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Around the Brewery (with apologies for my verbosity)

We get alot of visitors to our breweries whether it’s one of the pubs or our new packaging facility. It’s one of the coolest parts of being a brewer. People stop by to visit, to drink or even to drop off beer as part of a visit. Each Friday and Saturday we are open for tasting room hours. Like all breweries, we have a devoted clientele that comes through to drink, hang out and listen to us tell our story.

Lately, most of these “regulars” have commented how much growth they have seen since we opened the doors back in May. It’s true. We have grown a ton and as things are going it doesn’t look like we’ll be stopping any time soon. I often forget to stop and take a mental inventory of what is going on at Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey as I am involved with most every step from cleaning the Water Closets to shoveling grain. But lately, I have been reminded by so many of our regulars that the winds of change are a blowing and as such, I figured it would be great to write about them.

So, here is a summary of where we have been, where I think we are going and what to expect now that we have entered a new year. First and foremost, while I haven’t run the official numbers yet. It appears on the surface that we brewed 1800 bbls of beer in San Marcos this past year. As we didn’t start brewing until March, this projects to 2200bbls of beer for a calendar year. That is alot of beer for a startup brewery with limited distribution. This bodes well for us as we move through 2007.

We have set a goal for 2007 that we think is clearly acheivable and that is to grow our sales by 100%. This doesn’t mean that we will be brewing twice as much what it does mean is that we will be working on releasing more obscure and rare beers as part of a new cellar release program that we will soon be implementing.

Those of you who have visited us at the brewery have seen the large barrel aging room that we built. This room is currently housing some 90 oak barrels. As of yesterday, I am happy to report that 80 of them are full with all sorts of interesting and potential new releases. Many of our bourbon barrels are slumbering away with Old Viscosity. This beer will be blended back into our Old Viscosity and the honiest of the barrels will be culled out to make Older Viscosity which will make another appearance later this fall.

Yesterday, I reloaded the 8 Brandy barrels we acquired for The Angel’s Share. If all goes well, we should see batch #2 this fall. I am anticipating a longer contact time in the wood with this batch as these are second fills and will need the time to extract these flavors. The general thinking is nine months so we should be looking October/November for release.

The rest of the barrels are filled with simply HOPE. There are all kinds of things hanging out in our French and Hungarian Oak barrels right now. Presently, we have 4 barrels of Red Poppy that are definitely full of hope. I sampled this beer two weeks ago and at four months in the barrels we are headed in the right direction for sure. It was originally barelled in August. I thought we would need at least a year and it seems that is a good target.

We recently racked into barrels a beer which will be released in about 16 months called Belle Proximus. I will say this may be the beer with the highest hopes(or is that hype) that is in our barrel room. Needless to say, I will revisit this beer in another post as it deserves its own blog.

But what about the rest of the barrels you might ask. Well, we now have 10 barrels of Cuvee that are working. We racked some into French Oak this year and believe we have a few years of experimenting ahead of us for this beer. In my mind, I have the ability to make this beer even better and we’re certainly going to give it the college try.

Lastly, there are what are innocently referred to as “random” barrels in the room. We have 4 barrels of Amazing Grace. We have a bunch of barrels of Avant Garde and a few things else that are maturing away. As none of these beers is actually something that we “designed” for aging, we will be waiting for the microbes to do their jobs and we’ll go from there.

If you have had the pleasure of standing around our bar, you probably have heard either Jim, Vince, Gina or myself discuss how we are going to be different in our brewery operations. Well, I thought for those who haven’t heard, I’d share. First off, we want you to come visit us. AND, while we’d like to think that you want to visit just for us, we’re not stupid. If that was the case, we’d just charge you for the conversation and open bottles of water. God knows we wouldn’t have to work so hard. But while you probably enjoy our spirited conversations, we know it’s the beer that you’re really after.

So we’re going to do just that. We’re committed to making some very small batch runs of beers that will ONLY be available at the brewery. We think this kicks ass and is a great way to ensure that we get to be creative and see the people we like. Most wineries operate this way. They have a set of “Reserve” offerings and they are only available at the winery or online. And perhaps you have noticed that while we haven’t tapped The Angel’s Share for sale we routinely have opened bottles to share with friends, patrons and visitors.

Which leads me to my next note. We have finally picked our ecommerce solution group and hopefully in the next week, we will be in a position to start accepting new members into our patron saints club. This is a very exciting project for us and one we think that has a huge upside. Our first shipment of beers is projected to leave the brewery in Feb with new shipments every two months. We will be sending an email out to those who have requested information shortly(yeah I know I said that three months ago too).

Patron Saints members will be afforded great benefits and we think we’ll have lots of fun with this club. As part of our ecommerce solution, we will be building a “Brewer’s Cellar Collection” of beers. These are the beers that have not been designed for wider distribution and in all likelihood will be extremely limited offerings from 18-100 cases at a time. As many of these beers will be skillfully blended bits and pieces from our barrels, it is possible we will only be able to make them once. Is this practical or fair? Not really but we think it’s pretty damn cool way to cut our guys loose.

These beers will be known simply by the name Veritas. This is Latin for “Truth.” Each batch will be sequentially numbered as in Veritas 001, 002 and so on. There are no set release dates nor plan in place. But, we think there is alot of honesty and truth to be found in these beers. How is that you might ask? Well, for us, almost all of these beers will have no pedigree. They may have no prior basis and as such, we just don’t really know how they are going to taste and age as they mature. That’s the Brewer’s honest truth.

However, for the past 8 years, I have been fashioning beer this way and while some may accuse me of gunslinging, I would argue that the results speak for themselves. So with this in mind, I offer a glimpse of what is coming. Currently we have chosen the blend(the proportions) for Veritas 001. It looks like we’e going to yield a whopping 38 cases. Yes I said that correctly. The beer is a blend of three beers and one of them is some Cuvee from 2004(brewed in 2003). I expect this beer to weigh in around 8.0% ABV and it should be released in the spring. Those wishing to know what it tastes like have two opportunities. We will be debuting this beer on January 22, 2007 at the Stone Bistro and World Gardens in Escondido, CA as part of our Lost Abbey beer dinner. I will be posting the menu here this week as well.

Those on the East Coast who were lucky enough to get tickets to the Monk’s Cafe Dinner on February 6th will catch a glimpse as well. I am super excited about this sort of side project that is taking place. It will be fun to go into the barrel room and imagine possibilities based on flavor and not projected case needs.

It is my goal to be able to sell these beers online as well as out of our brewery. I think that having an extensive range of barrel aged beers is one of the reasons we bought this brewery and will operate the way we plan to. For those of you outside of Southern California, please note that we are building a shipping area at the brewery and will be doing direct shipping for our beers to states that have reciprical agreements(26 in all) Also, there will be no lists to get on to acquire these beers. We will announce a release date and case total and when they are gone, they are gone.

I think that I should wrap this up by returning to the notion of HOPE. We have been getting a tremendous amount of requests from distributors and consumers across this great nation who are looking for our beers. So with this in mind, let’s wrap up with a summary of sorts in case you were hoping we would be in a store near you soon.

In 2006, we openend the new brewery. By years end, our beers were available throughout Southern California and they made suprise visits to San Francisco as well. We also inked deals in Arizona and Massachussetts. We thought this was a pretty good start.

This month, we hope to roll our first set of beers towards Philadelphia(thanks guys for selling out the beer dinner in two nights)! We have also begun looking to the Pacific Northwest and might be off to tap the rockies as well. That’s it for now. After that, we have to start thinking about more tanks and an expansion. That doesn’t suck. I guess those guys that vacated the building left us a little bit of their mojo and good will? Thanks for that. We can use all the help we can get.

2006 was a great year. We opened a new brewery, launched a new brand as part of this and managed to bottle 12 different beers in less than 9 months. With this in mind, we’re going to get off our laurels and see about making a bigger splash in 2007. As the steward of the vision, it is my job to direct this Motley Cru. I love this part of my job and lately I think it shows. We’re about ready to hit the road and do some traveling again. If our paths should cross, feel free to let us know what you think.

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