR, Olympia, etc. Now, this is hardly all I drink. People don't always realize when one works in the industry they are often tasting heavier beers throughout the day (in small quantities, usually ;). So when I'm tired and just wanting to relax with some friends I often go for the light beer that is refreshing. That being said, these are not my favorite lagers by any means, just what's available. A few years ago in Denver my stop to Prost Brewing Company and then in subsequent years, Bierstadt Lagerhaus had a profound effect on me. I had never tasted lagers that crisp, refreshing, and well....artistic and beautiful. It really was a game changer. Since that point I kind of went on a quest to better understand the process and create superior lagers. Since that point we have had some success. Our keller-pilsner Ol' Keller has won several awards and we've also been fortunate enough to have our doppelbock fair well. However, we are doing this without the best equipment and are confident we can do more to make the best lager we can. The new brewery will have horizontal lagering tanks as well a fermentation vessel designed with a better tank geometry for lagers (essentially flatter). I have recently began experimenting with blending lager yeast which is really tricky because they like different temperatures and some inevitably are more dominant but we have discovered a few tricks along the way which are yielding some fun results. I look forward to always having a quality lager or two on our menu and sharing them with you.
On another note, our graphic designer and good friend Chris Dennis, who really is a integral part of who we are at Hop Dogma, and I went on a pretty epic backpacking trip recently to Big Sur. We had planned a five day excursion to Trinity Wilderness but with the fires consuming so much of California and the smoke being such an issue we "settled" on Big Sur. It was a gorgeous and beautiful trip. We hiked 35 miles in two and a half days and scaled Cone Peak which nearly destroyed me! I've never been so sore in my life. It was a great escape and just what I needed to clear my head a bit and refocus things for the better. We talked life, kids, outdoors, beer, politics, and much more. It really was a nice recharge and reset for the system.
Lastly, many of you have noticed the new taproom has several mountain lion artwork pieces. Many people have asked "what's the deal with all the mountain lions?". Well, I just like mountain lions mkay! Seriously, they are cool and you know it. Honestly though, I had a run in with a cougar when I was a boy. I lived in a very rural area of Sonoma called Diamond A which is essentially the eastern side of the Sonoma Mountain range. While walking home from a friend's house late at night I heard a noise that sounded like a bird or small animal. When I looked with a small flashlight I found myself about twenty feet from a huge and majestic looking mountain lion walking slowly towards me. I immediately raised my arms up high and yelled "Stop Mountain Lion!" and began to walk carefully backwards. The cat sat down and turned it's head sideways a little. It was so much like a domestic cat it blew me away. I retreated around the corner without turning my back and continued home. I was freaking out, don't get me wrong, but it left a lasting impression on me. They are curious creatures by nature and I've been curious about them ever since. So there you go!
Cheers Friends and Have a Wonderful Day,