← Back To Blog List
From Disaster Comes Joy
Since my last blog, we have opened a new brewery, and lost an old brewery. On the night of August 28th, the Winooski River jumped its banks and laid waste to the town of Waterbury. It was an indescribable feeling watching the muddy flood waters roll over the floor of the pub. I guess the word shitty would probably do the best job. It was an extremely trying week, made considerably more bearable by the overwhelming support of our valued employees and customers.
After four days of cleaning, we had the grand opening of our new brewery, The Alchemist Cannery. The opening canning run of our flagship beer, Heady Topper, sold out in less than two days, and we have been chugging along ever since. Our retail room is open seven days a week from 11-7, and the batches of beer continue on their steady climb of quality. We have now had four canning runs, and the beer should be arriving at local retail outlets this weekend. All very exciting stuff, to be sure.
We are now three weeks beyond the flood, and the rebuild has officially begun. The electricians are in doing their thing, and we will be beginning the process of pouring new cement slabs next week. It will be a steady uphill climb for the next few months, but when we are done, The Alchemist Pub and Brewery will be back with a vengeance. Here are some shots to give you some sense of what damage occurred in and around the pub (and some more). Unfortunately, they cannot even begin to give you a sense of the level of destruction. When I was finally able to get past the full fermenters lying on their sides, I got my first look at the tangled mess of secondaries and serving tanks in my cooler.
With great relief, I found that NONE of my tanks were damaged or compromised. This was our biggest worry, as we may not have been able to begin a rebuild if we were faced with replacing our equipment. When I got to the back of the cooler, I found that my four secondaries were not only still under pressure, but also still on their feet. I had to empty the other 16 tanks down the drain just to get them stood back up on their feet. In the four on their feet, I had batches of El Jefe, Shut The Hell Up! , Heretic, and Luscious.
I began racking my brain about how I could possibly save these beers. I needed a large number of sanitary kegs, and I reached out to Steve Miller at Harpoon in Windsor. Without even hesitating, he made the necessary arrangements and had 64 kegs on a trailer two days later. Amazing ,really. When I went to release the top pressure on the El Jefe, it began to absolutely GUSH out of the top of the tank. So, here I was, 8:30 in the morning, completely soaked in beer, my hair full of hops, my boots full of delicious IPA. A total loss. Up next was the tank of Shut The Hell Up! Same thing, a total gushing loss. I crossed my fingers on the next two, and to my relief, they were totally salvageable.
I began transferring the beer up into the kegs, and within two hours, they were on their way to safety in Harpoons walk-in cooler. I cannot stress enough how thankful we are to Steve for stepping up like that. We saved the two beers I was hoping to save. The Heretic is a double IPA brewed to 9.9% abv and 99 ibu’s, originally designed for a 9/9/2009 release. The other is a British-style Imperial Stout I have named Luscious. It is 11% abv and was originally set to release on November 11th,2011. It was brewed in March, and a portion of it aged in French Oak for the summer. Luckily, I had blended the oak portion less than two weeks before the flood, as my barrels and their contents were destroyed.
So, now that the beers were safe, I was left with the question of “what next?” We wanted to be able to sell it to raise some much-needed funds, and draft was not an option. Who could help us? I called Matt Nadeau at Rock Art Brewery, and he was immediately on board with doing whatever he could to help. Once again, I was so thankful and blown away by the kindness and help given when we were in need. I was not surprised by any means. The Vermont brewing community in its entirety is one of the most unique entities in the world, a group of like-minded and caring people that want nothing more than to share their passion for beer with the public.
So, this past Monday, I drove down to Harpoon, picked up the kegs, and drove them to Rock Art. I called Shaun Hill of Hill Farmstead, and he figured out my sugar additions for bottle conditioning. On Tuesday, with the indispensable help of Matt and Renee, we bottled the beer. It is currently sitting in their warehouse while it conditions and carbonates. These beers are an unprecedented collaboration between four Vermont brewers. The Heretic smelled absolutely delightful as we were bottling it. The Luscious is shaping up to be something really special. The rich viscosity of this ale is balanced perfectly with the oak flavors imparted by the barrels. I’m not even a really big fan of Imperial Stouts in general, but this one should be really good.
All of this is what brings me to the following announcement:
On Saturday October 8th, from 11-5, we will be selling these bottled beers as a fund-raiser for ourselves. We will be selling them at The Alchemist Pub!
It is a stripped out shell of what it once was, but I really want everyone to come in and see exactly what it looks like before we rebuild. The last thing I want is to have people come back in after we rebuild and say,” This place looks great! It looks like the flood hardly did any damage at all…” I think it will be a bit cathartic as well to have happy customers walking in and out of our door again.
I will release final details of this special release in the next few days. Stowe Street will be closed that day from 11-3 for an impromptu Harvest Festival with food and a local Oom-pah band called The Insedudler. It is a home-grown affair that will highlight the strength of our community.
We are encouraging all of our customers and friends to spread the love and spend your lunch money with the other businesses of Waterbury. The Cannery will be open as usual from 11-7, selling four packs and cases of fresh Heady Topper. Stay tuned for more details as they develop, but mark your calendars. October 8th looks to be a very fun day.
Sincerely in Beer,