First Steps

Last week, we officially made the transition from brewery under construction to full production facility. It was a major milestone for the company, and one of the first that I have been able to take part in.

I’ll start with a quick recap: On Sunday, the brewhouse still looked like a tornado had just ripped through it. I found it hard to believe that we would actually be making beer over the next few days. We spent the entire night cleaning, washing, and reorganizing the space. Come Monday, we improvised our way through the day and encountered numerous equipment issues, but were still able to pull off our first beer, Hello World (a seventeen hour brew day on one hour of sleep).

We had more of an idea what to expect Tuesday when brewing White Sky, and began to rapidly improve. Wednesday was the first of many collaborations, this time with Luke Steadman of Sprague Farm and Brew Works. Together, we brewed Non-Timer Forest Product, a spring ale brewed with maple and ingredients from the farm. On Thursday I brewed Business Casual, working predominately solo, but felt confident and inspired by the tasks at hand. Friday I brewed a bit of an artistic experiment and, with the stress level down substantially, finally sat back and enjoyed the aroma of an open-fermenting beer.

The week brought with it many challenges but it all adds up to a story we’ll never forget. We worked hard, barely slept, and went from feeling unprepared, exhausted and overwhelmed to confident, relaxed and inspired. I learned a lot from this week, but these are the highlights:

1.    Be able to quickly adapt on the fly. Our first day was entirely improvised; we encountered numerous problems and did our best to develop solutions. The following days had some rhythm, but still brought with them new obstacles and challenges. We encountered problems with our equipment, ingredients, and physical wellness – but we made the best of all of it. Quick and resourceful thinking allowed us to keep the day moving.

2.    Allow yourself to make mistakes, and learn from them. Because we’re dealing with beer (which turns over relatively quickly), it’s still pretty early to tell if any major mistakes occurred. But as a good friend and mentor once told me, “you learn the most when things don’t go as planned”. It will always be difficult to handle with if something doesn’t come out right, but mistakes are inevitable and its how you react to them that matters most.

3.    Take care of (and enjoy) yourself. While getting the job done is important, you have to recognize when you need a break. I overheard Asa say “Well Matt’s asleep and Brandon looks like a zombie” before I realized how exhausted I was and did something about it. When things are that crazy its easy to neglect the body. But, “At the end of the day, we’re still making beer”. It’s easy to reduce each day to a number of hours worked and a checklist of things accomplished, but I love what I do and I take a lot of joy in doing it. Finding the balance and creating outlets is key to loving what you do.

4.    Trust in your ability. I will always be looking to learn new things and find ways to improve. In weeks like these, confidence is a key component to good work. There were times this week where I felt completely overwhelmed, but I leaned on my prior knowledge and experience to get the job done. Now there are five fermenters full of beer.

This week is a small chapter in a story that I can’t wait to see unfold. It’s great to be part of a team that loves what they do and never stops learning and improving. Soon, we’ll have finished beer in kegs and we can’t wait to share it will all of you.

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