ABOVE AND BEYOND (Indiegogo Update)

Many apologies for our lack of blog updates. Although our posts on Instagram and Facebook (@AltBrau) serve as a great way to keep our friends and supporters up-to-date with our projects… we’re happy to have this blog and the podcast (another thing we’ve been neglecting) as a long-form expression that allows us to go into greater detail. Thank you for reading and following along on our journey.

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Our Indiegogo Campaign:

Crowdfunding has a funny stigma for many. Myself included for several years. It often seems to be a money grab from folks who were not motivated enough to write out proper business plans and incapable of securing traditional funding due to poorly thought out concepts. The brewing world has certainly seen its fair share of campaigns, some coming from well established craft breweries with international distribution but most from garage brewers and brewpubs. It’s highly unlikely the backers you seek for your campaign will have ever heard of you and almost certainly have not tasted your beer… making for a questionable investment.

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So it was with considerable hesitation, extensive planning, and swallowing of my ego that I came to the conclusion that crowdfunding was, in fact, my best course of action.

When I considered the idea of bringing on investors or applying for bank loans, I realized that despite a few years of collaborations and some work experience in the beer industry, I had not put AltBrau in a position to show true feasibility and proof of concept. I didn’t want to bring in outside influence with investors or go into severe debt before having some history of sales and introducing product to market. If I could raise a (relatively) small amount of money to get AltBrau off the ground on a small scale, I would have much better leverage later when applying for loans or speaking to investors.

So began the planning.

For six months we built our email list via our pre-launch page, researched trends in crowdfunding, organized brewing/blending collaborations, collected contacts for press releases, brainstormed with videographers, worked with merchandise vendors, and so on and so on.

When the time came to click the launch button, I knew I had already gone too far to turn back. I also knew I had organized and planned the execution of our campaign to the best of my ability. We launched to the public on August 6th.

I cannot possibly put into words how much it meant to me when we hit our goal in only 6 days. My eternal gratitude goes out to my friends and family who contributed and the support I’ve received from total strangers. It has been overwhelming. Thank you all. Sincerely.

During my research into successful campaigns I had read about the emotional rollercoaster that many experience when they do their campaigns. Despite knowing this, I was still a nervous wreck… even after we hit our goal. I knew I had more work to do.

We wrapped up the campaign in September, managing to surpass our goal by an incredible +$7k. Many thanks to all 159 backers with a very special thanks to The Martells, The Armstrongs, Stephen Seymour, Kevin Miller, and Ash Salcido. I also want to thank those who shared our campaign with their friends and family, regardless of whether they were able to contribute themselves. It meant a lot.

In the end there was this funny and confusing combination of feelings. Incredible joy from seeing total strangers put their faith in you, severe anxiety that rushes over you when everything begins to feel too “real”, some disappointment from friends and family who didn’t have any interest in this huge part of your life, guilt for feeling that disappointment, etc.

The experience, in hindsight, showed me that I have an incredible network of friends around the world that are rooting for me even when I have feelings of doubt and that AltBrau, as a brand (for lack of a better term) has caught the interest of beer lovers who are ready to see what we can do.

So what now? It’s time to get to work!

As of this week we finally sent out the last of the merchandise we owed to our backers. We recently took a group on a wild yeast capture hike and in a couple weeks we will be treating our biggest backers to some of the best beers in my cellar, some pizza, and a tour of Shady Oak Barrel House where we are housing our operation. We will be hosting a blending session and dinner with some of our backers in a few months.

This month 12 oak barrels have been filled that are destined for AltBrau releases with 10 more coming soon. We picked up some blending and packaging tanks, we purchased a small can seamer, and we are currently researching glassware. In addition to overseeing the production of what will be our first commercial batches we recently released a collaboration with our friends at Seven Stills in San Francisco and we have 3 more collabs to be released and at least one more in planning. We will also be returning to Europe in June 2019 to attend Carnivale Brettanomyces.

Our goal is to have our first releases ready for the public around September of 2019, but ultimately the beer will tell us when its ready.

Its been an amazing couple of months… and although at times stressful… there is no place I’d rather be and nothing else I’d rather be doing. Thank you for following along.

-Tim

Our Time in Europe...

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Every year, a 5 mile stretch of Amsterdam is invaded by a thirsty gaggle of funky brewers and blenders from around the world. Local breweries and craft bars become classrooms with overhead projectors, their buildings filled to standing room only by dedicated beer nerds. They are not only lining up to taste some of the beer communities most sought after liquids... they also gather to hear lectures by microbiologist, attend live lambic blending demonstrations, and hear about the effects of climate change on spontaneous fermentation and cellar practices.

Carnivale Brettanomyces is without a doubt the most unique beer "festival" I've attended. I put that word in quotes because to us Americans the idea of a beer festival is fairly specific... an asphalt parking lot or perhaps an grass field, fenced in with various booths and food trucks, and long lines for whatever the hyped beer of the day is. Your usual cast of characters stumble by with their pretzel necklaces and blown out flip flops, and the scene repeats throughout the summer all over the United States.

This is not that.

CB is a group effort by a few select organizers and a community of bars, breweries, and restaurants that all host multiple tap takeovers, pairings, lectures, and demonstrations each day. Attendees can plan their weekend around the events they are most interested in and buy tickets (you'd better jump on the Drie Fontienen and De Garde tickets quick) or simply wonder the beautiful streets of Amsterdam and inevitably find your way into a bottle-share or afterparty. Many of my favorite moments were just hanging out between events or having a nice meal with like minded people.

I have never been surrounded by such a passionate yet calm and collected group of beer folks. And it was through this event that I was able to get connected with Tom and Wim... the brothers behind Antidoot Wilde Fermenten... and Aiden, the young Swede behind upcoming farmhouse brewery Bretty Fingers.

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A few hours South of Amsterdam,  in the heart of the Flemish countryside, is an authentic Belgian farmhouse brewery belonging to Tom Jacobs. It's on this 2-3 acre property that Tom and his brother, Wim, tend to their small vineyard, orchard, hop yard, and gruit garden. Their recently licensed brewing operation has already begun to grab the attention of Europe's wild beer scene.

Despite the rustic setting, making one of the best Oud Bruins I've ever had, and using a coolship to ferment with indigenous cultures... the brothers are not interested in maintaining tradition for tradition's sake. They challenge the ideas put forth by puritanical lambic producers by using their coolship outside the recommended season and they test the palates of hop heads by experimenting with bitter alternatives such as gentian root. 

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Joining me in this educational endeavor was Aiden, a Swedish brewer currently building out his farmhouse operation. I was amazed by his brewing knowledge and palate and we had a blast foraging our meals around the farm and smoking his high-end tobacco around the fire late into the night amongst the grave vines.

Aiden, Tamara (my wife and  photographer for most of these shots), and I stayed on the farm and joined Tom on various excursions... walking the empty cobblestone streets amongst buildings that once housed heretical religious organizations, hikes through farmland to the local pub that also serves as a museum housing clandestine medical devices, and gathering pounds and pounds of cherries from an abandoned orchard. Half the cherries were set aside for kriek, while the other half were pressed and are currently fermenting with only the yeast on their skin.

In one of our final days on the farm, we were reunited with friends from Carnivale Brettanomyces for a collaborative brewing session:
- Jan Beekaa Lemmens (De Kromme Haring / CB Organizer)
- Vincent and Mattias (Nevel Artisan Ales)
- Jan Kemker (Brauerei Kemker)

Our recipe concept was a lambic-inspired gruit ale using a small amount of aged hops and herbs/spices foraged from several countries. An "International Gruit Ale" (IGA). With representatives from the U.S., Beglium, Sweden, Netherlands, and Germany it wasn't hard to gather the required ingredients. The coolship at Antidoot was used to steep the herbs and introduce a bit of wild yeast and bacteria. A house culture was pitched and the beer now sits in oak barrels until further notice.

Several additional guests (Raf from Bokkereyder, Dimitri from Brussels Beer Project, and many more) joined us to infuse the herbs in the coolship and a great final dinner on the farm.

This week the dates for Carnivale Brettanomyces 2019 were announced. Looking back on the incredible experiences had... I would be crazy to not go back. I'd better start brewing.

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Keep Em' Coming

When AltBrau began in 2013 we never imagined we would have the opportunity to work alongside some of our favorite breweries or pour our creations at some of the best beer events. A short five years later and we are happy to announce several upcoming collaborations, the progress we are making in our test batches/home brew, and where you will be able to try our beer...

Collaboration: Tioga Sequoia

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On April 20th we drove a few hours south to our hometown of Fresno, CA. Our friends at Tioga Sequoia Brewing Co. opened up the doors to their brewhouse and taproom and we brewed something a little outside their comfort zone. TSBC are known locally for their aromatic IPAs and crisp lagers and in the beer trading community for their adjunct and barrel aged stouts. So... of course... we went a totally different direction for our collaboration.

Using their 2bbl pilot brewhouse we split a batch into two Speidel fermenters and pitched Lactobacillus Plantarum (a souring bacteria). The next day we returned and pitched 2 different Brettanomyces isolates from The Yeast Bay.

In a few more weeks we will return to check that they are done fermenting before dry hopping and packaging. We will also be sure to visit our parents this time (sorry mom).

Collaboration: FreeWheel Brewing & South City Ciderworks

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Back in August of 2016 we worked with FreeWheel Brewing Co., known for their English style ales, to see what a saison on cask would be like. It was a very popular option in their taproom that summer so we wanted to make an equally refreshing option for their customers this summer. Our goal is something a little unusual... a largely undefined style referred to as "Graf" which is a hybrid between beer and cider.

We brewed a wort utilizing english malts and hops and called our friends at South City Ciderworks to get some of their house juice blend. We added the juice to the wort (about 35% juice by volume) and fermented with an Belgian Abbey style yeast that was actually isolated from a from a Belgian-style beer produced by a brewery in the North-Eastern United States.

You can expect to find this refreshing 5%-6% experiment on draft in the San Francisco Bay Area in the next couple months.

Collaboration: Shady Oak Barrel House

 Photo Credit: Aleksey Bochkovsky

Photo Credit: Aleksey Bochkovsky

 Photo Credit: Aleksey Bochkovsky

Photo Credit: Aleksey Bochkovsky

In our last blog we covered our recent collaboration with Steve Doty at Shady Oak Barrel House and our experiment with dried Persian limes. That beer, released under Steve's "Cellar Wizard" series came out great. This, however, was not the first of our efforts with SOBH to create an awesome beer.

Roughly 8 months ago we began working with Steve and he started teaching us about sourcing barrels, wort, working with funky yeast and bacteria, etc. With our creative input and utilizing some of the connections we had made, SOBH filled a few with a saison base and fermented it with cultures from Nick Impellitteri at The Yeast Bay in San Leandro, CA.

These beers have now been packaged and are currently conditioning in bottles and keg. We will be releasing a tart, mixed-culture saison hopped with Czech Saaz and a golden sour ale hopped heavily with Ekuanot. You can expect to see these in July.

Due to our involvement in every step of the creation of these beers, we feel these releases will most closely represent the styles of beer you can expect from AltBrau when we launch our commercial operation.

Homebrewing: Research and Development

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Although we have stayed very busy with collaborations, we have made sure to make time for small batch experimentation and recipe testing. These 3-8 gallon batches serve as the basis for our future commercial releases and it's important that we learn as much as we can about ingredient interactions, how much carbonation to shoot for, and the behavior of various yeast strains.

We recently had some issues with some of our wild yeast/bacteria captures and had to dump several bottles. It may seem easy to do so on such a small batch, but it was still heartbreaking. We cannot, however, allow subpar product to become part of our normal operations at any scale and we plan to be just as diligent about quality when we reach a commercial scale... even if that means dumping a barrel.

On a positive note... we've also had some great results from a recent batch where we used a Nordic farmhouse yeast (Kviek) along with Brettanomyces to create a delicious beer. We bottled that experiment as well as a mixed culture saison, and a blend of those two with authentic Belgian lambic.

So where can you try these beers?

Event: Carnivale Brettanomyces

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Every year in Amsterdam the world of wild, sour, funky, and spontaneously fermented beers gather at Carnivale Brettanomyces. Over the course of four days a combination of professional and amateur brewers and blenders are featured at several local beer bars, breweries, and restaurants and a wide variety of beverages are served.

AltBrau has had the distinct honor of being invited to pour our beers at the homebrewers event on Thursday June 21st at Oedipus Brewing. If you'd like to try our collaboration beers with Shady Oak or our recent test batches this is the perfect place.

Throughout the weekend you will also be able to try beers from such producers as Drie Fonteinen, Trillium, Bokkereyder, Saint Somewhere, h.ertie, and many many others. We are excited to attend a dinner featuring the beers of Tommie Sjef and to see our friends (and old collaborators) Trevor and Linsey Rogers from De Garde.

Of course, we wouldn't be able to visit Europe without reaching out to some of the other up-and-coming breweries that will be pouring at Carnivale Brett to see if we could do a collaboration...

Collaboration: Antidoot Wilde Fermenten

Antidoot is the creation of Tom and Wim Jacobs, two brothers from Kortenaken, Belgium, about 90 minutes outside of Brussels. Like AltBrau, they making the transition from homebrewers to commercial operation. On their property they have constructed their own farmhouse brewery and barrel house and create beers using native/indigenous yeast and bacteria that grows amongst their grape vine and apple trees (they also make wine and cider).

We have been invited to stay on the farm in the days following Carnivale Brettanomyces (they will pouring as well) and we plan to brew a few batches on their system. We will be joined by a few other friends and brewers on these collaborations including Aiden from Bretty Fingers and staff from Nevel Artisan Ales