Winchester Brew Works


By in Building, Business, furniture, personal 0

A little introspection

Sorry for so much radio silence lately, but we have been so. busySo busy in fact, that I’ll have to write another blog post later telling our tales of an auction dishwasher, picking up 2 pallets-worth of glassware from Bal’more and constructing our bar. But about this blog post…

We are working very hard on getting closer and closer to making beer. But that’s actually what brings me to my thought for today: why this? Why open a brewery?

Next time, more cheese and more sausage. Said everyone always.

Next time, more cheese and more sausage. Said everyone always.

I come from the corporate world. The corporate world of manufacturing – a world rife with union clashes, FDA regulation, and cost-cutting in the easy ways, not always the right ways. I won’t lie, it’s a big driver for pushing me into entrepreneurship. Although actually, it’s something I’ve been questing after my whole life. I was one of those children who was always trying to get the best deal (I reminisced at Staples today about school supply rebates I used to mail in) and looking for little things to make a dollar (i.e. keep me busy). But today, although I really appreciate getting to work under my own decisions, the consequences of making the wrong choice can be heart-wrenching. I have to try to think hard about living in the present and being grateful for how far we’ve come and that we have this opportunity at all so that I don’t get pulled into second-guessing and regretting every little detail. In the end, I usually tell people that I have known forever that I wanted to own a business. Combine that with my experience and education in manufacturing and a brewery actually makes a lot of sense. I’m certainly not going to go out and start my own pharmaceutical manufacturing plant or oil refinery. Maybe next year.

So the business-bug combined with my love of cooking, food, beverage, and all things culinary really made this venture feel right. The picture to the left that your mouth has been watering to is a beautiful tray of sausage kolaches made from scratch. I had no idea before I made these that kolaches are pretty much a Czech-Texan invention and don’t exist outside of TX (my homeland). Well, Virginia, if you’re lucky – I’ll bake for you.

Speaking of decisions that we might regret, one big decision came to fruition this week when our equipment finally arrived from out west. Now we’re stuck with it! In hopefully another week or so, we’ll start running water tests on it and get it cleaned and passivated – a process where an acid creates an inactive (passive) layer on the stainless steel to inhibit staining and rust. This week we’ve been ordering the rest of our equipment – shortly we will actually have a working brewery. Or so I dream all day and night.

Now for a pretty picture:

It's like we're going to have a wedding.

It’s like we’re going to have a wedding.

In other news, we procured a paint sprayer, so now we can prime and paint our chipped-gum-covered-auction chairs! They’ll be good as new. Also, if you stick gum to ANYTHING inside our tasting room, we will blacklist you.

It’s a good thing we have so many chairs to paint since the Tax and Trade Bureau is still working on approving our permit. They’ve had it since June. But we’re trying to stay patient. It should seriously be any day now. Like, any minute now. Like, please? Now?

Well, we should have more fun pictures coming in the future once we can get all our equipment into place and start playing with it. We’re a little behind schedule and have been pretty quiet this last month, but stay tuned – we’re still moving forward.

Sincerely yours,

Bonnie: one of the brew crew, aka Mad Scientist

By in beer, Building, Kickstarter 0

Auction Catches and Pilot Batches

A few exciting hurdles have been overcome this last week.  Because I’m a ‘list’ kind of person, here you go:

  1. Monday: launched Kickstarter and were named a Staff Pick
  2. Tuesday: attended and met the Old Town Winchester Business Association (OTWBA)
  3. Wednesday: article ran in the Winchester Star
  4. Thursday: BAR approval granted
  5. Friday: Purchased and picked up walk-in cooler
  6. Saturday: Brewed TWO pilot batches
KS 8sep

I love this scene of our video.

So yes, the Kickstarter (1) – AWESOME, right??? Thank you thank you thank you.  I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you’ve already contributed.  If not – obviously here’s the link.  Go do it. You will seriously be helping us out.  We started this business on a shoestring budget, and the Kickstarter is helping us afford some things that will really really help the taproom.  The list is in the Kickstarter – go read it.  Other exciting things – since we’re a staff pick, we’re one of the first projects to come up when you look in the Food category.

OTWBA (2) – a really cool group of business owners from Old Town. We’ll definitely be joining. I felt like we got the inside scoop when we went to the meeting. Most notably, we met the president of the association and a fellow female business owner – Christine Patrick of the Winchester Book Gallery. So if you see her, tell her hi for us.  And go ahead and attend the Skyline Indie Film Festival this weekend while you’re at it.

It's a slow process, ok?

We’re gonna be big, big stars.

(3) Article in the Winchester Star – yes, we’re saving some for posterity. We made it onto the front page… of the Local section.

doors for dayz

I learned what a transom is.

ghost walking tour?

No, I didnt do the walking tour. Yet.

The Board of Architectural Review (4) meeting was on Thursday afternoon down at Rouss City Hall.   Since we’re in the Historic District, any exterior changes must be approved by the city. We were lucky that our contractor (Mr. Richie Pifer Jr. of Pifer Construction) was gracious enough to step in to do the speaking at the hearing.  Basically, we want to add a door onto the side of the building.  There’s a parking lot and our future patio out there, and we want another access to it.  Besides, it also helps with all those boring things like egress and occupancy. It’s going to be a really pretty wood door with glass panels in it, which is historic enough for the board to approve. Score! Now, we can begin construction next week.


That compressor was seriously heavy.

It was more fun than the last auction pick because Arthur came along. He graciously drove the 16′ truck. I ate all the Cheez-its. It was your basic road trip.

The bittersweet story of the walk-in cooler (5):  we decided to take a gamble on another auction item up in Pennsylvania – a nearly new (2-year old) walk-in cooler advertised as 10′ x 16′. Of course, you never know exactly what you’re going to get. After the cooler had been loaded up into our U-haul truck, we did some math and discovered that the cooler was not as advertised. It’s a bit smaller than we wanted (8′ x 12′ in reality), so we will likely need to improvise some for all our brite (serving) tanks to fit.  Still, it’s in great condition and we can’t wait to put it together!

If Arthur had just washed it earlier...

Yes, that is a fermenter in Holly’s sink. No, she’s not happy about it.

Low country boil or a brown ale?

Our real system will be prettier. And probably won’t say ‘IGLOO’ on it.

Pilot brews (6) – now here’s a topic I could really wax poetic about.  Probably anyone opening a brewery will say that recipe development is one of the funnest parts.  Certainly funner than attending BAR and business association meetings.  I mean, the creative act of trying new beer recipes is why we got into this in the first place.  Our love of cooking is something that brought us together as friends and brought us to the brew kettle.  The only downside is, you can’t exactly taste and adjust.  You have to wait and wait and wait for those glorious little microbes to do their thing. This means the iterative process of narrowing down recipes is inherently very lengthy.  Good thing we’ve been doing this for a while!  Nevertheless, we’re still tweaking and trying some new things that we can’t wait to try on our big (comparatively) system. Plus, we are now trying to take into account one conundrum we face as a nanobrewery.  We may be too big to (cost-effectively) source enough ingredients for a 100 gallon batch that were so plentiful for 5 gallon batches. On the other hand, we have typical inventory issues on our hands and can’t order 1,643,254 different types of malt because we’re not big enough and won’t go through it fast enough.  But what is the joy of unhindered creation? You must have a box in order to think outside of it.  Whoops, I guess I waxed poetic.  Time to end this blog post.

If you haven’t joined our newsletter yet, take a little time to join in.  We’ll be sending out even more exciting stuff as we get closer to opening!