Progress and Recipes
It's been awhile since our last post, and I have been torn about what this update should focus on. There has been so much progress lately that it is hard to narrow down a single topic. We wrapped up our layout for the upcoming build-out, submitted the plans to the city for review, finalized all of our equipment, teamed up with Cheers Charlotte at QCBF, supplemented our existing hop contracts... we even went through a photo-shoot with a local Charlotte magazine. But my favorite days are still brew days, and sitting back with a beer the night before we fire up the kettles to work on a recipe still feels just as good now as it ever has.
The starting line-up has become the real focus. We have a core set of beers that have been worked and reworked for months, and of those, a few will definitely be brewed right out of the gate, with many more to follow.
Thankfully, I contracted nearly all of the hops that we'll need almost a year ago. With the amazing success of craft breweries across the country, the spot market has all but dried up, and if a brewery hasn't secured their signature hops, there really is no supply left. We didn't manage to get everything we want for the 2013 harvest, but come November/ December of this year, once the 2014 crop is available, the flood gates at Sycamore will be wide open! In the meantime, we have lots of “special” aroma hops, a few European varieties and some amazing experimentals.
Yeast is another challenge when ramping up to large scale production. Our goal is a variety of different styles, and keeping the necessary unique strains viable between batches is no small feat, especially when we first start brewing. It's one thing to make a small starter or pitch a few vials of a select yeast into a 6.5 gallon carboy, but when getting the necessary cell count for a 15 or 30 barrel batch – 465 gallons or 930 gallons respectively – considerably more work goes into the propagation. Thankfully, I have been able to work closely with some good friends in other breweries' labs, and we are getting our large scale culturing pretty dialed in. At the very least, I hope to start fermenting with our house yeast and a great Belgian strain that I've banked.
So end of the day – long story short – we're steadily working behind the scenes to perfect our recipes and are very excited to share them with you. Most importantly, we are having just as much fun brewing them now as we ever have. A few of our favorites are a high ABV pale ale that falls on the hoppier side of the spectrum; a cream stout brewed with organic chicory, Tanzanian coffee beans (which we roast ourselves) and cocoa nibs; a floral Belgian blonde with hints of lemon verbena; and some really awesome IPAs and session beers.
I'll definitely post more about our line-up and brew schedule as we get even closer to our opening, but for now just know that we are gladly wearing out our pilot system to get the most from our recipes. Not long now... we're still calling it summer when we open our doors. Please keep your fingers crossed and stay thirsty.