Mid year update! (2019)

If you’ve been following along with us on Instagram and Facebook (FYI… we update those a lot more than we do our website), you’ll see we have been keeping busy. We recently poured our beer for the 2nd year in a row at the wonderful Carnivale Brettanomyces in Amsterdam, joined in on another brewing session with the Jacobs brothers in Belgium at Antidoot Wilde Fermenten, and had a collab released at the annual rare beer auction/beer festival Brews For New Avenues in Portland.

Despite all this… we still struggle with finding ourselves much in the same place as we were this time last year. Is AltBrau moving forward? Did our crowdfunding campaign allow us to progress? Where are we going? Let’s save all that for the next blog post and get you caught up with whats going on:

Updates on our beers…

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Our 20 oak barrels of saison inspired beer created in collaboration with Steve at Shady Oak are now 8 months old and nearing a level of complexity and acidity that we like. Once we get through peak summer heat in the month of August, I’m confident that some version of the blends we’ve been working on will be ready to move into bottles for a nice rest as they condition and re-ferment. Our goal is to have these beers ready for release around Christmas.

Although I personally lean towards classic beer character (malt, hops, water, yeast/bacteria), we do have some cool fruit experiments going as well. These will most likely not be sold to the general public but used at special events and tastings. Be sure to keep up with us so you know where to try them.

Guns of Brussels v2.0…

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The folks over at Freewheel Brewing in Redwood City were looking to revisit our collab with them from a while back… the Guns of Brussels. After getting the blessings of the old brewmaster (Alisha Blue) to revisit the collab, we joined their new head brewer Orion Dakota and his assistant Joanna Dunham and made some adjustments to the recipe. This time around we saw a bit less use of the chamomile and elderflower and a bigger dose of hops. The beer sold very quick over the spring so if you missed it… my apologies.

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Carnivale Brettanomyces 2019…

Every year we fall more and more in love with Amsterdam. With the exception of the occasional drunk guy insisting on correcting our pronunciation, the people we run into are some of the most lovely and welcoming folks on Earth. We were honored to be invited back to this awesome festival and given the chance to asist with the execution of the homebrewer’s night. The quality of beers coming from this year’s attendees (pro and amateur) was unbelievable. We are constantly influenced and informed by the brewers from around the world who attend this event and are lucky enough to even call many of them friends.

Brew Day at Antidoot…

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As we did last year… following Carnivale I returned to the Antidoot farm in Flemish Brabant for a few days of brewing, cooking, drinking, and inspiration. I was joined once again by Aiden from Bretty Fingers (Sweden), his partner Danielle, and over the course of a few days many other friends from the greater beer community. I had the chance to taste our brew from last year and together we brewed a summer wild ale that was lautered through hay from a new piece of Antidoot property. We used the same hay in the koelschip along with some hops and steeped the additions in hot wort. Their house culture was added once the wort was cooled and it was moved into barrels shortly after. Here is a video from our brew day:

I am so fortunate to be able to visit this wonderful place. Many thanks to the Jacobs family for always being so welcoming. I’d also like to acknowledge my new friends from Atom Brewing, Chien Bleu Brasserie, Von Seitz Theoretic Ales, Brasserie La Montagnarde, Longbeach Beer Lab, Brussels Beer Project, 3 Fonteinen, as well as Dave Janssen and everyone else who made my trip to Europe so amazing. Special thanks to Aiden and Danielle and of course to our good friend Paul. My apologies for everyone I missed… their are too many amazing people to name.

Brews for New Avenues & Collab w/ Tioga Sequoia…

Trevor from de Garde and Alex from Upright

Trevor from de Garde and Alex from Upright

We returned to the beautiful Pacific Northwest for our favorite annual fundraiser. The fine folks at New Avenues for Youth put on BFNA every year to help at-risk youth in their area with food, shelter, counseling, job training, etc. This year alone they raised over $250k!! Non of this would be possible if it weren’t for their hard working staff and of course all the donations by breweries like de Garde and organizations like Lambic.info .

Brew Day at Tioga Sequoia (Fresno CA)

Brew Day at Tioga Sequoia (Fresno CA)

This year we, along with our buddies at Tioga Sequoia Brewing, donated a keg and a few cases of our super small collab made for just this occasion. Avenues & Alleyways was brewed roughly a year ago and spent a long time in the fermenter developing a great complexity before we added hop oil (Azacca) at packaging. This golden brett ale has been in bottles for a few months and we can’t wait to see how it taste at next years BFNA.

Thank you to the staff at New Avenues for always giving AltBrau so much love and of course to Mike Cruz and the rest of the guys at Tioga for working with me on this special beer for a great cause.

So What’s Next?

We are busy working on blends and scrapping together some money to buy a few pallets of bottles. We can’t wait to start packaging this beer and getting out to you ASAP. We are also working on our blending session and beer dinner we promised a few of our Indiegogo backers.

There are a few collabs in the works but nothing we can talk about openly just yet. Stay tuned.

Feature: B-Roll on Good Beer Hunting

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Our friends at Good Beer Hunting have featured one of our photos from our recent trip to Europe in the B-Roll section of their website. The team at GBH are responsible for some of our absolute favorite content covering the world of beer. We are honored to have a contribution of our own up on their site.

About B-Roll: “By themselves, they're just small moments in and around beer. Together, they're the culture we love… b-roll captures the little moments that happen along this incredible beer journey of mine. It’s behind the scene, around the corner, and up in your grill. It’s more of what beer and craft looks like - from the center of the movement.”

Click HERE to see check out our feature.

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Two Brewers Walk Into a Bar

How our most recent collaboration with one of SF’s best new breweries was born.

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The Good Hop on Telegraph Ave in Oakland is one of several great beer spots in my neck of the woods. With a couple dozen handles, hundreds of bottles to choose from, and a really wonderful staff…it makes for a great hangout spot. For these reasons I was stoked to hear my friend and brewer Erica D. was in town and wanted everyone to come meet up at TGH to see her. Erica was a brewer at FreeWheel Brewing down in Redwood City (who we have collaborated with twice before and sourced wort production from) and has since moved on to Octopi Brewing in Waunakee, Wisconsin and become a strong voice for women in the production side of the beer business. She is often cited for her work with the Pink Boots Society.

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Having made many connections in the brewing world it wasn’t surprising to see brewers, sales reps, and bartenders had all come to see her while she was in town. While sitting at the bar I struck up a conversation with a fella named Rylan who was sitting next to me. Rylan is a brewer at Seven Stills in San Francisco, a distillery known for their craft whiskey and more recently their brewing program. Their customers have an affinity for aromatic IPAs and flavorful kettle sours.

I had never tried kettle souring, and Rylan has not brewed much long-aged sour ale. We naturally got onto the topic of mixed culture fermentation methods, desired flavor profiles, and recipe formulation.

After several conversations over the following week and meetings with the rest of his team, we decided to collaborate.

Our goal was to make a kettle sour beer with a balanced and nuanced acidity. Kettle souring involves introducing lactobacillus… a bacteria that naturally creates lactic acid…. into the unfermented wort before the boiling step where you introduce hops. Once a desired PH is hit (anywhere from 12 hours to 3 days later) you begin the boil which kills all the lactobacillus. This prevents the bacteria from potentially finding a permanent home in the brewery and causing unexpected results in beers they intend to brew with a pure strain of brewers yeast (Sacchromyces). Once boiled, hopped, and cooled you ferment kettle soured wort as you normally would.

This process is not something I have done with other collaborations or plan to do with my barrel aged beers. I have chosen to do a longer, slower fermentation and maturation with a variety of yeast and bacteria in oak. Using this method you can expect a more complex fermentation character and acidity but it takes much longer (6 months to 3 years instead of 2-4 weeks with a kettle sour) and it makes it very difficult to create a “clean” beer.

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SevenStills is as much (if not much more so) known for their clean fermented IPA’s so we could not risk a contamination. I was willing to give kettle souring a shot since I had not tried it before. However, I wanted to create something complex. Rylan and his team were up to the challenge.

Once the wort was created (with the PH carefully monitored) we decided to pitch an expressive saison yeast from our friend Nick at The Yeast Bay and layer flavors into the beer by co-fermenting it with Sauvignon Blanc juice and Nelson Sauvin hops. These factors led to a very dry and lightly tart finished product with flavors and aromatics reminiscent of white wine. We named in ZOUR GRAPES as a play off of the song “Sour Grapes” by The Descendants.

You can still find this beer a few places in the greater Bay Area.

Many thanks to Rylan and the rest of the team for being such gracious hosts. It was great learning a new process and trying all of their beers. Be sure to pick up some of their beer or amazing whiskey.

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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 month12 oak barrels have been filled that are destined for AltBrau releases in collaboration with Shady Oak 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 several AltBrau/Shady Oak releases… 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.

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

It’s 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