PREPARING FOR TANK DAY

Hello All,

Things are going well in the world of Champion Brewing Company, if a little hectic. But - what else is new?

We’ve got a handful of exciting new beers going at the Tap Room brewery, and over at the Missile Factory things are really flying along. In a rare set of events, we are actually expecting our tanks and brewhouse early, which means the easily-delayed construction project is under an even closer lens. 

As of right now, we’re getting the drains finished, the glycol piping installed (to keep tanks cool,) the walk-in cooler built (that you can drive a forklift into,) and finishing the framing for additional rooms such as the boiler room and mill room where we will grind our malt. 

It’s hard to believe, but we expect all of our 60-BBL tanks, our brewhouse, hot water tanks, and our malt silo to arrive in the next two weeks. If it looks like we’re down to the wire, well, that’s kind of true. But we thrive under pressure. That’s what our whole first year has consisted of. 

We can’t make to make big batches of beer, and will be posting again on tank day! We also want to say welcome to Lead Brewer Levi Duncan, who will be joining myself (Owner/Head Brewer Hunter Smith) in the brewing operations of the Missile Factory. We won’t just be making Missile IPA, but also Killer Kolsch and Stickin’ In My Rye to begin with as well. Cheers! 

H

NANO NO MO’

Well, folks - it has been a pretty whirlwind first year! We have all of us been incredibly humbled by the amount of support (and sales) that we have been shown by our customers, supporters, friends, fans, and regulars. 

There have definitely been some hilarious booboos, dingdong moments, and crazy highlights that I’ll save for the book rather than detailing here. We have learned a LOT  - that’s for sure. We’ve also made over 40 different beers, which is a surprise, because I didn’t know we’d have so much creative license with new recipes and I am personally thrilled. Some of the ‘weirdest’ beers we’ve made have been the most popular. The most popular, far and away, has been the Missile IPA, central VA’s only West-Coast-style IPA. We have jokingly referred to the new brewery as the #missilefactory, because that will be our #1 beer. 

Right - the new brewery! So, we had plans and hopes all along for a production brewery, and the success of the Tap Room operation and market demand for our beers are such that we need one! Our Tap Room location and brewery will still do exactly what it has - pump out new beers and act as our sole retail/taproom location.

We have ordered a 30-BBL (930-gallon) brewhouse and 6 60-BBL (1860-gallon) fermenters from our friends at Premier Stainless in Escondido, CA. As of last week, we have begun work on improving our new large warehouse, located in the Woolen Mills neighborhood in Belmont. We expect the fermenters in January, so we’ve got work to do! A little demo, gas and glycol piping, some electric, and a lot of concrete work. We’ll be running updates here throughout - THANK YOU SO MUCH for your support and interest - check out the pictures of the new space. —HS

#NOFXINNYC

As some of y’all may have read on Facebook, or seen on the Tap Room tasting notes, we made a Rye IPA with NOFX called Stickin’ In My Rye. It’s got 20% Rye, and is very heavily hopped and dry-hopped with the luxurious Falconer’s Flight hop blend from HopUnion.

The weekend following Thanksgiving, I went up to Manhattan to meet up with the guys and catch a phenomenal set at the Irving Plaza. Here are a few highlight pics.

I guess most of these don’t really need captions - the last two are myself and bassist/vocalist Fat Mike and NOFX on stage. They played ‘The Decline’ front to back, which fans will recognize as pretty sweet. The consensus on Stickin’ In My Rye is: ‘Let’s make more!’  

The Final Countdown

We are wrapping up construction in preparation for receiving our tanks and first orders of malt, hops, and yeast in the next 2 weeks. This is an exciting time, and it’s also challenging, as we’re herding all of the various folks involved in getting all the various mechanical and utility lines to each tank, fixture, and toilet. We’re hanging lights, we’re staining and sealing the concrete, we’re putting up the walls in the brewing space, installing refrigerators, and generally getting the back of house entirely in order. 

Outside of construction, we have received all necessary permits, so we are totally legal to make and sell beer. I’ve got recipes ready to go, and am placing orders for the ingredients based on them. I’ve got lab equipment piling up at my house waiting for a safe place to put it. We’re picking out the materials and paint colors for the tap room side of things, which will be coming in line as we start brewing the beginning inventory. I’m planning to brew for a little while to build up stock, so we don’t have to close when everyone comes and drinks it all (which is what I assume everyone is planning to do!) 

I’m also brainstorming grand opening parties, but one step at a time. We’ll be brewing by the end of the month. Picture time!

(the last of the old lights before removal)

(sparks fly when cutting metal conduit)

(preliminary sixtel keg order)

(digging out the brewery area’s floor drains)

(sunset through the front doors. i was removing old wires.)

(the future bar area with window into brewery)

(the walls going up in the tank area. this excites me the most. stay tuned!)

Construction Continues

Hello to all - thought it was time to jump in with an August update. This is proving to be a very productive month in the ramp-up to brewery installation. We have completed demolition, and completed framing up the new walls. Basically, the way things are laid out now are final. It’s just a matter of making everything work. 

We are cleaning up all the A/C duct work, removing excess electrical lines, and most importantly, setting up plumbing and gas lines to prepare for the brewery installation. With our fingers crossed, it’s looking like we’ll be getting our tanks next month in September. To say I’m stoked doesn’t do the excitement justice.  

In non-construction news: We have received our TTB permit from the Federal government. This is a major hurdle as the agency formerly known as the ATF is not known for being lightning fast. We have also submitted our ABC paperwork to the state and expect to receive that permit soon. We are also working on brand aesthetics, like ads and labels, and our image is starting to come together as well. I think you’ll like it. I’m also talking to food trucks about potential partnerships so that they can set up and get you some food while I focus on getting you beer. That’s the news for now, should have another update shortly. Picture time.

(raw goods/cold box storage space)

(the new walls that create the back of the bar, the office, and the brewing space)

(hardcore flue vent to handle the heat from the kettle)

(logo banner)

(rick and derek uhler hanging the banner, with ABC posting seen on the door)

(banner up. thanks for reading)

Progress/Why Champion

In the past few weeks, we’ve pretty much gutted the building. We thought we’d save a wall or two here or there, but then we’d remember this room would need waterproofing, this room isn’t necessary…yada,yada,yada - it needed to be gutted. So you should be able to see the progress in the pictures below, as walls disappear and create a wide open space. 

We also had the concrete jackhammered so that we can create new drains for the floor (we will use a lot of water.) Friday I’ll be pulling up the floor tiles, and then the demo will be complete. 

I’ve had a number people ask me what’s up with the name ‘Champion.’ I wanted something that would be iconic, and also reflective of our ambitious nature.

My personal philosophy includes demanding the best of yourself, and of others. That can apply to the way you act, to the friends you associate with, or the type of food you eat and beer you drink. I plan to make the very best beer we can, with the very best ingredients we can get, and without cutting any corners.

Ever since I was young I’ve admired the ideals of punk rock, and have tried to carry them with me into adulthood, though not every business scenario reads like the pages of “Get In the Van.” Many of these ideals, to me, are in line with those of craft brewing. Fiercely independent, interested in rattling the cages of the norm, and a hatred for lowest-common-denominator mediocrity. 

That mostly describes where I’m coming from and what we’re about. Now look at pictures of wood and concrete. Drink like a Champion!

Thanks for reading - HS

Rippin’ and Tearin’

                                                                People of the Internet:

Hello! This is the first post of what is going to be the running development blog for Champion Brewing Company. I’m Hunter Smith, and I’m opening this brewery in Downtown Charlottesville. This is where I’ll be updating along the way, as we work towards opening.

I’ll make an attempt at a quick backstory. I’m 26, and my lovely wife Danielle and I and our 8-month old daughter live in Belmont. I was born here in Charlottesville, grew up in Tidewater, and was lucky enough to return to Charlottesville a little over 3 years ago to help my parents operate their new undertaking at Afton Mountain Vineyards in Afton. After a fun, interesting, and ultimately successful 3 years, the sailing is pretty good in Afton and I have the time to pursue my dream.

Ever since I was old enough to drink, craft beer has fascinated me in many ways, including production, marketing, and the workings of the industry itself. Like many, it didn’t take long before obsession set in. As a result, I have long wanted to open a brewery of my own. I started along that road with homebrewing years ago, and as I got my bearings on that, began a program with the Siebel Institute of Technology. I did their online program for Brewing Science and Technology while working 40 hrs/week at the winery, and highly recommend it if you don’t have the ability to go to Chicago for weeks at a time. 

I’ll try and fast-forward the rest: I began writing the business plan last summer (2011,) and have worked since then to secure financing, fine-tune the plan, and find a location (not easy!)

We are going to be located at 310 Avon St. #6, adjacent to the Belmont bridge, just a couple blocks off of the Downtown Mall. I’m going to be operating a 3-bbl nanobrewery myself, with assistance from my brother-in-law Jonathan, and we will have a tap room on site (with much credit due to the hard work of the VA Craft Brewers’ Guild, Governor McDonnell, and SB604.) 

We ordered tanks almost 2 months ago, and should expect to receive them by October. Subsequently, we’re shooting for a Thanksgiving soft-open (fingers crossed.) I am doing the demolition myself, with help from Jonathan, and below are some pictures of the already-exciting transformation. 

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned. -

H

(before)

(removing drop ceiling)

(walls marked for death)

(jonathan)

(where the bar will be)

(interior walls to be removed and replaced with brewing equipment)

(j and i at this year’s SAVOR conference in D.C.)

Next post: ‘Why “Champion?”’