It's official--Vashon Brewing is set to open our version of a tasting room next Spring 2018!! It will be a lot more than just a tasting room. We are calling it the Vashon Brewing Community Pub. A place to foster community and celebrate the many local beverages and tasty food sourced from the island. To celebrate, we are hosting a preview party at the Lodges on Vashon. We'll be introducing many of the local artisans helping us to make this a reality, serving lots of great beverages, and serving a 6 course meal to give you a fun preview of what's to come. Join us!.
We've been working with a local farmer to grown malting barley for a couple of years. Today, we started harvesting the first crop! It's a noisy, dusty, smelly job, but we harvested our first ton of grain today, with much more to harvest tomorrow and the next day. After that, it gets shipped to LINC Foods in Southeastern Washington for malting, and will eventually wind up in our beer.
We have switched to a new bottling system! We pre-fill the bottles with CO2 and they fill under pressure to ensure your beer stays fresh and carbonated longer. We are using PET plastic growlers that are food safe, reusable, and, unlike glass, shatterproof, highly recyclable, and able to store carbonated beverages without leaking beer or losing pressure.
A few of our employees expressed some concern about using plastic. Cliff (the brewmaster) never does anything without thoroughly researching it first--he discovered that the recycling systems in place for glass are expensive and inefficient--resulting in the majority of glass ending up in the landfill anyways! If your worry is about plastic also ending up in the landfill, we share that worry, however, if you continue to recycle (or the best option--simply REUSE!), this material is much more likely to actually be recycled. Another advantage is that it will not break, and it holds the carbonation much better! That is a little more background for why we have made this change.
The inspiration for our Solstice Stout is the several miles of very dark roads lit by luminaries on Vashon Island each Winter Solstice night. Thousands of luminary candles in paper bags magically appear on Vashon, lighting the way of many people driving with only their parking lights or no lights at all. It's an amazing sight, helping us to celebrate the winter, and remind us that longer days are ahead.
A neighbor of mine has a kegerator draft beer setup for corny kegs, and has been wanting an easy way to serve our beer at home. It took a little research, but we can now offer an easy and affordable way to serve our craft beer at home, even if your kegerator is setup for corny kegs.
Step one is to purchase a 1/6 barrel of our craft beer. Our beer is sold in recyclable PET plastic kegs, so no keg deposits, and no need to return the kegs - just recycle them like you would a pop bottle. The kegs are almost exactly the same size as corny kegs, and shipped to your door via UPS. Check out our available brews on our Shop tab above!
Step two is purchase the hardware to connect our Sanke kegs to the ball lock fittings used to connect to corny kegs. We sell a kit that includes the Sanke keg coupler plus two Sanke to ball lock adapters (gas in, beer out). The Sanke coupler screws onto our kegs, and the ball lock adapters screw onto the keg coupler and provide the same ball lock posts that are on your corny kegs.
Best of all, this setup doesn't require you to change the fittings in your kegerator or choose between hooking up commercial kegs or corny kegs. You can switch between them whenever you like.
Our kegs, keg coupler and adapters require a minimum height of 28 inches inside your kegerator.
When you think of English ales, words that often come to mind are warm and flat. Turns out that neither is true.
My favorite pint of ale in New Zealand was an cask conditioned ESB from Townshend Brewery, on tap at the Free House. I saw a pint on it's way to a nearby table, and was amazed by the thick rich head and the way the carbonation gradually settled up towards the top leaving a crystal clear brew at the bottom. I immediately asked what it was and ordered one. The Free House reserves a few taps for real ales such as this, and they serve them at cellar temperature (approx 55 deg) using a hand pulled Beer Engine.
Because real ales are cask conditioned rather than force carbonated, they do have less dissolved CO2, but the beer isn't flat. It holds less CO2 in solution because it isn't served as cold as we are used to in the US, but I found it to be sufficiently carbonated with a thick creamy head that was stunning. At cellar temperature, the flavors of the beer come through more. Not a good thing if you're drinking a mass produced lager, but great if you're drinking a quality craft beer.
It got me thinking about offering an English style ale or two served with a beer engine in my future tasting room.
I've been doing a little hard work on vacation researching beer in New Zealand. I'm happy to report that so far it's been very good on the whole and occasionally excellent. For example, I recently ordered a flight at the Free House in Nelson, and one beer in particular stood out.
Renaissance Brewing in Blenheim produces a Chocolate Stout with cacao nibs. The flavor and aroma were amazing. Very smooth and aromatic. Looking forward to experimenting with cacao stout.
We are preparing our new recyclable kegs for sale! We wanted a way for individuals to be able to buy delicious craft beer, at a reasonable price, with none of the regular hassles of renting a keg. With these PET recyclable kegs, they are like huge pop bottles--100% recyclable. No need to put down a deposit, or return the keg! Simply put in the recycling bin afterwards. You can order everything you need, including the party pump, from the website, or rent that piece from your local liquor store.
As we head into fall, Vashon Brewing is going to be offering more seasonal beers than we have in the past. We've added another fermenter, which has expanded our weekly capacity by 50%. Our goal - use the extra capacity to brew more seasonal beer styles.
We've just released our Oktoberfest this past week, a tasty amber ale with a complex, toasty malt character that's getting great feedback from our customers. Another first for us is a fresh hop beer brewed with Cascade hops we grow at the brewery. The flavor and aroma is fabulous. Both are recipes we plan to keep.
Later this fall, look for our "Day of the Dead Chili Red", a moderately spicy chili beer, and an Imperial Stout brewed with an elderberry syrup that Cliff created just for this recipe.
I've been working with an island farmer to explore the possibility of growing malting barley on Vashon. This is a big deal for several reasons:
1. We can use barley varieties that offer more flavor than the typical commercial malt.
2. We can grow winter barley on Vashon that will need little or no irrigation. The single biggest use of water for producing beer is irrigation water for growing barley.
3. Support island farmers by creating a local market for a relatively high value crop that is largely grown out of season.
The 1/2 acre test plot is doing great, and Nathan has ordered a combine needed for harvesting a larger crop this coming winter. Over the next few months I'll be securing bids to have the barley malted. If all goes well, I'll be looking to recruit other farmers to grow malting barley for the brewery.