The Home Stretch

It’s been roughly three years since Brandi and I started “seriously” working on the business plan and now we are just over a week away from FINALLY opening…..yeeeeessshhh. What were we thinking?!

If you’ve been following along with us on our journey, or simply asked us in person how things are going, I’m sure you’re aware of some of the issues that arise when you decide to attempt to open a brewery. However, it should be noted that the stories you hear from us have been heavily edited with all the explicits removed to try and keep things in the PG13 category. We like to keep our stories from going into “horror territory”. We find watering things down into a “teen angst/coming of age tale” is definitely more palatable and still offers some degree of optimism for anybody who decides to ask.

That’s not to say it’s been all bad. Just a lot……like…..A LOT. Like, other brewers tell you that “it’s a lot” when you tell them you’re going to start a brewery, but nothing can really prepare you for the real thing. There are so many T’s and I’s to cross and dot that you really do start losing track of them, no matter how organized you are. Same with days of the week. We’ve never relied so heavily on our calendars before. Not just to keep our weeks organized, but just for something to tell us what day it is. So, if you decide to open a brewery be sure to use a calendar. Calendars are good. What else did we learn? Ah yes. Permits!

Nobody likes permits. Permits don’t like permits. Even the people who’s job it is to write and approve permits, don’t like permits because people constantly get mad at them about the permits they just wrote or won’t approve. But, they’re super important if you want to get stuff done. See that photo above this paragraph? That’s all possible due to a demolition permit (yes, you need a permit to break stuff). Brandi, has been so involved in various permits that she’s now been programmed/emotionally scarred to analyze the potential permits needed for various things in everyday life. “Wow cool firework display! I bet that the permits for it sucked though”. So, get to know your permits. Fortunately our contractor took care of most of them, but understanding what’s needed and why is extremely helpful when it comes to trying to open on time.

To avoid too much venting in this post, I should talk about what all of the above has lead to. Having all that in place has made for some great rewards after all. Receiving all of our equipment (and finding out that it all actually fit) was an exhausting, but exciting day. As was getting our liquor manufacturing license, passing all of our inspections, and finally landing our business license. Even pouring beer out of our newly installed draft system brought a huge sigh of relief while also bringing a pretty big smile to our faces. The work to get there was intense and extremely stressful, but after years of work we were finally starting to see it pay off in tangible ways. By far the biggest was finally pressing the button to let everybody know when we were opening.

Finally announcing an opening day was both weird and euphoric. It was scary to press the “post button”, but once we did it was exciting and got a little emotional. We had worked so hard to get to this moment. It was a huge deal and it kind of took us by surprise. We were happy. Then the results of the post started coming in. Now we’re not in anyway “leaders in social media marketing”, but we like to think have made a little bit of an effort considering we haven’t even opened yet. Still, holy crap! Compared to what we had experienced before on social media, our accounts had just exploded. People were liking, sharing, tagging their friends, and those friends were even sharing. Things went nuts…..then the fear started to sink in. We are going to open. Whether we want to or not, it’s happening. And how’s our to-do list doing? Still pretty freaking long! It’s only one million things left compared to ten million things. That’s progress though right? Right?!!

Still, we’re almost there. On September 23rd, 2017 Silver Valley Brewing will open its doors for all to (hopefully) enjoy. It’s been an extremely long and stressful road, but the end is almost here. Soon we’ll begin down a whole new road. It’ll also be full of mistakes and have its own set of highs and lows, but we look forward to it. Thank you all for your ongoing interest and support.

Cheers!

SVB

Does Beer Have A Shelf Life?

None of us here have ever had any formal training in the art of home brewing. Most of what we’ve learned is through reading, Youtube, homebrew club meetings, and trial and error. So over the summer I decided to take a “Brewing 101” course a friend was teaching in hopes of learning a little more and giving our brew days a bit more structure. While attending, one of the students asked whether or not the 5 year bottle of Heineken above his fridge would still be good. Needless to say, in this case, the answer was a definite “no”. It’s not the first time I’ve heard questions about the shelf life of beer though. This gentleman’s beer was long past its prime, but does that mean all beer has a shelf life? The answer is a clear and uncomplicated “it kinda depends on a bunch of different factors”.

What kind of beer is it?

This is probably the biggest factor in determining the shelf life of a beer. Typically lighter and lower alcohol beers are best served fresh. Mainly because any kind of flaw is much more noticeable in lighter styles like American Lights and Pilsners. The common flaw that occurs in beer that’s passed its prime is oxidization. This is when oxygen works its way back into the bottle and into the beer.The result is a cardboard taste that’s definitely not complimentary to the beer. This can start being noticeable around the 6 month mark in bottles while cans may give you a few more months.

Hoppy beers like IPA’s or West Coast Pale Ale’s will also start losing that awesome hop aroma over time. We’ve noticed it starts to disappear after 3 months so best to drink them as fresh as possible.

Because of the strength of the darker malts used, Stouts and Porters seem to mask the oxidized off-flavors for longer then lighter styles. It’s still there, just more subtle and less noticeable depending on the style.

Sealing your bottles with wax can help reduced oxidization.
Sealing your bottles with wax can help reduced oxidization.

High gravity (high alcohol) beers like Russian Imperial Stouts, Scotch Ales, and Barleywines are actually ideal for aging. Most high gravity beers can have a strong alcohol or “hot” flavor when served fresh. Aging them for 6 months or more can help mellow out these flavors for a silky smooth finish. Oxygen can and will creep its way into the beer, but since these tend to be complex and rich beers (usually good with desert) it’s barely noticeable. That being said, most brewers will try and fend off oxidization as much as possible by dipping the top of the bottles in wax to help seal it.

What Colour is the bottle?

Clear bottles may have “nothing to hide”, but they are far from ideal when it comes to beer. Exposing your beer to UV (ultra-violet) light is a bad thing. That’s why brown bottles work best since they block most of the UV light. If your bottle is clear or green it can begin taking on a skunky smell and taste less then ideal. It’s this very reason that certain large breweries recommend serving their beer with a lime wedge. The acid from the lime has a way of counteracting the skunky character, turning your beverage into something much more pleasing.

The majority of brewers agree that brown bottles are better.
The majority of brewers agree that brown bottles are better.

So how long does it take for UV light to skunkify your beer? Put it this way; if you’re picking up a case of beer that has clear or green bottles, then there’s a high chance they’re already skunky and you’ve just gotten used to the flavor. That being said, if you find a fresh case and want to experiment for yourself then simply put that clear bottled beer next to a window for an hour or two and see what happens. Just make sure you’re within spitting distance of a sink when you try it. This skunky effect can still happen with brown bottles it just takes longer.

What about growlers?

Depending on the type of growler and how it was filled you may get a different longevity, but typically it’s best to open them within a week of filling and consume the contents within 24 hours after opening. This has less to do with possible off-flavors and infections and more to do with the loss of carbonation. Growlers are not designed to store beer for the long term. Having a quick look at the quality of the caps will make that glaringly obvious on most offerings. However, most breweries do offer higher quality options with better seals and insulation that keep your beer fresher and colder for longer. If you’re willing to cough up and extra $50-$80 during your next fill it’s well worth it!

Super fancy growler fillers...from the future!
Super fancy growler fillers…from the future!

Another factor, when dealing with growlers, is how it’s been filled. Most breweries will fill using a counter pressure system that purges the oxygen from the growler using CO2 before filling it right to the top with beer. This is, by far, the best method of filling a growler and will give your beer the longest life span. These systems are easily recognizable since they’ll either look like a filling chamber from the future or they will have some type of seal around the top of the growler when filling.

Filling a growler from the tap does still happen from time to time, but an extension of some kind should be used to prevent too much head. It’s better then nothing, but it’s still best to plan accordingly and drink the contents of your growler sooner rather then later.

That’s it for now! Have more questions about the shelf life of your beer? Do you have an idea for a future post? Comment and let us know!

Cheers!

SVB