Monday, December 9, 2013

The Long-Awaited UPDATE

Hello again, gentle readers, I know it has been awhile on my part!  But I can finally reveal the big news I hinted at in the last post:

I am starting my own brewery!

The reason I waited so long to make the announcement is that I wanted our website to be ready so that I had something of substance to attach to my announcement.  So, fellow gluten-freeky homebrewers, let me introduce you to Ghostfish Brewing Company!

I guess I should rephrase my wording above, because technically I wasn't the one to "start" this brewery; my two business partners, Randy Schroeder and Brian Thiel, already had the name and most of the business plan in place when they contacted me.  It's actually a pretty neat story, so let me back up a bit to tell it proper.

Flash back to May of 2013.  My life was essentially in chaos.  I was graduating from a 4-year Master's of Science program in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which would have be cause for celebration, except that I had no intention of entering practice as an acupuncturist--over the course of my program, I had become entirely disillusioned with both my school and with TCM in general, and felt I could not in good conscience enter the field as a practitioner.  To make matters worse, I was breaking up with my girlfriend of four and a half years, with whom I shared an apartment and a dog, and had been talking about marriage and children for quite some time.  The two things in my life that had been receiving about 90% of my focus and dedication were, essentially, crumbling before my eyes.

Gluten-free brewing was my life raft.  I didn't know how, but I was determined to make a career of it, no matter where I had to move or how many kegs I had to scrub.  I was planning an epic road-trip across the entire USA, planning stops in every city that had a brewery that offered at least one gluten-free beer.  I intended to bang on doors, hand out bottles, and basically beg for any sort of work.  I expected a long and difficult road with lots of failure and rejection.

What I didn't expect was for the clouds to suddenly part above me and the perfect opportunity to fall right into my lap.

I'll never forget the moment I got the e-mail.  I was in the apartment I once shared with my (now ex-) girlfriend, having just finished moving all my stuff out, and sharing some whisky with her as we shared a eulogy for our dead relationship.  In a lull, I pulled out my phone to check my e-mail (because that's what I do in lulls, apparently), and there it was: the innocuous subject "Greetings from Seattle", from a stranger named Brian Thiel.  

I scanned over it briefly at first, expecting it to be spam or some kind of misdirected mass e-mail…but then I caught the words "we've been following your blog, Brewing Beyond Barley", "we are starting a gluten-free brewery", "Ghostfish Brewing Company", "we think you could be the missing piece in our brewery", "would you consider moving to Seattle?", and I had to stop myself and go back and read the message more carefully.  Could it be?  Was I being offered…a job?  In the heart of a city I'd only visited once, but had fallen immediately in love with as THE PLACE I would most like to live out of all the places I'd ever been?

Well, long story short, I quickly got the impression that Brian and Randy supplied the skills in which I was lacking…Randy has a long history running various successful construction/contracting businesses, and Brian has a long history working for one of the largest beverage packaging companies in the world (and thus has a plethora of contacts in the brewing industry).  After I drove up to meet with them and let them sample some of my best beers, it became an obvious slam-dunk for all three of us.  We shook hands in mid-June, and by August I had found an apartment in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood and was preparing my move.  Now here it is December, and we are two-thirds of the way toward our funding goal and preparing to begin site selection for our premises in January.  

I know we've still got a long hard slog ahead of us before I can kick my feet up as the brewmaster of a successful gluten-free brewery, but this really does feel like the most uncannily-serendipitous event that's ever befallen me.  Fate, divine grace, providence, luck, or just a really good coincidence, I don't really know what's behind it…but it's a dream come true, nevertheless!

So…I suppose this is gonna have to be my final post here; as a professional brewer, I can't exactly give unbiased reviews of my "competition", and my recipes are going to have to be protected a bit, at least until we're up and running.  That said, I expect to be blogging up a storm over at ghostfishbrewing.com, so I encourage y'all to follow me there!  

Oh, and don't worry, I'll still be trickling out some non-production homebrew recipes on that blog, too…I may be saving my very best for Ghostfish, but that doesn't mean I don't still have some dang good recipes to give back to the homebrew community that has nurtured me.  Remember, once a homebrewer, ALWAYS a homebrewer!

3 comments:

  1. Right on! Congratulations, and I'm sorry we never got to try a brew day together. I really, really hope one of the first brews is a stout or porter...!

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    1. Didja check out the page? If you look under "beers" you'll see that one of our flagship releases is a Russian Imperial Stout, and the other is a brown ale. Likewise, the taproom will feature a Cascadian Dark Ale (somewhere betwee a really hoppy porter and a black IPA). Once the six beers on our "Beers" page are fully dialed in, though, you can rest assured I'm turning my attention to a porter. We definitely see ourselves as filling the unfilled niches in the gluten-free market, and I intend to focus heavily on darker and maltier beers. A dopplebock is not far behind a porter on my wish list.

      In any case, if you ever make it up this way, drop me a line and we'll see about gettin' ya in on a brew day here. I fully intend to involve the homebrew community as much as I can, especially on the days where I'm brewing experimental batches on our pilot system.

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  2. Outstanding. This is really what *we* need! (we being the folks with gluten issues -and- a love of great beer).

    Lately I've discovered Harvester's beers (I've just read your review) and I they are quite good and a savior of sorts, but I'm also eager to dust off my homebrew equipment (dusty due to my transition to a GF diet) and embark on a first attempt at a GF batch. I have about 12 or so barley-based batches done but I'm looking for a good partial mash or extract recipe to dial in the new techniques. I would jump all over your oatmeal stout recipe but alas I am oatmeal -and- gluten sensitive thus that's off my list (scratch milk stouts for me too). Yes, I got dealt a slight raw deal but I am looking at this as a new challenge and a new adventure to embrace!

    I surfed the blog here and I was thinking about trying your Black IPA recipe (a style I also love) but I only have 1 all-grain barley-batch under my belt and I don't want to risk it all on an all-grain stumble on my part. I'd really love to try a simpler recipe that I can brew and fool my friends once its done :) Do you have a recommendation?

    I am a recent transplant from NJ to Spokane, WA so I am looking forward to driving out to visit the new brewery once you guys have opened. Its not that far and I know it will be worth the trip. I wish you much success.

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