Spring snow flurries (what the hell were those?!) finally stopped and the warm weather is hurdling us into the full swing of spring. In and around the brewery, the farm has been buzzing with activity. This will be the first growing season in which both the farm and the brewery are fully operational, and it is allowing us to finally realize so many of the projects we first envisioned while setting out on this adventure. So while we continue to work on opening the brewery to the public for tours and tastings, we thought it would be nice to share with you what we have been working on. Enjoy!
Everyday the weather improves, so does our energy outlook. Right outside the brewery doors, we have been hard at work to fully install our solar hot water system that will significantly reduce the use of propane inside the brewery. Rather than heating 500+ gallons of water to 170 or 180 degrees anytime we want to brew, clean, keg, or perform almost any function in the brewery, we’ll have the ability to divert our well water, which starts at a lower temperature than most service water through a series of heat exchangers before it returns to the brewery. As everything is fully functional and we begin to utilize the system we’ll share more pictures and information about the data we are finding.
Why use propane to heat up our brewing water when we have all this sun?!
Just up the road from the brewery we have our two greenhouses, which kept everyone on farm fed with fresh greens during the winter…. even the chickens. As growing season approaches, we’ve done some spring cleaning and taken the two old raised beds (and seasonal rat clubhouses) out of the greenhouse and built three new beds that will make for better, sturdier growing conditions.. We’ve already seeded hundreds of plants – vegetables for our farm store along with spices and herbs that will be used in our distillery and brewery. We’re very excited about being able to use the freshest herbs possible when making small spiced variations of our beers.
All seeds start here.
Bees!! We finally have bees! Bees provide a crucial element to any landscape, pollinating and maintaining diversity amidst our pastures. And of course, honey! We are starting with a small colony, but it is an exciting program that we have had interest in from day one. A friend was kind enough to build the boxes for us, and is helping us manage the colonies as they grow and begin producing honey. While I wouldn’t expect mead anytime soon, honey can play a great role in making farmhouse ales. Whereas buckwheat, orange blossom, or any “single origin” honey may exert more bold and strong flavors the immense selection of flowers from which our bees are able to pollinate should not only create a more delicate and complex flavor, but one that is uniquely our own.
When I said the farm was buzzing, I was not kidding.
Last year our hop yard made tremendous progress. We installed over 3 miles of steel cable to create our trellis system and strung up 2800+ pieces of coir (coconut fiber) so that each hop shoot could grow 18+ feet in the air and produce as much as possible. In the end, we harvested over 250 lbs of wet hops and expect this year should be even better! With the major infrastructure setup, this year is about making the process easier for us and focusing on even the smallest details.
The farm has new traveling paths, no more trampled grass! Woohoo!
Lesson one. Get the sheep in there early! The sheep are taking their first pass at the hop shoots as they begin to spring up. The hop shoots that you want to train up the trellises are the more mature shoots that we should begin seeing in mid May to late May. So for the time being, the sheep are doing their thing and grazing on pasture, getting a healthy diet of fresh grass while weeding and fertilizing the soil for us. Soon they’ll be on their way to the larger pastures to shorten the grass in front of our pasture raised chickens.
Working their way down the Willamette wooly (ok they’re hair sheep) ewes help prune early hop shoots!
The first shoots are strong this year. Eat sheep eat!
Hey buddies! You can’t find a more adorable weeder.
We’re adding in several new pieces to the puzzle as well. We’ll be flame weeding what the sheep cannot get to; a quick shot of fire stunts weed growth surrounding the plants and allows the hop shoots to grow even more vigorously. At the end of each row we are planting marigolds and some mushrooms which we hope to attract beneficial insects to minimize pests in the hop yard, and make the farm look pretty. And for the hop harvest? Oh man. It’s going to be a good one.
For the past two plus years we have shared my vision with local bar and restaurant owners and friends for what collaborative efforts potentially lie ahead. On Thursday night April 30 we released Waymaker, a 100% Brett IPA with one of our favorite local spots At The Corner in Litchfield. Chef Brendan put together an incredible menu that grabbed the vision we have had in place for our farm brewery and took it from dream to reality. With all of the produce, and live stock on the farm beginning to grow, we cannot begin to control our enthusiasm for the future events we put together At The Corner and many other places we are now and will be working with! What was on the menu? Lets just say it did our brett IPA right, some unusual pairings created amazing flavors -the pasture raised turned Deviled Eggs Nicoise for example.
Deviled eggs with tuna tartare, pickled green beans, smoky tomato yolks and kalamata tapenade
The next night we got to release our third beer, Farmer’s Table, a dry hopped table beer. To do so at Kingsley Tavern, our most local and frequented spot in the area was something especially gratifying. After each zoning meeting, for the better part of a year we would go to the tavern and share the latest updates, both venting frustrations and celebrating progress as we got closer to our goal. Friday night we had every beer available on tap, and got to hang out with many people from town – our electrician, solar contractors, friends and family alike with nothing but good things to share.
Look for the hook! The lineup makes for a pretty great site.
Thankfully Saturday we were able to rest, and enjoy a beautiful day on the farm. Sunday the work began all over again, as we packed up early and headed to Willimantic for Thread City Hop Fest. To pour beer for so many people who have never had our beers, heard of our brewery, or occasionally even have any idea where Kent is, was a lot of fun. Not to mention many of our favorite CT breweries were there giving us a rare chance to catch up, talk about growing pains, and finally get to try each others beers.
Thread City Hop Fest was every bit as incredible as the picture makes it look!
There’s a million other projects we could keep updating you on, but that is plenty for now. With two new beers on the market and more on the way we’ll be delivering beer to new accounts across the western side of the state, so keep an eye on our beer locator map and social media feeds for upcoming events. Here are two already on the schedule. We promise many more to come!
May 14 – Coalhouse Pizza, Stamford
May 19 – Eli Cannon’s Tap Room, Middletown
And this Friday, May 8 we will be releasing the first batch of Farmer’s Table, our dry hopped table beer in bottles across western CT. The following week we’ll officially ring in the spring season with the release our first batch of Field Beer Spelt!
Hope you enjoyed the update!