Decisions, decisions

In my previous post, I made it clear that this hobby and passion of mine is becoming my livelihood. While I have been professionally brewing for 3 years now, taking on this project is a whole new undertaking and seems far more personal, not only because its my neck on the line but also because I feel so passionate about Farmhouse beer.

I so wish for my future brewery to be an authentic introduction for the indoctrinated to Farmhouse beer, its traditions and its philosophy. While writing my business plan, these elements have crept into pretty unassuming places. It has become really apparent to me, even in these early stages, how influential having a Farmhouse approach is to so many business decisions.

For one, lets talk about timing. I am expecting my fastest beer to take 3 months from brew day to release. I have talked enough on this blog about the reasons and examples of extended fermentations that include some ‘garde’ time as well as the importance of proper bottle conditioning. We know this is best for the beer; but, it creates a pretty real cash flow issue for a young brewery. Consider placing an order for malt, lets say it takes 1 week to get to you, you brew with it, ferment that beer for a month, then bottle condition for another two. Once you release that beer you distribute (self in my case) it over 4 weeks. That would be pretty good, 4 weeks of sales and COD, but thats not the reality. Most accounts would have 30 day credit and as many business owners know, that’s also not the reality. All up, we would be looking at around 4.5- 5 months between payment for materials and payment for our product. As a start up business, this means we need a lot more operating capital as part of our initial investment than other breweries.

Two, equipment. In order to encourage characterful yeast esters, I want to ferment is shallow, wider vessels than most other breweries. Searching for vessels like this has actually been much harder than I thought. I knew that Brasserie de la Senne had theirs made, but I didn’t realise that it must have been out of necessity. In fact, the closest thing to what I am after is actually foeders. So instead of fighting it… I’m now just going to switch to 100% oak fermentations. Foeders carry their own problems and price points; however, they are going to make a huge difference in our fermentations. When I thought about it more, the more it made sense. These vessels were the original Farmhouse fermentation vessels, so although they are pretty scarcely used for primary fermentation, it’s probably worth a shot. I know Casey Brewing and Blending is doing 100% oak for all their beers but I’m honestly not sure of many others who are doing it. Let me know if there are more, I’m genuinely interested in learning more about it.

A third major difference, raw materials. I have been speaking with suppliers and producers about varieties, lead times, prices, etc. However, throughout the whole thing I can’t bring myself to choose to the cheapest or most convenient supplier. When I am producing, I will owe it to my consumers to use local ingredients if I am calling my product local. I think Fonta Flora is a leader in this field. I love how on their labels clearly identify which of their raw materials are from their immediate area. Im not sure if my labels will have ingredient lists but, if Im calling my product authentic… it better be. If you are in Australia, check out Voyager Craft Malt. They will be malting their own crop this year starting about now actually. Its a great outfit and I am really hoping I will be able to support them when I am up and running.

This is by no means an exhaustive list; but, its just an insight to some of the decisions I’ve been making. On other fronts, we have been working with a local real estate agent to find a place, the business plan had gone though its fifth or sixth revision and we are weeks away from a logo and branding. Things are happening on few different fronts, so its pretty exciting.

The next post will be about the beers I am making right now running some tests on yeasts, times and bottle conditioning.

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6 thoughts on “Decisions, decisions

  1. Amos Browne March 7, 2016 / 2:50 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experience so far, I’m looking forward to hearing a bit about the beers. Best of luck with the rest of the setup and launch!

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    • farmhousebeerblog March 7, 2016 / 11:35 pm

      No worries Amos, having a full time job and doing all this means that Ive been a bit slow to write up what Im testing on the beer front. Im loving and taking direction from what you have been researching . A beer de Coupage is definitely on the cards!

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  2. evahflow March 13, 2016 / 12:40 pm

    Good luck! I hope you keep updating this blog. Have you thought of using open top wine fermenters? Or even a cheap option(comparable to foudres or getting tanks built) would be using s puncheon vertically, remove the top and add a fitting(I know Casey brewing and blending does this). That is my plan at least for whenever I can get around to opening a place.

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    • farmhousebeerblog May 22, 2016 / 11:47 am

      Yes, they are both good ideas. I’ve been looking into lots of different solutions recently. However, foudres are just so beautiful!

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  3. carverch March 22, 2016 / 8:01 pm

    Hi Topher, you may look into The Ale Apothecary in Bend, Oregon. They’ve been doing all-oak fermentation since 2012. Their flagship beer is called “Sahalie,” which Paul (the owner) describes as a Pacific Northwest Berliner Weiss. It is the best beer that I’ve ever had, and consider it a testament to his dedication to all oak, open fermentation and extended contact time with the yeast in oak puncheons. You can see more here: http://www.thealeapothecary.com/

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