I spent much of 2008 and 2009 day dreaming about what my brewery was eventually going to look like, but the vast majority of the space was a vague impression of stainless, an unending bar, and community seating — obscure ideas for the taproom and production area that lived in the same cloudy space amongst fleeting thoughts that constantly rip through my always-distracted mind. What was never even remotely hard to imagine, however, was how my barrel cellar would look.
In its most basic form, a barrel cellar is just floor-to-ceiling oak on all four sides, or a simple expression of geometry and material. And other than a list of fairly dissatisfied ex-girlfriends, I’ve never really collected anything in my life. But ever since the idea of opening a brewery began to take shape I’ve found myself in constant pursuit of oak barrels — and my collection is growing quickly. I love their beauty as an aging vessel, but I am also perfectly content standing in the middle of our cellar admiring the ever-growing stacks like classic art adorning our walls.
What I’ve also come to realize is that I wasn’t really dreaming about the physical space itself, but the experiences I hoped to share within those four walls harboring all that oak.
A few months ago my dear friend Pat Brophy gently reminded me that he was itching to crack into his ever-growing stash of Cantillon, and passively mentioned doing so in my cellar. The idea got away from me during the insanely busy holiday season, which required a second, more forceful nudge. With that, we put a date on the calendar.
It’s hard to put into words what it felt like to drink such a gluttonous amount of world-class beer in one night. But after the fourth or fifth bottle had been cracked, basketed, and poured, and the wide-eyed, addict-like grabbing slowed, folks started to step away from the table. Like a fly on the wall, I watched as everyone began looking around the room with grins of pure satisfaction. It was if these were the exact characters in my dreams all those years ago, and the response was as my subconscious had expected — they were thinking exactly what I was thinking: that this is perfect. And it was.
Not three weeks later I found myself sitting around a 30-foot-long dinner table amongst friends as Chef Garrett Schroeder and the good folks from Nobel House curated one of the most extraordinary pairing dinners I have had the good fortune to be a part of. A moment of belly laughter followed by a few deep breaths and a hearty drink of beer provided just enough runway for my mind to clear and recognize the moment for what it was: yet another expression of the unique experience I had dreamt of sharing.
And here I was, sitting in the middle of the cellar enjoying one hell of an experience with exceptional company, food and beer. I have realized that part of my dream — now time to get back to work.