Original Gravity - Issue 14

I stumbled onto a copy of Original Gravity in my laptop bag this morning.

O/G is a great (free) magazine on non-glossy, newspaper distributed in the UK.
Read a copy of Issue 14 here…

Mid 2017 Update

Middle of the year update. 2017

It is that time of year when you get a nasty wake-up call realizing that we’ve reached the middle of the year. Not too long before the descent towards the summer holidays start and that you will probably make it through another year.

The second half of this year is going to be a bit of a challenge and probably a planned go-slow. At this point it looks as of this year is going to be more of what we went through last year. 2016 was a tough year due to our equipment upgrade combined with half of the team tied up in serious exam preparations and finishing off specializing in Orthopedics. This year work commitments and a somewhat unpredicted 6 month work stint overseas by half of the team is set to complicate things.

It may be challenging, but at this point of the business it is not necessarily a bad scenario. Being spread thin on the ground and running a very lean operation helps one figure out what works; what doesn’t; where you can improve; how to improvise when you do not have the resources and time others have and it forces you to make decisions and move on.

To some extent it also offers you an outside view. You have the opportunity to learn from what others are doing because you are not fully consumed by your own endeavors. Not depending on the business for your livelihood it allows you to take the long view, experiment, be flexible, play for time and to postpone things if not entirely comfortable with anything.

So… what have we learnt so far:

The local beer industry is becoming a bit more crowded; consumer tastes are changing and the depressed economy is squeezing the general consumer. It has an effect on sales and everyone is feeling it.

To a large extent we are seeing more of the same from new breweries.

Beer quality is steadily improving.

Too many people still see brewing as an easy way to make money. (Oh boy, are they wrong!!)

Some people are dropping HUGE amounts of money on marketing, venues and equipment. (With the slowdown in our economy it is going to be interesting to see when funders and investors would start demanding returns on their money or would like to cash out.)

Some breweries are not really in it to make beer or for the advancement of good quality independent, small batch beer. They are simply building brands and/or businesses to sell and cash out… sort of in a leveraged buy-out way.

Too many people still make and sell beer on paper only… selling all the beer you can make on a 100L system is easy; selling all the beer you make on a 500L system is a whole different story; moving into the 1000L+ range in our market will land you in a whole world of hurt if you do not have deep pockets and experienced staff.

…and on that note… where is Gallows Hill heading in the foreseeable future:

At this point we are sticking to our core business of producing unique Pale Ales and India Pale Ales, but we are going to turn it up a notch in some respects.

More and more breweries are heading towards being more local. Small breweries are set to become more ingrained in their communities… growler sales, bottle sales for home consumption and being a place to meet up for a drink, a snack and a chat while stocking up on your favorite tipple will become part of our urban fabric. With that we are getting to the point where we will finalize our tap room planning and will be opening in the not too distant future.

With our own direct point of sales our product offering is also set to change… for more on this you will simply have to wait.

What is in stall for the immediate future…

First up will be the Woodstock Winter Beer Festival on 1 July. It is set to be a cozy event to enjoy good winter beers offered by a small group of local breweries. Gallows Hill will have our Winter Seasonal on tap - Stride Wide Barrel Aged Porter - as well as a keg conditioned India Pale Ale.

For the rest of the year we will be filling barrels, planning for 2018 and steadily keep the Pale Ales & India Pale Ales ticking over while one of our team explores the beery wonders of England.

Mid 2016 Recap

Finally it is beginning to feel like winter in Cape Town with short days, rainy and cold weather. With that we have also made it through half of the year. As always we are not exactly where we wanted to be, but looking back it actually went OK. So far it has been a good, interesting and challenging year.

From the start we knew this will be a challenging year. The main contributing factors were the following:

Dialing in a brewing system ten times bigger than our previous one is quite an interesting process.

With a much bigger system comes all sorts of complications to other tasks that used to be pretty simple. The coordination and details surrounding ingredient orders, bottle orders, screen printing, tag printing, tag assembly and bottling itself moves up a couple of orders of magnitude.

With that comes the financial implications. Each batch is quite an investment and cash flow is a bitch to say the least. (It is at this point where I have huge respect for the big boys skillfully managing this complex thing called “cash flow”; and I am VERY glad that we are pretty small and have not over-invested in our operation.)

Juggling a brewery with demanding day jobs and young families is no easy task. Adding the fact that one of the owners is busy completing final exams in orthopaedic surgery makes the juggling even more tricky.

Very similar to 2015 we had another burglary at our brewery in the last month. The brewing operation was lucky as it did not loose any items. Our distribution partner on the other hand was not so lucky and lost quite a bit of dispensing equipment. Once again we had to beef up security and fork out some unplanned cash in the process.
We know our building is in a gritty part of town, but the lack of respect for other people’s property and possessions in this area… actually it applies to our whole country… is a problem. Combine that with a strained police force and a legal system that cannot cope, then you have a mess of a situation. By the way…If you are reading this and one of those people who say our crime problem is because of poverty, the wealth gap or the previous political system, etc. I suggest you stop reading.

It is not!!

It is because of a lack of respect for others; a huge drug problem in our province; a failing education system; empty promises from politicians; a lack of consequences for offenders and in general a failing state where our taxes are not spent properly.
Anyway… Enough bitching for now. We will just get through this as all South Africans do. Guess we have all become hard-asses in this country. Make a plan and move on…

Now back to beer…

We are glad to have our new brewhouse running. The whole setup is not perfect yet and we have not quite found our rhythm on the new kit, but the beer is progressively getting back to where we want it.

To recap on beers so far brewed on the new kit.

Batch 1 was a single hop APA with Cascade. The young beer was not what it should be. Our temperatures were a bit off and it seems like the pH was not where we wanted it. Now… After a number of weeks in the bottle the beer has lost it’s green edge. It is good, but not up there with what we would like it to be.

Batch 2 was a more aggressive beer. IPA with Apollo, Columbus, Centennial & Cascade.
With this one we hit the temperatures spot on and the gravities were exactly as intended. The pH is still a bit out of whack and it had a slight affect on the hop flavour, resulting in feint phenol flavours coming through. The pH also messed with hop utilisation and the flavour combinations a bit. The beer is good, but it can do with a little tweaking. The longer it stays in the bottle the better it seems to be getting. Not perfect, but at least it does not suck.

APA Cascade + IPA Apollo, Columbus, Centennial & Cascade

Batch 3 is the latest one - a single hop Black IPA with Centennial hops. We hit the temperatures & gravities spot-on and the pH was back to normal. So far it is tasting good from the fermenter - hop character is good and the roasted grain notes are minimal, as it should be.

Black IPA - Centennial

Slowly but surely sales are also stabilising and getting back to normal. Soon we can put more momentum into expanding our footprint.

The next couple of months will be tricky with work and study commitments, but after that we can focus on summer and the usual end of year beer craze. For the last two years all the breweries with decent following and good beers could not keep up. Two weeks into December many beers were out of stock. This year is set to be no different…

For now we would like to say thanks to everyone for their support and patience so far. It is great to hear when people enjoy our beers. We take our beer personal. Hopefully we will bring you many more beers to enjoy.

We Make Beer…

“I make beer because I like to drink beer, and so does everybody else,” Andris told me once. “I figure if I’m making people happy, then I’m doing something right. And if I can make a buck doing it, then good for me.”
It was that simple. There was no grandiose vision of delivering the masses from mass-produced, monotonous beer. Nor was there a desire for great fame or recognition. Andris’s approach was based on the notion that somewhere not too far away, somebody would get off work, change into comfortable shoes, grab a beer out of the fridge, and find a moment of satisfaction in that first taste. It might not solve all of life’s problems, but when he or she took that first drink, everything would be made just a little bit lighter, a bit better. People depend on brewers to provide them with that moment of relief, and brewers take their role in that relationship seriously.”

We think this pretty much sums up a large portion of our approach to beer. Beer makes people happy… We all love drinking beer; and with that us at Gallows Hill Brewing Co loves making beer. Regardless of the new-prohibitionist approach some authorities take these days, beer is part of the fabric of our society. We will keep doing our part to keep it that way. Being able to enjoy a cold beer after a long day is a well-earned right for any person… A slice of relaxation and freedom.

Thanks to a lot of relaxation happening this time of year; the untimely load-shedding stint from Eskom; and the capacity of our operations at present we are struggling a bit to keep up with demand for our beers. It is not something people like to hear, but we will most probably run out of stock a couple of times this summer.

Being in this situation is not ideal, but when trying to start a small brewery while maintaining demanding day jobs and other personal commitments upgrading and growing a small business takes a lot of planning and very often longer than expected. It is also part of our plan… Growth in manageable and smaller steps. Some people just jump into bigger things without making sure all the numbers work and they have given enough thought to all of the components that form part of running a brewery, we don’t. We do things our way…

2014 was a great year. The support and feedback was great and reassuring. We seem to be on the right track and the foundation to build a much larger operation is taking shape.

Our plan is to start building on this foundation in the coming year, starting with gradual increases in our production capacity and then increasing our market footprint a bit.

Thanks for the great support in 2014.

(Excerpt above from: Lewis, Sean. “We Make Beer.” St. Martin’s Press. iBooks. This material is protected by copyright. Check out this book on the iBooks Store: https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewBook?id=842473770 )

American Home Brewers Survey

According to the survey, there are an estimated 1.2 million homebrewers in the United States, two-thirds of whom began brewing in 2005 or later.

The homebrewing community is in every corner of the country and highly engaged in this hobby,” said Gary Glass, director, American Homebrewers Association.
“From the amount of money spent on supplies to the sheer number of homebrewers, it’s clear this is a growing trend and people are incredibly interested in learning about and making their own brews at home.”

Building a brewery… License approved

We just had to look back through our posts… It has been more than a year since we secured our brewery building and commenced the arduous process of setting up a registered company and obtaining a brewing license.

Getting a propery company, bank accounts and other business items sorted was pretty straight forward. Obtaining a liquor license in our new prohibitionist country was a different story altogether. Strictly speaking - if you read the law properly - it is a fairly simple process: provide the information they ask and comply with the stipulations of the law… Easy !!

This is where you hit one of those “in theory, but not in practice” situations. A bit more than a year ago this process took roughly 6 months. Lately, due to various reasons we do not really wish to elaborate on, it takes anything from 9 months (if you are lucky) to a year. A theoretical 6 month hurdle is really a 9 month or longer dragged out, frustrating affair…

At least that is behind us now… Our brewing and liquor sales licenses were approved and we are good to go!

While our liquor lawyer was jumping through hoops to get the paperwork in place we sorted out a few things around the brewery. Most of it with the help of our usual, very good contractor.

Our walk in cooler box and fermentation chamber were installed at the end of 2012.
Half of the concrete floors in the production area was ripped out and replaced with new sturdy floors and proper drainage.
The future tap room, small office area, ablutions and kitchen were also given some much needed attention.

Slowly but surely we are sorting out the remainder of the tap room as well as the production side of the brewery.

We have decided to take it slow and steady. Rushing into things without proper planning and experimentation is not worth it. So please watch this space for updates…

From the New York Times : South Africa Adds Beer to the Wine List

South Africa Adds Beer to the Wine List
Extract from The New York Times

Read the full article at : http://travel.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/travel/south-africa-adds-beer-to-the-wine-list.html

THE nose is floral with a touch of citrus on the finish,” said Eric van Heerden as he sniffed from a glass.

We were in the middle of South African wine country, but there wasn’t a vineyard in sight. Surrounded by miles of fallow fields and factories in the industrial area of Somerset West, outside Cape Town, we were instead at a tasting bar in an unassuming, ramshackle building that houses Triggerfish Brewing, one of the newest and brightest developments in South Africa’s craft beer scene.

Now try this one,” continued Mr. van Heerden, the owner and brewmaster at Triggerfish, as he poured us a sample of his Hammerhead IPA. “This is like my Roman Red on steroids,” referring to his brewery’s hearty amber ale. Judging by the enthusiasm of some of my fellow tasters, a similar injection of vitality is just what the beer industry in South Africa has recently been getting from these specialist brewers.

We always had great wine here but there was a dearth of what I like to call boutique beers,” said Tadious Bohwasi, a sampler from Cape Town, “but lately the craft brew industry here is booming.” Mr. van Heerden agreed: “Beer drinkers here are finally ready to try something different. It’s time to start stretching the envelope for beer in South Africa.”

Firmly established among oenophiles as one of the world’s top wine producers, until recently South Africa was not likewise held in esteem by beer aficionados. It wasn’t that the country didn’t produce beer - indeed, South Africa is home to South African Breweries Limited, a subsidiary of SABMiller, the world’s second largest beer producer - but rather that the mass-produced brew was regarded by connoisseurs as having as much in common with quality beer as boxed wine does with Bordeaux.

Though the country’s first - and still extremely popular - microbrewery, Mitchell’s, came on the scene in the early 1980s, for the next two decades the craft brew scene in South Africa was relatively stagnant, in large part thanks to SAB’s firmly established market share and affordability. But brewmasters are now doing their best to make up for lost time. In the past few years, microbreweries from across the country - Boston, Napier, Jack Black, Clarens, Triggerfish, Darling, Brewers & Union, Birkenhead, Saggy Stone, Robson’s, Drayman’s - have established themselves as among South Africa’s top purveyors. Even the big boys at SAB have begun to try their hands at microbrewing, producing special, limited-run craft brews for local beer festivals.

And South Africans’ thirst for craft brews shows no signs of being slaked anytime soon. Over the next year or so the number of independent breweries in the country will nearly double, with the establishment of labels like Devil’s Peak, Royal Mzansi, Valley Brewery and Gallows Hill.

Indeed, beer has long roots in the region, predating even wine. The first commercial beer in what is now South Africa was brewed in Newlands, just outside Cape Town on the banks of the Liesbeek River in 1658 (wine production didn’t begin until a year later); one of SAB’s breweries still sits at this auspicious spot.

The proliferation of boutique breweries has fostered several beer festivals in recent years: the Cape Town Festival of Beer (capetownfestivalofbeer.co.za), We Love Real Beer Festival (facebook.com/weloverealbeer), and the Clarens Craft Beer Festival (clarensbeerfestival.co.za)….

Errata - National Geographic Traveller - Issue 14, pg 11 - “Europe’s Great Beer Burgs”

The latest National Geographic Traveller contains a great article on beer travelling.
It is great to have more focus on beer - in particular, craft beer - in magazines and other printed media.

We were lucky to get a mention in the side bar…

Unfortunately there are two factual errors in the article and we think it is necessary to put the correct facts out there and give credit where credit is due.

Firstly, Gallows Hill Brewing Co. won the 2011 National Home Brewing Competition (SANHC) with one of our small experimental Black Ale batches.
Our Black Ale is a Cascadian Dark Ale - also commonly referred to as a Black IPA.

Secondly, we did not brew a Coffee Stout as mentioned in the article. The 2012 Southyeasters Summer festival actually had two competitions.
The first being the normal people’s choice competition where kit / extract beers and all grain brews are rated by the festival goers.
The second being the new Wolfgang Koedel Cup. For this competition certain guidelines are prescribed for the beers entered and the judging is done by a panel of “experts”.
We won the Wolfgang Cup with a small batch Octoberfest inspired ale.
The people’s choice winner was the UCT Brewing Team with a Strawberry Witbier and the runner up was Masters Brown & May Brewers with a Coffee Stout