Bar Story #5: Alarm & Muster

 
“The Lexington Minuteman” by sculptor Henry Hudson Kitson (1900)

“The Lexington Minuteman” by sculptor Henry Hudson Kitson (1900)

 

Bar Story: It was on the evening of April 18th, 1775, that Paul Revere climbed into the rowboat he hid days before along the north shore of Boston, and made his way across the harbor under cover of darkness. Behind him, two lights could be seen hanging in the steeple of the Old North Church, alerting the militia in Charlestown ahead of him. They received him on the banks of the Charles River, where he was provided a horse for his ride.

This is a moment years in the making: New England had already built a reputation of civil disobedience against British rule, with Boston becoming the most notorious. After a decade of insubordination, King George declared the colonies in outright rebellion, and ordered General Gage - commander of the British army occupying Boston - to arrest rebel leaders to stand trial for treason, as well as march his army out to the Massachusetts countryside and seize the arms & supplies of local militias.

However, the people of Massachusetts were prepared: their Provincial Government - led by rebels such as Samuel Adams & John Hancock - had spent the fall of 1774 building a system of routes, riders & militiamen designed to “alarm & muster” a large force trained to “turn out for service at a minute's notice.” In the greater Boston area alone, over 16,000 “minutemen” quietly enlisted and began to train.

As the sun set on the 18th of April, Doctor Joseph Warren of Boston - later General Warren of Bunker Hill fame - received word that the British were making their move, gathering the majority of their troops on the Commons to be ferried to Cambridge. He needed to get word out, but Boston was already under martial law, and with darkness setting in, mounted patrols were out & no one would be allowed to enter or leave the city.

At 9pm, he called on silversmith Paul Revere & tanner William Dawes, giving them instructions to ride to Concord - location of both the Provincial Government & militia stores - and trigger the alarm along the way. Revere was to try and go north across the Charles River, while Dawes would attempt to go south across the Boston Neck.

Contrary to popular belief, the lanterns hung in the Old North Church were not intended to alert Revere, but were Revere’s idea to notify the militia across the river of which route the British were taking in order to coordinate their movements, and in case he didn’t make it out of the city. That evening, on the way to his hidden boat, Revere stopped at the Old North Church and instructed Robert Newman - sextant of the church - to hang the lanterns.

And so it was that, just after 10pm, the lanterns were hung as Paul Revere rowed across the river, successfully sneaking past HMS Somerset sitting at anchor, which was providing protection over the British soldiers landing at Cambridge.

Revere would ride quickly through Charlestown, Somerville, Medford, Arlington and into Lexington, which he would arrive at right around midnight. At each stop, he cried “the Regulars are coming out!” as minutemen poured into the streets and increasing numbers of riders were dispatched out to further communities. The alarm had been given, and the people mustered.

There were countless other riders, most of whose names have been lost to history, who spread the word across New England and the colonies beyond. Without their planning, determination and effort, the American Revolution would not have been. Riders Paul Revere, Samuel Prescott, William Dawes, Israel Bissel and the many others have thus earned their place in our nation’s history.

In addition to other express riders delivering messages, bells, drums, guns, bonfires, and trumpets were used for rapid communication from town to town, notifying the rebels across Massachusetts to muster their militias. This system was so effective that people in towns 25 miles from Boston were aware of the British army's movements while it was still unloading boats in Cambridge. In only a few days, the news had made it all the way to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

The quickly massing militias caused the British to fail in their mission; they met defeat at the Battle of Concord, and were forced to retreat back to Boston. Following the battle, General Gage offered a pardon to all who would "lay down their arms, and return to the duties of peaceable subjects.” There were no takers.

In the days which followed, militiamen from across New England arrived and surrounded the city, thus beginning a nearly year-long siege. General Washington would arrive & take command later that summer, and the British would finally evacuate Boston in March, 1776.

Fun fact: The Lexington Green hosted the start of the American Revolution for one reason only: it was the site of the Buckman Tavern (still standing), which was a favorite hangout for the Lexington Training Band (militia) after a day of training on the green. So much in fact that the tavern became the rally point for the unit when the alarm was sounded. On the night of April 18th, they mustered at the tavern in the middle of the night, and enjoyed pints of ale as they waited for the British to arrive. They also failed to stop the British advance 🤷‍♂️

Bar Story #4: Francis Grater

Bar story: I really dig this one, because it hits close to home in more ways than one.

General George Washington first arrived in Cambridge on July 3rd, 1775, to assume command of the various militias surrounding Boston, who were now part of the new Continental Army. Throughout the remainder of that summer, more local units continued to arrive in Cambridge and request assignment within the army & its siege of the city.

One such unit - the Marblehead Regiment - was notably different than the rest: being from a busy port town, their unit was comprised entirely of volunteers who were experienced seamen & sailors. As such, when their commander - Colonel John Glover - met General Washington in Cambridge, he recommended they receive a different assignment: refit merchant vessels into warships & take the fight to the British on the high seas.

It was a bold idea, but Washington loved it. So much so, when the Continental Congress stated they lacked the funding for a navy (even a make-shift one), Washington paid for it himself. Colonel Glover donated his family’s own ship to serve as the first: the “Hannah.” After a quick refit, the men of the Marblehead Regiment took her to sea in September, 1775, and quickly captured their first British ship off Gloucester.

 
“Continental Schooner Hannah” by William Nowland van Powell

“Continental Schooner Hannah” by William Nowland van Powell

 

Glover’s Marblehead Regiment would build out six more ships, serving as the first American naval vessels. History remembers them as “Washington’s Crusiers.” In the months leading up to the British evacuation of Boston in March 1776, the Cruisers heavily disrupted British shipping and naval operations off the shores of Massachusetts, delivering a bounty of supplies to Washington’s new army.

The Cruisers were identified on the seas by a notable flag of the Revolution, selected by Washington & his staff: “one with a white ground, a green pine tree, and the inscription ‘An Appeal to Heaven;’” a nod to both John Locke & the men of NH’s Pine Tree Riot. You may have seen the replica of this very flag we have hung here in our bar.

One of the men serving under Col. Glover aboard the Cruisers was a young Marblehead seaman who has deep ties to our community here in Merrimack: his name was Francis Grater.

Francis (originally Francisco) was born in December, 1752, in Barcelona, Spain. In 1765, he left home aboard the merchant ship “Triton” bound for the New World. This was his first exposure to the high seas, and he would learn a great deal on this voyage from Captain George Wilson. When Francis arrived in America, he found his new home in Marblehead where he took up work as a fisherman. A decade later, as the Revolution heated up following Lexington & Concord, he enlisted in Glover’s new regiment and marched with them to Cambridge.

Francis served as a privateer against the British until he was captured in November 1778 and imprisoned until early 1779. When he finally made his return to Marblehead, Francis married the woman he’d loved since his youth: Jane Wilson, whom he first met on his voyage to the America’s aboard the “Triton.” She was Captain Wilson’s daughter.

After the war, Francis & Jane Grater relocated their family to New Hampshire to build their homestead - a dream of Francis’s when he first left Spain - purchasing a large plot of land just south of Baboosic Lake along the Amherst-Merrimack border. They raised their family here, where Francis made his living farming and logging, while Jane fashioned & sold women’s clothing along the trade route between Merrimack & New Boston. Their eldest son, John, would go on to serve in the War of 1812.

Francis - who had been an immigrant, sailor, fisherman, warrior, entrepreneur, farmer & family man - passed away at his home in 1845 at the age of 94. #america

 
View from within Francis Grater’s land in Merrimack, now known as Grater Woods

View from within Francis Grater’s land in Merrimack, now known as Grater Woods

 

Today, Francis Grater’s former property is owned and preserved by the Merrimack Conservation Commission as Grater Woods. The MCC’s volunteers maintain the ~500-acre property, which is open to the public, and features a wide variety of wildlife, as well as many of the original roads, rock walls and granite foundations put in place by the Grater family 2 centuries ago. It serves as both a great piece of local history, as well as an awesome place to experience the beauty of southern NH’s wilderness.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Cheers. #merrimack

Bar Story #3: 'Frigate B'

 
Image: USS Constitution setting sail at her 200th anniversary in 1997, with destroyer USS Ramage, frigate USS Halyburton and the Blue Angels.

Image: USS Constitution setting sail at her 200th anniversary in 1997, with destroyer USS Ramage, frigate USS Halyburton and the Blue Angels.

 

Bar story: It was on this day in 1794 that Congress passed the “Naval Act,” which authorized the building of six frigates; our nation’s first warships.

Joshua Humpreys - a shipbuilder and naval architect from Philadelphia - was selected to design them. The challenge he was presented was much more than designing a few ships; since only six would not rival any of the other established fleets of the world, he had to reimagine what a frigate was in order for them to compete on the high seas. His vision: the largest, heaviest & fastest ships ever built; mighty enough to beat any opponent in battle, yet fast enough to outrun all others when outnumbered. Humphreys’ final designs were the most complex ever attempted to that point in the history of shipbuilding.

President George Washington selected the 6 shipyards where the ships would be built simultaneously. “Frigate B” was to be built at Edmund Hartt’s shipyard in Boston’s north end.

Frigate B would be one of the larger ships at 50-guns, and thus Humphreys’ design called for a complex bill of raw materials. Roughly 60 acres worth of trees were required for her construction: Live Oak - a sturdy, dense hardwood which is difficult to cut and work with - from St. Simon island in Georgia was used for her heavy frame. The keel and hull were built of White Oak from across New England, while her masts were of tall White Pine (of course) from Unity, Maine. From those masts, 36 sails made of flax at the Boston Manufacturing Company were hung, totalling over 42,000 square feet (or roughly one acre).

Her large, 5000+ lb anchors were cast by Nathaniel Cushing of Pembroke, MA. The anchor cable was woven of hemp, measuring 22-inches in diameter and over 700 feet long; it took nearly 300 men to carry the rope from Jeffrey’s wharf at the North Battery down the street to Hartt’s shipyard to be installed on the frigate. The North End’s own Paul Revere would cast the thousands of copper bolts & fasteners for her hull, as well as her 250-lb bell.

This was construction on a scale not yet seen for a frigate. She was so large & heavy that when the builders attempted to launch her in September of 1797 (an event attended by President John Adams), her hull forced the ways (ramps) into the earth and she came to a stop after sliding only 27 feet. It took another month to rebuild the ways for another attempt.

Finally, on October 21st, 1797, she was successfully launched into Boston Harbor. With a bottle of Madeira wine broken over her hull, she was christened the USS Constitution.

The Constitution would become famous at the onset of the War of 1812: as the US declared war on Britain in June 1812, over 80 Royal Navy vessels were operating in American waters. The US Navy, by comparison, was a much smaller fleet of only 22 ships; the original 6 frigates among them. Yet, with a max expected lifespan of only 10 to 15-years after their completion, they were aging. Thus, the British were heavy favorites on the seas.

After a resupply, the Constitution set out of Boston in August of 1812 with the intent of raiding British merchant ships. She instead came face-to-face with the British frigate HMS Guerriere off the coast of Halifax, Nova Scotia. As they closed, Guerriere was first to break and fire off full broadsides at Constitution. It was during this barrage that cannonballs from Guerriere were witnessed “bouncing” off the sides of the Constitution. In this moment, a crew member is said to have cried out “Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!”

Constitution continued to close rapidly as she took fire, maneuvering within 25 yards before opening up her first full broadsides of grape and round shot. This barrage brought down Guerriere’s masts and crippled her; the British surrendered shortly after. Captain Isaac Hull of the Constitution took Guerriere’s crew prisoner, then set fire to what remained of the tattered vessel. #BurntheShips

Word of their decisive victory spread quickly, and the Constitution was given a hero’s welcome upon her return to Boston. Although the loss of Guerriere was insignificant to the British (who maintained a worldwide fleet of over 600 ships), the battle provided a tremendous boost to American morale & patriotism during the war, serving as proof we could hold our own against the world’s best. After the stories of British cannon being unable to penetrate her mighty oak hull, the Constitution earned the nickname “Old Ironsides.”

Years later in 1830, when rumors that the Navy was considering scrapping her, thousands of Americans from across the country wrote letters urging she be saved. The Navy obliged.

She has undergone many refits over the years, but the USS Constitution still serves today as the oldest active vessel in the United States Navy, stationed at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston.

Fun fact: During WW2, 1st Armored Division (with whom Able brewers Mike & Carl both served with) was nicknamed “Old Ironsides” by General Bruce Magruder in honor of the Constitution.

Bar Story #2: Nashua Canal

 
Artwork: “Nashua New Hampshire, 1883” from the archives at the Library of Congress

Artwork: “Nashua New Hampshire, 1883” from the archives at the Library of Congress

 

Bar story: It was in the early spring of 1826, as the snow and ice from winter began to thaw, that the waters of the Nashua River were set loose into the town’s newly dug canal, providing the first power to the turbines at Nashua Manufacturing Company’s Mill #1 in downtown.

This was a defining moment for Nashua, as the town would quickly grow to become a centerpiece of New England manufacturing. Downtown alone would go on to lead in the production of textiles, shoes, steam boilers, paper, tools, lumber, furniture and more. Even armor for our nation’s first iron-clad warship - the USS Monitor (which has its own story to tell) - was forged at the Nashua Iron & Steel Company on East Hollis Street. By the 1860’s, six separate rail lines would run through the city, with over 50 trains coming and going each day to bring its goods across the country.

This expansion was not the product of one person’s ingenuity & know-how, but of many.

Daniel Abbot - one of Nashua’s founding fathers - led a group of local entrepreneurs in chartering the would-be Nashua Manufacturing Company in 1823, believing the Nashua River and surrounding community held great potential. They envisioned a canal running from Mine Falls (today, a fantastic city park) into the center of town, where its waters would power a series of manufactories that would serve as the foundation for a new city. Daniel Webster was among the company’s founders, and its largest investor.

They hired James Baldwin - a young, ambitious civil engineer - to construct the canal. After surveying the terrain, he spent the entirety of 1825 with his crew of locals reshaping the earth from Mill Falls to near the Main Street Bridge (which was also first built in 1825 by the Nashua Mfg Co). At completion, the canal was 3-miles long, 60-feet wide, 6-feet deep, and handled a 33-foot change in elevation. The canal’s locks were constructed of solid stone measuring 24-feet high, 10-feet wide and 82-feet long, and set in place by Baldwin’s team.

The canal’s dams & locks, as well as Nashua Manufacturing Co’s first mill buildings, were all designed by famed New England architect - and some say one of the fathers of American Architecture - Asher Benjamin. He also designed Nashua’s Unitarian Church on Canal Street (still standing), as well as inspired many of the city’s historic Federal style homes in the north end, including Daniel Abbot’s (now the Abbot-Spaulding Museum operated by the Nashua Historical Society; go check it out). His federal building style became a staple in Nashua’s early architecture, including with the first City Hall (1843), designed by Nashua inventor & architect (and student of Asher's), Samuel Shepard.

In the years that followed the opening of that first canal, Nashua became a boomtown. Within a decade, the population more than tripled as more factories, shops, homes, schools, churches and infrastructure were built. Nashua quickly evolved into a city of innovative builders, tinkerers, craftsmen and inventors, all who played a vital role in our country’s growth during those early, defining years. Very Able indeed.

“When we see the position Nashua assumed as the mother of new enterprises, we wonder at the results...Any history of Nashua that left the workers (the men & women who work with their hands) out of consideration would not be complete. It was the superior intelligence of the help, rather than their acquired skill, to which we are indebted for the results.”
- Edward Everett Parker, “History of the City of Nashua,” 1897

Bar Story #1: Hamilton's Command

“Alexander Hamilton in the Uniform of the New York Artillery" by Alonzo Chappel (1828–1887)

“Alexander Hamilton in the Uniform of the New York Artillery" by Alonzo Chappel (1828–1887)

Cool bar story: On this day in 1776, Alexander Hamilton is named Captain of the New York Provincial Company of Artillery in NYC. It is his first military command, and at only 19 years of age, he was a bold choice.

Hamilton was a student at King’s College (now Columbia University) a year earlier when the battles of Lexington & Concord kicked off the American Revolution. In response, he and many fellow students joined the newly formed city militia, the "Hearts of Oak." They drilled before classes each day in the graveyard of St. Paul’s Chapel in lower Manhattan (which still stands today) in uniforms they made themselves, which displayed the motto: “Liberty or Death.” In August of 1775, after the British evacuated Boston, Hamilton led this ragtag unit in a raid on the Battery at the southern tip of Manhattan and, under fire from the HMS Asia in the upper bay, successfully seized the fortification and its cannons. From then onward, the "Hearts of Oak" held the Battery and operated as a volunteer artillery unit.

As the Revolution heated up in 1776, Hamilton had built a reputation as a intelligent & capable young leader, and thus was selected to raise & organize the new NY Provincial Company of Artillery, of which he was elected by his fellow soldiers to command as Captain on March 14, 1776.

It was in this role that he would go on to make a name for himself across the colonies, commanding his unit with distinction in battle, including at White Plains and Trenton. Many generals in the Continental Army requested Hamilton join their command staffs, but it would be General George Washington who saw the most potential in the young officer, appointing him as his Chief of Staff in 1777; a position Hamilton would hold for the next 4 years.

Longing to resume combat command, Hamilton requested to return to the line units in 1781, which Washington granted despite his preference to retain Hamilton on his staff. He was promoted to Colonel, and took the lead of 3 battalions at the Siege of Yorktown, where he personally led his men under cover of darkness to take the British redoubts defending the city with bayonets at close quarters; a move that forced the British to surrender the city, thus ending the Revolution.

Alexander Hamilton would go on to serve as NY’s representative to the newly formed Congress of the Confederation, and become a central advocate and architect of the United States Constitution. So much Able. #america #craftyourindependence

Ingenuity

 
Ingenuity2.jpg

“Why, I could make anything anybody wanted—anything in the world, it didn't make any difference what; and if there wasn't any quick new-fangled way to make a thing, I could invent one—and do it as easy as rolling off a log...A man like that is a man that is full of fight—that goes without saying.”
-Mark Twain, “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”, 1889

Following the American Revolution and ratification of the Constitution, our new nation ventured forward into the unknown; no one was quite sure what would become of a culture who embraced the then-radical ideas of individualism, liberty and free markets in a world run by monarchies and mercantilism.

It was a rough go at the start: In the 1790’s, the United States was well behind the developed nations of western Europe, lacking industry, population and funding; aspects we had become reliant upon from England during our colonial days. As colonies, the majority of our economy was agrarian, centered around producing raw materials for the British Empire. America didn’t produce finished goods, didn’t invent new technologies, and lacked even the most basic of resources to participate in either.

But then, something happened.

Within the span of a generation, the United States suddenly emerged as a global economic powerhouse. We became leaders in the production of iron and steel, textiles, boots and shoes, paper, packaged foods, firearms, machinery, engines, tools and more. Our once-hostile frontier was quickly conquered by a series of roads, canals and railways.

Wild new inventions and innovations became a staple of American culture, as one European attendee at the Centennial Exhibition remarked, “the American invents as the Italian paints and the Greek sculpts. It is genius.”

By the 1840’s, we were exporting everything from small tools to steam locomotives back over to Europe. The US economy’s shift was so profound that in England, Parliament formed a special committee to investigate and report on what had become known around the world as the “American System.”

One historian even notes that although we were once “monarchical, hierarchy-ridden subjects on the margin of civilization, Americans had become, almost overnight, the most liberal, the most democratic, the most commercially minded, and the most modern people in the world."

So, what happened?

Modern historians and economists continue to debate this period of American history today since, in many other parts of history, large leaps by a nation or society can typically be attributed to a key event or innovation; but this is not the case in the United States following the Revolution. We had none of the ingredients deemed necessary to quickly and profoundly change the landscape of the global economy, yet we did so anyways.

“The contrast between the mechanical capabilities of [New England] craftsmen in 1800 and in 1850 is so striking that it would appear to demand an explanation.”
-Eugene S. Ferguson, “The Origin and Development of American Mechanical ‘Know-How’”, 1965

And the best explanation many have pointed to is a rather un-academic one: “Yankee Ingenuity.”

The term Yankee Ingenuity refers to the dogged determination of the citizenry to get things done, no matter the challenge. You could call it work-ethic, creativity, talent, imagination, genius or just plain stubbornness, and you wouldn’t be wrong; one could argue it’s a combination of all of the above. In essence, New Englanders know how to “get sh*t done.”

As such, projects thought to be impossible at the onset were worked tirelessly until complete, and then improved upon continuously by others: The Erie Canal, the great factories of New England, massive steam engines, expansive railroads, and thensome. Towns grew into cities rivaling those of London and Paris, production and exports skyrocketed, and our once poor nation quickly became a wealthy superpower. It was with this home-grown Ingenuity from the countryside of New England that America was built.

“You can hardly find an eminent Yankee inventor or machinist who didn’t spring up from what has been called ‘that best school of mechanics,’ the New England farm.”
-Edmund Fuller, “Tinkers and Genius: The Story of the Yankee Inventors”, 1955

We believe this characteristic is still a part of our culture here in New England; we’re hungry for complex challenges, and are relentless in finding the best solutions for them. As Mark Twain wrote, New Englanders are “full of fight.”

Thus, we couldn’t imagine a better name for our latest project: Ingenuity.

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A year ago, we overhauled our production equipment with a new brewhouse and several new fermenters. The move increased our capacity and efficiency, which produced something we’ve rarely seen since opening in 2014: time to dedicate towards new beer designs.

Brewing small scale batches, where we can explore various ingredients and methods, is definitely the fun side of beer brewing. Once a recipe is complete and scaled, brewing feels less like an art and more like manufacturing (which, it is). After all, sticking to procedure at scale is key in continuously providing the consistent, quality product you have come to expect and demand. For us at Able Ebenezer, we’ve had to spend the better part of 4+ years dedicated to keeping up with the demand for just 2 of our brands: “Burn the Ships” & “Victory nor Defeat.”

Yet, in the spring of 2018, we were finally able to begin firing up our pilot system on a regular basis, producing 5-gallon batches of experimental designs behind the scenes. Many of you who are regulars at the brewery are familiar with these experiments, and have asked repeatedly when we’ll make one available at scale. As such, our team has decided that once a design has been explored, adjusted and perfected to our standards, we will bring it to scale for one production batch as part of a series of experimental beers under the banner of “Ingenuity.”

With that, we are excited to announce the release of Ingenuity #1; a New England IPA containing over three pounds of hops per barrel, giving it a strong citrus and tropical fruit aroma and flavor. Since this is new for us - and since we have to keep the core brands flowing - only one batch of #1 will be produced, and it will only be available on draft.

Details: The first kegs will be tapped at the brewery on Friday, February 8th @ 4pm. To ensure we have enough volume for our regulars, we will not release any kegs out for distribution. Heads up: we will offer growler and quart fills at the start, but may have to limit them after the initial release.

With that, we’re excited to finally share this fun project with you. Thank you for joining us in this effort; it wouldn’t be possible without you. Cheers!

 

Revuelta

Mexico, 1910: Revolution breaks out across the nation against oppressive dictator, Porfirio Diaz, in the wake of yet another fraudulent election and the imprisonment of his vocal opponent, Francisco Madero. But the war gets off to a rough start. Rather than an organized movement against Diaz’s government - the root of the problems plaguing the Mexican people - there are instead a number of smaller forces that rise up with no clear direction or intent, attacking symbols of the regime as they see fit.

Up north in the state of Chihuahua, an army veteran turned bandit named Francisco “Pancho” Villa has taken up the fight with a band of insurgents. He raids haciendas, captures a train of Federal soldiers and goes on to fight toe-to-toe with the Federal Army, seizing several towns along his route. He quickly becomes famous for his relentless and fearless fighting style.

 
“I am not an educated man. I never had the chance to learn anything except how to fight.”

“I am not an educated man. I never had the chance to learn anything except how to fight.”

 

In the town of Guerrero, Chihuahua, Pascual Orozco - a businessman from a more respected background than that of Villa - is selected to lead the state’s regular revolutionary forces, and immediately goes after Federal Army units. He proves to be effective, but becomes known for his aggressive style of combat; in January 1911, he successfully ambushes federal soldiers at Cañón del Mal Paso, strips the dead of their uniforms, and has them shipped to Diaz’s palace with a note reading: “Ahí te van las hojas, mándame más tamales.” (translation: "Here are the wrappers, send me more tamales.")

 
“It is the people and only the people who are making this Revolution.”

“It is the people and only the people who are making this Revolution.”

 

Across the border, a young anarchist author & poet, Praxedis Guerrero, who is hiding in exile after years of vocal opposition to Diaz, raises a small army in El Paso, TX, crosses the border into Juarez where they begin capturing trains, looting supply houses and destroying railroad bridges.

 
"Sow a small seed of rebellion and you will produce a harvest of freedoms."

"Sow a small seed of rebellion and you will produce a harvest of freedoms."

 

To the west in Baja, the “Magonistas” - guerrilla fighters organized and led by activist Ricardo Flores Magon - have taken control of Tijuana as well as the many border towns in northern Baja, with the goal of separating the peninsula from Mexico entirely.

 
"Rebellion is life. Submission is death."

"Rebellion is life. Submission is death."

 

And in the south, a young village councilman and farmer named Emiliano Zapata has independently raised an army of peasants under the motto “¡Tierra y Libertad!” (Land and Liberty!) to harass Hacienda owners, ambush army units and seize disputed farmlands taken by the government.

 
"I'd rather die on my feet than live forever on my knees."

"I'd rather die on my feet than live forever on my knees."

 

It isn’t so much a revolution as it is chaos.

From his jail cell, Francisco Madero remains unbroken; he knows a spark is needed to unite Mexico in the cause against Diaz & his regime. After escaping from prison and fleeing north, he writes:

“The people, in their constant efforts for the triumph of liberty & justice, are forced, at precise historical moments, to make their greatest sacrifices. Our beloved country has reached one of those moments. With all honesty I declare that it would be a weakness on my part - and treason to the people - to not put myself at the front of my fellow citizens.”

Madero raises a small army of roughly 800 men, some of whom are Americans from Texas and New Mexico, and marches south from the border to a small Federal Army outpost at Casas Grandes, Chihuahua. His plan is to capture the garrison and its supplies to support future campaigns deeper into Mexico.

But as he leads his men into the attack at first light, they find themselves vastly outnumbered and outgunned. A machine gun pins them down while artillery batters their lines. Soon, Federal reinforcements arrive and overwhelm the rebels. They have no choice but to retreat.

As the sun sets on March 6, 1911, Madero finds himself both defeated & wounded following the Battle of Casas Grandes. Many of his men are killed, wounded or captured in the melee. Those within his ranks and beyond believe the revolution has been delivered a fatal blow.

Yet, in defeat he becomes what the people need: a leader. The many diverse revolutionary leaders from across the states develop an immediate respect for Madero and pledge their forces to him; a man of means who gave up all he had to fight alongside his fellow citizens.

Within weeks, his army more than doubles. With the help of Orozco, they take Chihuahua City and oust the Federales across the state. In Baja, the Magonistas defeat Federales in Mexicali and win the city, while Zapata secures the southern state of Morelos for Madero. By April, the revolution has spread to 18 states across Mexico as Madero - united alongside “Pancho” Villa - defeats the Federal Army stronghold at Juarez. Soon after, Diaz surrenders.

By year’s end, Mexico holds its first free election in decades, giving Madero the presidency in a landslide.

 
“Nobody knows what the people are capable of when they fight for their freedom.”

“Nobody knows what the people are capable of when they fight for their freedom.”

 

Control the situation or the situation will control you. There is no perfect moment to stage your revolt; seize the initiative and the right people will join your cause.

Mexican Style Lager

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“Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything.” – Napoleon Hill


A F-18 Super Hornet screams overhead as we walk from the parking lot into the White Labs yeast production facility. Being located across the street from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego (a.k.a. Fighter Town, USA - made famous by the movie Top Gun) already makes the typical run-of-the-mill industrial park a little more exciting. I’m not sure what to expect from a beer tasting at a company known for making yeast, but as a recent homebrewer, with only a couple not-very-good batches under my belt, I’m curious how to make my beers a little bit better.

I’m with my roommate David, whose idea it was to come here in the first place. While David helped me with brewing once, I could tell he was more interested in drinking the final product than learning the science behind it.  To my surprise, the tasting room opens up to a 40-foot bar with no less than 30 taps on the wall behind it. There is a large menu of beers, all made on-site, separated by style. I’m fascinated as the bartender explains to me everything I didn’t know about yeast, which turns out to be everything: all yeasts are either ales or lagers… ales ferment at room temperature and tend to give off a fruity flavor, while lagers like to be cold and are more “clean” tasting…lager yeasts sometimes smell like rotten eggs when fermenting…the word lager means “to store…”

David has had enough of my questions and the bartender’s in-depth answers, and orders the Wheat Ale Flight. I get the hint that it’s time to start drinking and order the IPA Flight. The beers on each flight are exactly the same with the only varying ingredient being the yeast. Same grain, same hops. Each beer tastes completely different! 

My mind is blown! The taste of clove in Belgian ales…the banana flavor in Hefeweizens…I’m hooked! We each get another flight. I’m on the third one down on a Lager sample board; the Mexican Lager Yeast.

“The best one yet,” I tell myself in a mumble under my breath.

As a homebrewer, lager beers are tougher to make since they require a dedicated refrigerator, and buying a fridge for something that you do a few times a year was not exactly in my grad school budget. So in my mind, I table the idea of using my new favorite yeast for a time when I have a little more means. But, the chase to find new beer flavors was just getting started. 

Fast forward: It’s November 2017, and Able Ebenezer has been open for almost three and half years. Carl and I go through the financials and realize that we’re in a position to buy new brewing equipment. It took seven years, but finally, I have the means to buy that lager refrigerator. My excitement finally boils over with a “we should do a Mexican Lager!” Understandably, this is met with confused looks from everyone in the room. Hops and IPAs dominate most beer conversations these days.

Nobody knew that I’d often buy Mexican Lagers after work, or that it was a Mexican Lager yeast that fueled my desire to make beer in the first place. But once they saw how serious I was, they jumped on board. They could see that desire and wanted to be part of it.

I knew the traditional grain used and I had the yeast I wanted, but I needed help getting the lime-already-in-the-bottle flavor that I thought beers in the style lacked (nailed it with the right combination of hops). I also needed help coming up with name and story that conveyed a Mexican attitude that goes beyond relaxing on the beach. Needless to say, we - the Able Ebenezer team - pulled through.

From this experience I’ve realized that nothing is more infectious than desire. People are drawn to its authenticity. So go ahead and show it; chances are you'll inspire those around you and they'll help you take it farther than you ever could on your own.

- Mike

 

            

            

This isn't what I'm "supposed" to do

Jim canning.png

I’ve worked several jobs over the years.

I’ve worked in a restaurant kitchen, done landscaping, been in childcare, worked with at-risk youth, in retail, and now obviously I work in the beer industry. I can say I’ve enjoyed my time at each job I’ve held but that’s mostly because of the people I was fortunate enough to work with. I’ve had to do “professional development” at pretty much all these jobs and for the most part it was always fairly helpful with the work I was doing but I was never really interested in what I was learning.

I simply did it because that was what I was supposed to do.

Even when it came to school I always loved reading and writing when it was subjects I was able to pick because I would be interested and want to learn about them. That’s probably why I love working at Able Ebenezer so much. I find myself reading articles about brewing, watching TED talks, trying to take free online chemistry classes, and most frequently picking Mike’s and Carl’s brains.

It’s a genuine interest I have in beer and brewing, and it’s slowly turning into an obsession.

I remember hearing all the time growing up that I should “find what I’m passionate about,” and I desperately tried. I had interests, but they would usually fizzle out after a short time. I thought I had to take the classes I was told to take even if they didn’t interest me; and do the things you’re supposed to do in life. If your passion was for something out of the norm a lot of people would tell you, you can’t do it or that it isn’t realistic or that it’s not the “smart” thing to do. People don’t really take you too seriously when you tell them you have a passion for beer. And at that point in my life beer wasn’t a passion. It wasn’t even really a thought for me. My passions were my friends and family, and simply sharing good stories and ideas with them. It wasn’t until I got to college that I really began finding what had meaning to me.

I remember going to certain college classes like statistics and archaeology and by the end of those classes I felt I learned very little. Yet a handful of nights staying up late with a dozen friends and some beer I felt I learned more than all my education combined. We didn’t have a syllabus or textbooks; we simply had our own thoughts and ideas and we were able to listen to each other and challenge each other; and yes, share some beers throughout.

One of my favorite quotes is by Mark Twain who said, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” That quote resonates with me because I spent my whole educational career trying to pick one of the subjects I had been presented with in school and make that my passion. But that isn’t how it works. Your passion may not be found in a textbook or a school locker. It’s up to each person to decide what excites them and find a way to make that passion the focus of their work. I truly enjoy what I do and it’s because I’m able to do and learn about the things I genuinely have an interest in. The free beer isn’t a bad perk either.

When I was offered the job at Able Ebenezer Brewing Company I had a big decision to make.

At that point in my life I was on a path I thought I was supposed to be on. It was the path that people told me was “a good idea” and “realistic.” So I had to choose whether I wanted the life you’re supposed to have or if I wanted to take a risk at doing something I truly wanted to do. I remember thinking for a day or two and talking with my friends and family about what to do. I kept coming back to a quote I came across back in college on one of those nights spent sharing stories and ideas with friends over a few beers. The quote is by a man named Randy Komisar. He said, “and then there is the most dangerous risk of all; the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you’ll be able to buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”

You obviously know which path I chose.

-Jim

"On the Way!"

Able Tanks.jpg

I was in awe the first time I climbed into the turret of the M1 Abrams tank.

It’s an incredible machine, with capabilities you have to experience to really appreciate what a marvel it is. Powered by a 1500 horsepower turbine engine, the 72 ton behemoth can move at 50 MPH (60+ MPH if you know how to disable the governor). The turret is equipped with a fire control computer which uses a gyroscope, crosswind sensors and a rangefinder to balance & precisely aim the main gun, allowing it to hit targets with ease at 4000 meters. Handling it feels more like a videogame than real life.

Yet, the amount of preparation required to make the Abrams work properly is immense.

We were introduced to the M1 early on in training at the US Army’s Armored Cavalry school at Fort Knox, KY. While excited to mount up and get rolling, I quickly discovered we would instead spend weeks in the maintenance bays learning every aspect of the vehicle from top to bottom before rolling it anywhere. I’ll tell you first hand, the preventative maintenance workload is intense. The lesson: as mounted combat units, we are responsible for knowing and maintaining our horses.

Relentlessness about every detail led to repetition; repetition built trust among our crew. Slowly, we were becoming a singular unit; as if each of us was a vital organ of the M1. Hours everyday were dedicated to crew drills and rehearsals; sometimes in the simulator, but often simply in the maintenance bay with 4 folding chairs, practicing fire commands.

Fire commands coordinate the 4 individual crew members who are all performing 4 different tasks, which need to be done in unison, otherwise the Abrams is reduced to a 72 ton paperweight.

Tank Commander: “Gunner, sabot, tank”
Gunner: “Identified, range one six hundred”
TC: “Driver, move out”
Loader: “Up!”
TC: “Fire”
Gunner: “On the way!”
*Loud noises*

“On the Way:” the moment of execution; when all the effort put into maintenance and preparation is complete and the Abrams’ very existence now has meaning (you know, more than a paperweight).

2017 was the year of “Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast;” dedicated to focusing on the details, establishing rhythms, and setting conditions for the next offensive.

That time is upon us now: In 2018, we pull the trigger - “On the Way!”

Production

This past year, our goal was to increase efficiency while simultaneously upping output to maximum capacity. We achieved this milestone as summer kicked off. For the latter part of the year, our fermenters were empty for only a couple hours each time they were turned over.

Most of the increase in production was dedicated to our new canning operation, which fired up in June.

Jake's new favorite toy: The canning line will be put through it's paces in 2018.

Jake's new favorite toy: The canning line will be put through it's paces in 2018.

The addition of our canning line is the largest commitment we’ve made to date, but the investment has been more than worthwhile. Since debuting “Victory nor Defeat” in 16-oz cans, we have fought to keep up with the pace at which they are moving.

Many have asked why we are only canning “Victory nor Defeat.” The answer three fold:

  1. Starting up a canning operation not only requires the equipment, but also the cans, of which the minimum order for printed cans is ~75,000. This presents space constraints.

  2. The mantra in 2017 was “Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast.” With that in mind, we knew we were venturing into unknown territory (the very competitive beer retail space) and wanted to remain deliberate in taking on the new rhythm. With every ounce of “Burn the Ships” produced going to draft lines across our area of operations, VnD was in a better position to establish a foothold on retail shelves, which we could leverage in the future (once we proved we could hang in the game).

  3. With “Burn the Ships” production volume completely dedicated to draft lines, canning the brand would require us to reallocate inventory away from restaurants, effectively decreasing our draft footprint (which is a no-go).

Overall, our brewhouse increased production by nearly 30% in 2017, with “Burn the Ships” & “Victory nor Defeat” accounting for over 70% of total volume produced, which still wasn’t enough to meet demand. A good problem, but one we are going at head on in 2018.

With the canning line in place, and a rhythm that is both efficient and consistent, we’re ready to increase our production capacity without much operational resistance.

In December, we committed to the purchase of a new custom brewhouse, as well as a new line of fermentation and conditioning tanks. This equipment doubles our potential output, allowing us to expand our offering, most notably the addition of “Burn the Ships” in 16-oz cans (debuting Friday); the first trigger pull of 2018.

Jim & Chris came up with the tag line. #goodjob

Jim & Chris came up with the tag line. #goodjob

While availability of these cans will be limited in the near-term (similar to VnD), we’ll be moving to a new production rhythm before winter is behind us, giving our Distro and Ale Room teams more inventory to run with.

Even if inventories run low at all this year, we’ll be able to confidently say there is more “on the way.”

Distro

Our Distro Team kicked ass in 2017.

While it wasn’t a major goal to grow our distribution footprint, we did grow in terms of volume moved within our current footprint. As such, we brought on Jim back in February to assist with the cause. He did not disappoint, quickly becoming a valued asset within our daily operations (despite his excessive sarcasm...).

IMG_20170707_103101107.jpg

Together with Chris & Jake, the Distro Team ran nearly 1600 individual deliveries, moving over 18,000 gallons of beer to local restaurants & retailers; a ~20% increase in volume and 34% increase in sales over 2016.

These guys also took on our transition into the retail space with the VnD 16-oz cans, which entered our Distro network in July. As stated above, we’ve struggled to keep up with the pace at which the cans are moving at the ~25 retailers we distribute them to, mostly because these retailers are far exceeding our projections; many moving several cases every week.

With our deliberate posture in 2017, we spent a good amount of time collecting feedback and numbers from our partners, finding VnD 4-packs quickly became a top-seller.

  • One retailer found they were the 5th best selling item in the history of their store after only 4 months on the shelves.

  • Another stated our 4-packs were the 3rd best selling item of the holiday season, behind Sam Adams kegs and craft beer advent calendars.

  • Several more had VnD at or near the top of their sales charts in 2017.

Keep in mind, we didn’t debut these cans until this past July. In the 6 months since, we have built a good understanding of the demand, and are adjusting in 2018 to begin closing the gap for those who want increased access to our products.

With the imminent production increase on the horizon, Distro will begin expanding our geographic footprint. At this time, we hold a strong presence within the greater Manchester-Nashua region in both restaurants and retail, but maintain a mere foothold in the Seacoast and Monadnock regions.

These areas are the focus for growth in 2018.

The Distro team will begin identifying potential partners in each this month; an effort which will require your continued input & support: we love proving our value to establishments you believe would be a great asset to our team in greater Keene, Portsmouth, and in-between. After all, you guys have always been our best sales people.

At this time, we have no plans of expanding into other states; for us, the world still ends at the Live Free or Die border. One bite at a time.

To assist with the increased workload, we pulled the trigger on adding another teammate - Max Nagel - who has spent the past several months as our apprentice. Since he’s already familiar with our operations and rhythm, so he’ll be up to speed quickly.

Max, doing apprentice things.

Max, doing apprentice things.

Beyond that, our QRF (quick reaction force) distribution model will not change.

We will continue tracking consumption trends to ensure we’re meeting our partner’s needs when they need to be met, and still guarantee re-up deliveries within 24hrs - if not same day - with product which has never been allowed above 38-degrees F.

The moment beer is needed, consider Able Distro “on the way!”

Ale Room

The headquarters of the movement here at the brewery grew as well in 2017. We poured 22% more volume at the bar compared to 2016 (over 14,000 gallons), with beer-to-go accounting for most of the volume (over 5,000 growlers and 7,000 Quart cans). This amounts to ~39% of our total production volume.

Growler and Quart fills did decrease slightly since the debut of the VnD 4-packs, but this is something we accounted for (and banked on) since we knew those who typically purchased Victory would now do so via 4-packs (more efficient; better quality). All things considered (Quarts, growlers & cans), beer-to-go sales still increased 12% over 2016.

We set out in 2017 to keep the Ale Room the way it is - a simple bar for those who live and work within our community. I believe we succeeded, with our summer BBQ parties (Anniversary Party, Thunder Road Car Show, Party for Independence!, Summer Sizzler, etc.) Monday night performances & Tuesday night trivia (hosted by our loveable Distro Manager, Chris). These new events come about because we’ve always thought of our bar as the fun side of our operations and thus, we like to get creative with how we run it.

We do have fun...

We do have fun...

Expect us to have more fun with it in 2018.

I don’t have another “on the way” one-liner for the Ale Room...oh well.

Onward

After a year of preparing for this moment, we’re ready to get “On the Way!” in 2018 (nailed it).

As always, we give you our deepest gratitude for your continued support of this movement; couldn’t ask for better crewmates.

It’s go time; let’s have some fun. Cheers.

-Carl

Max wrote a thing

max mash tun.png

Beer has brought me good times over the years, sure, but I see I something more powerful than just a vehicle for blurred memories. Beer has expanded the way I think about things and the way I see myself. It’s changed things so much for me in fact that a while back I sent Carl a cold e-mail, basically saying “Hey man, I like what you guys do and how you do it. I want to learn about this crazy industry and I’d like the opportunity to do so with you guys.” A week later, I came into the brewery and had an interview to discuss the potential for an internship.

In conversation, I told Carl that I needed a serious life change and that I wanted to get into the beer world. I graduated from Northeastern University with a Bachelor’s in Music in 2016 and was (still am) pursuing a Master’s from SNHU in New Media Communication, but despite these fancy pieces of paper that say I did a thing, I felt unsatisfied with where things were heading. I told Carl I wanted to get my hands dirty because that’s what suits my personality best.

You see, I’m a shy dude. I like to tinker with things, I don’t mind getting sweaty, but most importantly, I like to constantly challenge myself and learn new things. When I told Carl this, he grinned this grin of his, we shook hands and within a few weeks I was Able’s newest teammate – Max the intern.

That was at the beginning of 2017. Carl and I discussed an internship term of “maybe three to four months” with me coming in once a week or so – recognizing that I was balancing another job and my academic schedule.

If you’re reading this now, you might be asking yourself, “hey, its nearly the end of 2017. Why the hell is this kid writing a blog post about his experience now?”

Well, I’m still here helping make the beer you love. This is the story of how my three-month internship turned into a nearly year long apprenticeship at Able Ebenezer.

I think my first day at the brewery I helped Jake clean out one of the brite tanks. He handed me a hose and a flashlight and said, “use the light to see where you’re spraying, you want to get all the foam to drain out before we run the CIP process. But whatever you do, don't stick your head directly into the tank.”

“What happens if I do?” I asked curiously.

“You’ll pass out.” Jake said with a smile. “I definitely didn’t make that mistake on my first day…”

I was learning things already.

The following week, I went out on the road with Chris to make deliveries to several the various bars, restaurants and craft retailers that Able self-distributes to. He gave me the run-down on Able’s internal distribution structure and how it integrates into the manufacturing process back in Merrimack. He told me about all the regulations and legal systems in-place with the state and how Able’s self-distro model fits itself into the industry. I was enamored – I still am.

In the several weeks after, I spent my time at the brewery helping Jake fill Quart cans while watching “The Price is Right.” As we packaged-up the endless cases of Victory and BtS, I stared through the glass window that separates the Ale Room from the brewery, watching Mike and Carl make magic happen mere feet away.  

Not long after Able transitioned away from retail distribution of Quarts, I asked Carl if I could spend time on the other side of the glass with him and Mike. He said, “sure, bring your bathing suit and boots next week. You’re going to get messy.”

The first time I crawled into the mash-tun, Carl snapped a picture, thinking it was amusing to watch this kid get his hands dirty. Every week for the past five or more months, I’ve spent my days at Able hauling and scrubbing grain from the mash, cleaning the boil, running CIPs, mopping floors, learning about the process and assisting in the million little things that happen at Able when the doors are locked. I usually pick Mike and Carl’s brains each week, asking about a different part of the brewing process – trying to absorb as much of the science and creativity behind what goes into making three ingredients into liquid excitement.

So, I guess I still haven’t answered the initial question of “why am I still here?”

The answer is simple really, and you know it already. I come back each week for the same reason you’re reading this blog. For the same reason you drink Able’s beers when you’re out and about. For the same reason you come to the brewery for a pint. For the same reason you tell your friends about Able.

It’s because of the people.

The six folks who make up Able’s operation are surely some of the best people I’ve had the experience to work alongside. Whether it be Jim and I talking about our mutual love for Galaxy hops and how we want to experiment with maple sap, helping Heather set-up the Ale Room before I leave after brewing, the hours of “Price is Right” I watched with Jake, the conversations I have with Chris about music and our favorite bands, Carl and I’s shared suffering during the mash tun cleaning, or Mike asking me about the meaning of life and the quest for happiness – I really have enjoyed all of the tiny components that make up a hard day’s work at Able.

Listen, I’m not a sappy guy, so this the intent of this isn’t to be sappy, the intent is to be truthful. So, with full honesty, I can say that I’ve loved coming into this repurposed car battery warehouse every week to expand my mind and to become a valued quasi-member of Able’s team. Like I said, the term of my internship was supposed to be just a few months, but it unconsciously has turned into a near year-long apprenticeship.

I come back each week because I want to; it just feels right. I feel valued by everyone on the team. I’ve watched the brand take gargantuan steps this year and plan for even bigger things for the future. Because of their bestowed value, I selfishly feel microscopically responsible for their growth; like I’m a part of it what they do and how they do it. To be honest, it’s a remarkable feeling; a special one.

The reason I turned this internship into a year long apprenticeship is because I wanted to (and Carl never told me to leave). Every week has been something exciting or something challenging, but despite any hurdle we face, the Able team puts their heads together and works to create a powerful solution. I’ve loved watching it, and I’ve loved being able to learn here.

Truly, this is meant to be a thank you to the six amazing folks who make Able Ebenezer Brewing Co. a thing everyday, and a larger thank you to the people on the outside who support the work these intellectual jokesters do every day to make a splash in this funky industry.

Thank you all. Cheers.

-Max

Emma Wood

Emma Wood State Beach. In the distance you can see cars on the Pacific Coast Highway.

The wind is whipping as soon as we hit the top of the embankment; a perch holding the seemingly endless trail of crossties that run parallel to the renowned Pacific Coast Highway. With nothing but our flip-flops and bathing suits, I chuckled at the irony how the dividing line between the pleasant and unpleasant areas (in this case, the weather) is a set of railroad tracks.

Ahead of us lies the shore of Emma Wood State Beach. Behind us, is the camp ground where the rest of the family lounging in the warm, southern California sun. Every summer, my extended family (all 50+ of us) go camping for a long weekend and reconnect. Leading up to this particular trip, I was especially nervous.

 

While I’ve always felt like a reasonably accomplished person, for some reason, and only around my family, I revert back to being a little kid just trying to do the right thing and make everyone proud. So when I showed up to Emma Wood State Beach with a case of homemade wheat beer, I wasn’t exactly confident that my announcement to move across the country to New Hampshire (a state I only visited once) to brew beer (something I’ve only done a handful of times in the kitchen) after spending so much effort to finish school (Master of Business Administration) was going to be well received (they can be blunt).

When I arrive, I’m a day late. Everyone is already gathered around a smoldered fire from the night before eating lunch, so I figure I should get it over with. With my unlabeled, semi-cold case of beer in hand:

Me: “Well guys, I think I’m going to move to New Hampshire next month and start a brewery.”

Aunt: “Well you better have brought us some!”

Cousin: “Where’s New Hampshire again?”

Me: “Near Boston.”

Another Cousin: “What’s the beer called!?”

Me: “It doesn’t have a name. I just call it the wheat beer.”

My Dad: “I know: call it Emma Wood.”

Me: “That’s a stupid name.”

(Shows what I know).

The support was amazing and made me feel that maybe I could actually pull off opening a brewery. Even the ones I know don’t drink, ask for an “Emma Wood.” They just want to be a part of it.

 

Once we reach the shore, we realize that it is less of a beach and more of a rocky edge. Running out into the ocean is the last thing on our minds. Small boulders with smooth edges from a lifetime of battering the tides extend all the way to the water.

As we walk around, I notice the beginnings of a wall made of rocks. It’s just tall enough to shield a person from the wind while sitting down, so I prop myself next to it and take in the beautiful view of the coastline.

While sitting, my brother and his friend start to gather more rocks and add them to the wall next to me. As they silently work, instinctually fortifying the perimeter like kids with a Lego set, I clear out the interior area and reposition stones to act as more comfortable places to sit. Once the base is laid, I can feel that we’re starting to take this seriously. Delicately balanced rock columns make for taller walls. Driftwood pieces serve as windows so the ocean view can still be enjoyed from the inside. An extremely large piece of driftwood is propped up a few feet from the main structure which serves the purpose of flagpole. Even though there is no discussion of exactly what we’re doing, we keep adding rocks; we just want to be part of building it.

When it’s finished, we have a makeshift fort on the beach shielding us from the gusty wind. As more family members make their way to the beach, a few of them seek refuge in our shelter. After all, it’s the only place on the beach where playing cards won’t blow away. And that’s what we do. We play cards until the sun goes down; it’s awesome.

 

Outside of moving to New Hampshire, I have never felt such a sense of family from a community. Ever since we open our doors nearly three years ago and put ourselves out there, you guys have shown us nothing but love and support. That continues to drive us to make you proud in everything we do. Although the final result of what we’re making is uncertain, we’re going to continue to build, and are thankful you guys have chosen to be part of our family.

- Mike

 

"Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast"

Room Clearing Training, Fort Bliss TX 2nd PLT (HOP), Apache TRP, 6-1 CAV

Room Clearing Training, Fort Bliss TX
2nd PLT (HOP), Apache TRP, 6-1 CAV

A year ago, we published “Take the Hill;” a look at 2015 and our expectations for 2016. With 2016 now behind us, it’s time to update you on our progress and upcoming strategy for 2017:

Production
As 2016 began, we anticipated an increase in our production capacity with the addition of new tanks and kegs (which are now at over 400 and counting). We installed the tanks (with the help of our neighbors at New Hampshire Hydraulics) in mid-February, and immediately increased our production to fulfill demand.

In the fall, we secured long-awaited hops contracts, allowing us to increase production of “Victory nor Defeat” and add it to our distributed offerings; a beer which spent 15 months pouring solely in our Ale Room due to raw material limitations (and no, we never considered “replacing” any of the hops in order to make/sell more earlier).

In 2015, we were proud to announce that we moved every ounce produced; not one keg lasted long enough in our inventory to reach expiration. We’re unable to say the same for 2016: Out of nearly 2500 kegs produced, we had to let 8 go; a sell-through of rate of 99.7%.

We’ll have to improve our inventory management in 2017...

Distro
Chris came on board in February 2016 from our neighbors down the road at Anheuser-Busch. He quickly became a tremendous battle-buddy to Jake, and asset to the company.

These guys ran nearly 1,200 individual deliveries to over different 100 New Hampshire restaurants this year, moving over 1700 kegs (or over 15,000 gallons) in the process. While many are rotating lines (where brands on draft switch up often), we maintain ~60 permanent draft lines - the vast majority of them running The Smoked IPA: “Burn the Ships.”

On the sales end, we found we no longer need to “cold call” restaurants. Throughout the year, new opportunities came from simply answering the phone; incoming requests. We have you all to thank for this, since it is you who has continually asked for our products when it isn’t available, and continually ordered it when it is.

You guys are awesome; keep up the effort.

At the end of August, we also added Quart Cans of Burn The Ships and Victory Nor Defeat to our distro network in limited quantities to only 10 specialty craft beer stores (after 2 years of endless requests from retailers). As a result, monthly distro sales increased ~20% once we added the retail channel; a solid increase despite the small quantity of Quarts produced. This, however, is a good indicator of the potential retail has for us in 2017. More to follow.

Overall, the distro end of our company grew 50% in 2016. High five.

Ale Room
Our on-site bar continues to serve as the center of the movement; you all know it well. Overall, the Ale Room saw 30% growth in 2016, pouring over 12,000 gallons of beer into flights, pints, growlers & our latest offering - the Quart Cans.

We debuted the Quarts at our 2-year anniversary party in June 2016. Since that time, we sold nearly 6,000 of them in the Ale Room alone. Add in the 7,000+ growler fills we did in 2016, and beer to-go accounts for most of the volume we poured through our in-house draft lines.

While the Ale Room moves only ~1/3rd of our total production volume, the venue still accounts for most of our sales. We really have all of you to thank for this, and cannot express how much it means to us. We truly appreciate all of your continued support, one pint at a time.

2017
While growth in 2016 was exponential, it is something which needs to be managed closely or it can easily run out of control. We’re big on doing the very best job we can, and this means we have to be relentless with our efficiency at every level.

“Ponder and deliberate before you make a move.”
-Sun Tzu

After analyzing this past year, we believe maximizing these efficiencies is where the most opportunity lies for growth in the year ahead.

While 2016 was the year of "Taking the Hill," 2017 will be the year of "Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast."

I’ve carried this phrase with me since my time in the military. The challenge of training soldiers in the art of combat is managing each individual’s subconscious need to execute as quickly as possible.

I recognize this sounds counter-intuitive; in war, time is of the essence, so one would expect soldiers to execute their jobs with a greater amount of speed than the enemy. Yet, speed doesn’t come from training to be speedy. Attempting to execute as quickly as possible simply leads to mistakes, since the mind is trying to handle each task one at a time. The second order effect of which is they aren’t focused on their job, but each detail inherent to their job.

“You must be slow in deliberation and swift in execution”
-Napoleon Bonaparte

Details get missed, corners get cut, mistakes are made. The result is actually more time & effort to finish the job because it wasn’t done right the first time.

I’ve come to believe speed comes from the disciplined & deliberate repetition of tasks until they become habits. Habits then shape the subconscious to execute without having to think through each task, allowing us to focus on the job. Thus, speed of execution comes naturally.

I repeated the mantra of “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” often as a platoon leader. Let me share a story which serves as a good example:

To train on entering and clearing buildings, we would simply go out into the west Texas desert and mark off imaginary hallways, rooms and doorways with white tape. Teams would then practice moving and clearing the imaginary building as a team. No ammo, no enemy.

For hours at a time, we repeatedly executed the “simple” task of moving a fire team through a building as a single unit - with full equipment, battle load and rifle. Not fun. It requires four people moving together without hesitation, while simultaneously maintaining their sector of security. One person misses their assignment, the team is immediately at risk.

Many soldiers feel the adrenaline and hustle, only to leave teammates behind; or get antsy and enter a room prematurely. There’s a lot of running into one another; even tripping over one another. I'll tell you, cleaning an M4 after dropping it in the sand will ruin your evening.

“Quit rushing to failure, this isn’t Call of f*cking Duty. Act like a professional. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”
-SGT Malone

Note: I'm paraphrasing, but it's pretty close.

Before long, any four of our soldiers could navigate a building as easily as one strolls to the bathroom during a break...all while maintaining 360-degree security and clearing potential threats, despite not knowing the building’s interior layout. We then stepped up to section clearing (2 teams working together...without shooting one another), then full platoon clearing. Once ready, we booked range days in the shoot houses - buildings designed with bullet-absorbent walls and targets we could engage.

My point: By the time we added ammunition and targets to the mix, the men didn’t have to think about where their teammates were, how to safely clear around corners, what to do when low on ammo, etc. The details happened seamlessly, without error, and much faster than when hurrying through imaginary hallways in the desert.

The details were now habit, and they could focus the entirety of their minds on their job: clearing the building.

“Maneuvering with an army is most advantageous; with an undisciplined multitude, most dangerous.”
-Sun Tzu

Here’s how we’re applying this mindset to our 2017 strategy:

Production
Efficiency of production is an area we are constantly analyzing. Our self-built 10-BBL brewing system isn’t the sexiest or easiest to brew on at large scale. However, with nearly 3 years under our belt brewing in this process, we’ve identified ways to cut down on brewing time and increase batch efficiencies. So much so, we can produce 50% more in 2017 without any additional equipment, which will allow us to focus on expanding in other cool ways.

We’ve also added production to AbleOPS - the system facilitating our operations we debuted last year to simplify the complexities of running our own distribution. Since we already track consumption trends, we’re able to leverage this into predicting our production rhythm. AbleOPS lets us know what the breakdown in keg sizes should be on kegging day, ensuring inventory is at the right level. Too little, and draft lines start running dry. Too much, and beer could expire before it’s consumed.

Screenshot of AbleOPS - the system driving our Production & Distro operations.

Screenshot of AbleOPS - the system driving our Production & Distro operations.

Remember the eight kegs mentioned above which we had to let go in 2016? The cause was basing our production schedule off the current inventory. Yes, a 99.7% sell-through rate is still very strong, but as we grow and scale, we recognize these small discrepancies can easily become large - or out of control - before we realize it. It’s important we identify and address them immediately before they become problems.

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

Distro
This is one area of our company which requires little improvement. The model has not changed: product delivered when needed on-demand (we have a 24-hour guarantee on our main brands, and have yet to breach it).

Rather than employ a dedicated salesperson, we’ve developed a culture where we are all salespeople, and found that culture has permeated into our customer base...meaning all of you. This has allowed the company to grow organically.

The #1 reason most restaurants decide to add a particular brand to their draft lineup is simple: customers ask for it. And you all ask a lot.

It means a great deal to get your endorsement; we won't let you down.

Ale Room
The bar is also experiencing organic growth at a rapid pace. More often we are experiencing long lines and large crowds. It’s easy to become rushed when this small room becomes packed.

We never intended this venue to grow into - in essence - it’s own company, so we all simply shared it as a joint responsibility in order to grant customers access those experienced in the brewery’s operation (rather than just part-time bartenders).

As we enter 2017, the Ale Room needs a dedicated manager to help facilitate its growth; a role Heather has agreed to take on full-time.

We will all continue to serve as your bartenders, since it is critical to maintain customer’s access to our subject matter experts across all 3 operations we maintain (Brewing, Distro & Ale Room).

Closing
For 2017, we’re slowing down from the chaos of rapid growth in favor of establishing a smooth rhythm for the future. We aren’t worried about growing as big as we can, as fast as we can. There are no plans to build new facilities, scale production capacity, or expand into other states. For Able Ebenezer, the world ends at the New Hampshire border.

Our focus is on you, the people of the “Live Free or Die” state. With your continued support, we can reach our goal of becoming a genuine Craft Beer of New Hampshire. Together, we can do it.

Thank you all for your continued support of the movement. It’s going to be one hell of a year. Cheers!

-Carl

Tabula Rasa

I am fired up: it's nearly time for Tabula Rasa.

The Rasa is a very different kind of amber - we refer to it as an Apricot Amber - designed to be incredibly drinkable while still holding a warming 7.5% ABV. I find myself at a loss for how to fully describe it's spectrum of flavors; a robust blend of sweet fruits and caramels blended with a uniquely clean and tart finish.

Tabula Rasa is designed to catalyze celebration; the first pours begin on New Years Eve each year right in our Ale Room and at select local establishments.

The name “Tabula Rasa” comes from the works of John Locke, one of the most regarded writers and philosophers from the Enlightenment. It’s a Latin term translating literally to “Blank Slate,” and was used by Locke to describe the idea that when we are born, we are at our absolute freest. Our minds are clear, without any predispositions or knowledge of right and wrong. As we progress through each moment in life, we learn what we can and cannot do (or should and should not do) based on our interactions with nature and other citizens.

This was a radical idea in 1689; that everyone was born with the same beginning point, and it was our individual experiences that defined who we became in life. This was in direct contrast to the then-accepted divine right of kings; the notion that some are simply born better, more capable, smarter, and entitled to rule. Locke was forced to flee his native England because of his radical beliefs, but his writings would live on to become an inspiration for American revolutionaries.

Tabula Rasa is our beginning; when we possess a free & curious mind which yearns to explore, indulge, grow and learn. A populace is slowly robbed of that kind of freedom with each arbitrary rule forced upon them, and, as we have seen throughout history, a citizenry robbed one time too many without successful appeal will stand up and see what they are made of - to include Ebenezer and his Rioters.

With that, we name this ale Tabula Rasa, as a tribute to freedom in it’s purest form. I invite you to join us for a fresh pint as we celebrate the idea that grew to ignite revolution, and bring about this free nation. Cheers.

-Carl

The Quart

It’s December of 1779 when George Washington’s army arrives in Morristown, NJ. There is already a foot of snow on the ground.

Washington has chosen Morristown to host his winter encampment for strategic reasons: being only 31 miles from New York City, he has adequate time to defend both it and nearby Philadelphia from British attacks. At the same time, the mountainous terrain and densely wooded countryside made the few existing passes easily defensible.

In southwest Morristown, an area called Jockey Hollow, the Continental army soldiers begin to clear over 600 acres of forest and construct 1,000 log huts to house themselves for the winter. Upon completion, it is dubbed the “log-house city.”

Unlike previous makeshift camps of the war thus far, Jockey Hollow is precisely laid out. The huts are aligned in rows of eight, three to four rows deep. The huts themselves are built to Washington’s strict specifications of 14 x 15 feet with a door on one end and a fireplace to the opposite. Each hut houses up to 12 men, depending on rank. Washington himself established his Headquarters five miles away on the Ford Mansion property, with the Commander-in-Chief’s Guards setting up twelve huts in the same style as the rest of the army.

Already exhausted from almost five years of fighting, the army is unknowingly about to face the worst winter in recorded history. From November to April, Morristown is hit by 28 separate snowstorms. This winter is also the only time in recorded history that the Hudson River freezes so solidly that sleighs could be driven between Paulus Hook (now Jersey City) and New York; British are even observed moving heavy artillery by ox sleigh across the frozen river.

With respect to food provisions, it was the most distressed the army had faced since the beginning of the war. After a particularly harsh January blizzard, Washington wrote to the New Jersey legislature for support (since each state was supposed to bear the brunt of feeding the army fighting for their independence), declaring that “for a fortnight past the troops, both officers and men, have been almost perishing for want.” Men resorted to eat whatever they had to supplement their limited food rations, ranging from gnawing on wooden sticks to roasting their old shoes. Some of the officers even killed and ate a favorite little dog that belonged to one of them.

As might be expected, the cautious New Jersey Legislature fails to fulfill the the request. Being weary of pleading with politicians, Washington orders armed detachments of soldiers to visit leading officials in each county, asking them to send in bread and wheat. If the officials show any reluctance, the men are instructed to take the provisions “with as much tenderness as possible,” but at gunpoint if necessary.

Though the sourcing of food is a struggle, the army still had plenty of one critical asset: beer.

Among Washington’s least recognized, but most valuable skills, is locating encampments within a reach of a supply of beer. Although against the sale of whiskey to soldiers, fearing that drunkenness would disrupt troop discipline, Washington is a firm believer in the importance of beer as a staple for his troops. Even the Continental Congress decrees that “beer fuels the flames of freedom burning within its armies,” and resolves on November 4th, 1775 that each soldier be provided with a Quart of beer per day.

Despite the horrid conditions, there is a relative “band-of-brothers” optimism among the soldiers of the “log-house city;” but as the weather grew worse, the real tumult was found among the officers now isolated at the Headquarters, whose beer supply is running low.

By February, the constant snow storms makes resupply of the Headquarters nearly impossible, with the only communication possible through men on snowshoes. At one point, the guard at Headquarters can not be changed for 72 hours, as the men simply can not wade through the snow drifts (up to 12 feet high) between their huts and the Ford Mansion, a mere 75 yards away.

Finally, on February 18, the supply of beer for the Headquarters runs dry; a problem met with profound discontent. The commissary, which is co-located with the main army a few miles away, can’t resupply Headquarters with their daily Quart ration of beer. Major Gibbs, commander of the Commander-in-Chief’s Guard, desperately pleads with the commissary to send a large quantity of beer as soon as possible to quell men who are on the brink of outright rebellion. Fortunately, the weather dissipates enough that the officers’ thirsts are sated in time, restoring an air of calm determination to see the rest of the struggle through.

Stories of overcoming adversity, while inspirational, often forget to mention the small details that often give strength to the human spirit; whether it’s a good conversation when you’re lonely, a warm embrace when you’re sad, or a cold beer when the challenges ahead seem endless. For the men who founded America, a daily Quart of beer seemed to be one of those underappreciated details that meant everything in the moment. So, whether it’s a job well done, or far from done, we’d like to extend to you your Quart of beer. Well deserved.

-Mike
Head Brewer


 

Victory nor Defeat: Our Story

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know Victory nor Defeat."

-Theodore Roosevelt
"The Man in the Arena," 1910

I’d like to take a moment to talk “Victory nor Defeat.”

A good friend recently asked what I thought about the handful of “sh*tty” (yea, she’s a classy lady) reviews/ratings of Able Ebenezer. The answer is easy: I don’t think about them at all.

Teddy Roosevelt spoke about two kinds of individuals: those who take it upon themselves to step into the arena and be the doers of the world, and those who would rather remain on the sidelines, simply critiquing what is done.

Mike and I wanted to be the former. It’s why we joined the military and trained to become officers and leaders during a time of war. It’s also why we chose to become entrepreneurs; a decision we each made individually many years ago. We knew it would be a great deal of work, and come with a bevy of challenges. This is why we were patient, waiting to fall in love with something to the point where we were willing to bet all we had and all we were on making it a reality (see “Burn the Ships”).

It turned out to be craft beer.

I fell in love with craft beer in the Army. I didn’t have much downtime, but when I did I spent it drinking beers and sharing stories with my battle buddies. Craft beer became my escape; it brought us together, making life a little happier one pint at a time. As a soldier and leader whose full-time job was to train in, and implement, the “art” of combat, I envied and admired the people whose work consisted of manufacturing happiness.

Army buddies Galen, Matty, Jeff and I at the Blues & Brews Festival in Albuquerque, NM. Yes, I know I look like a child.

Army buddies Galen, Matty, Jeff and I at the Blues & Brews Festival in Albuquerque, NM. Yes, I know I look like a child.

I finally knew what I wanted to be when I “grew up.”

I had a little more than year left in the military following my deployment to Iraq, and I wanted to focus any scrap of free time on learning how to become a brewer one day. It started with research (books, videos, forums, etc), traveling to breweries, writing to brewers (who usually never wrote back) and beginning to make a mess in my small kitchen.

I looked to see if the GI Bill would cover Brewmasters school (it doesn’t). I emailed my resume to breweries all over the Rocky Mountains stating my willingness to take on any job they may have just to get my foot in the door (they don’t usually reply to those either). I quickly realized I would need more time and experience to make this a reality, but would need to keep working (because brewing costs money).

Military officers are highly sought after in the corporate world, so I leveraged that to secure a job at a biotechnology company in Cambridge. This killed two birds: I was able to move to the “Live Free or Die” state (a dream of mine since college), and the ability to gain experience in a similar industry (beer brewing is the earliest form of biotech).

I bought a small cabin in Auburn, NH that had one key asset I considered to be a must-have: a garage. To date, I have yet to park a vehicle in it. That garage became our brew house; the basement, our fermentation suite.

The original home-brew system. Now on the brewery floor in Merrimack, serving as our pilot system. We use it to design every new beer we develop.

The original home-brew system. Now on the brewery floor in Merrimack, serving as our pilot system. We use it to design every new beer we develop.

I began taking graduate classes at Tufts in the evenings in bioengineering, which included classes in fermentation science and systems engineering.

I spent thousands on building the original 5-gallon brewing system. That’s stupid, right? I could have just bought a fancy one off the shelf for that kind of money. Quite the contrary, I knew the lessons I would learn designing the system and process, as well as soldering, brazing and welding it all together, would pay dividends in the future. Yes, I built one homebrew system, but I broke down and rebuilt that system several times over before I was happy with the objective results and efficiencies it produced.

I reconnected with Mike, who was out in California finishing up his MBA. It couldn’t have worked out better; while I was in NH spending my free time working on creating the most technically sound beer I could, he was utilizing his to design the best tasting beers he could in his apartment, stove-top.

He had written a business plan as part of his final project, but no one else was willing to step into the arena with him.

I floated the idea of moving in with me and working to make our mutual passion a reality. He made the move immediately following his graduation 4 months later, selling everything that wouldn’t fit into his pickup truck (including his beloved motorcycle) and setting out east. Mike had never been to NH before. Burn the Ships, indeed.

His first day in town we brewed the first batch of “Burn the Ships.” The idea of a smoked IPA was also stupid, but it was one specialty malt I hadn’t used yet, and the intent of that first brew day wasn’t to design a product, it was to familiarize Mike with the system (he’d yet to do an all-grain batch). One step at a time.

That first batch of BtS was undrinkable.

I knew I needed Mike, I just didn’t realize how much. I simply don’t have the patience, discipline and attention to detail to fine tune the complexity of flavors in beer design. Conversely, Mike is the most detailed person I know. While I was waking up at 4am to get ready for my commute to Cambridge, Mike would just be getting to bed, having been up all night researching and tweaking recipes. By the time I got home in the afternoon, he was firing up the system for another batch. At any given time, we had multiple variations of each brand running in our fermenters, trying to pinpoint exactly where we wanted each profile to land; every beer on our board has seen several variations before being given our stamp of approval. Our standard for when a beer is done? We simply love drinking it. Again: happiness, one pint at a time.

You can thank Mike for BtS becoming a reality. Most would’ve given up on the idea. Mike brewed roughly a dozen variations before finalizing its design.

Fermentation of R&D batches in Auburn, NH.

Fermentation of R&D batches in Auburn, NH.

We then began looking for capital to turn the business plan into a reality. We had saved a great deal to get started, but wanted to start at 10-barrel capacity to ensure we wouldn’t need to brew around the clock in order to keep up with demand. After all, a brewery is a still a business, and we knew we would need time each week for sales, distribution, bookkeeping/accounting, bartending, and then some (all the little things that go into a functional and financially-stable brewing operation).

We also didn’t want to take on too much debt; an aspect which has to be delicately balanced, because too much can choke a business’ cash flow to the point of closure. To build a warehouse into 10-barrel brewery the “right way” can be upwards of a million bucks or more...but we believed we could leverage our abilities to do it for less than a 3rd of that (more to follow). We finalized our plan and I began to call every banker whose contact info I could find online.

I'll tell ya, it sucks to be told no; that your plan is too ambitious, doesn’t request enough capital, doesn’t make sense in this saturated market, self-distribution is not manageable at this scale, etc, etc etc. Many banks told us exactly that.

Two institutions believed in us enough to take a chance. I don’t know what it was they saw in us, but they knew we were on to something, and were willing to do whatever it took to make it a reality. We give our thanks to Laurel & Chris at the Regional Economic Development Center, and Peter and John at Enterprise Bank for believing in the idea of Able Ebenezer; you guys will always be family to us.

We found a facility we liked up here on Columbia Circle and were ready to sign the lease, but the government shutdown in the fall of 2013 also shut down the SBA, delaying our financing paperwork from being processed indefinitely. Signing the facility lease required several thousand dollars in a down payment, and there were others were interested in the building as well. To avoid any chance of losing it, Mike and I just went ahead and paid for it ourselves (may have sold some things in the process).

I turned in my resignation letter at work the next day. Another ship burned.

The brewery, before it was a brewery.

The brewery, before it was a brewery.

The money came through around New Year’s of 2014, and we went to work turning an empty warehouse into a brewery and bar.

We began by putting down blue painters tape, marking where everything we planned to build would go. We showed the place (and blue tape) to curious bypassers and neighboring businesses; many thought we were crazy.

Getting up the walls of what would become our Ale Room.

Getting up the walls of what would become our Ale Room.

We spent a month cleaning the place. We resurfaced the entire ~4000 square feet of concrete floor in the warehouse to give us a fresh, clean layer to seal. We jack-hammered, dug and placed our own 50-foot floor drain. We laid the flooring, painted the walls and built the bar. Mike and I literally did every ounce of construction ourselves aside from the plumbing and electrical (you know, the stuff the law requires only professionals do - for good reason). We made dozens upon dozens of trips to home improvement stores for lumber, paint, nails, screws, tools, etc as we slowly built the place out.

Creating our floor drain. We know way more about concrete floors than we ever wished to.

Creating our floor drain. We know way more about concrete floors than we ever wished to.

Each time we completed a project, Mike would joke that if we failed at brewing, we could always start a contracting company. Positive attitude goes a long way.

Building our Ale Room.

Building our Ale Room.

The brewing system? I built it myself; the 2nd one I’ve created. A 500-gallon insulated milk tank I found in Wisconsin serves as our mash tun; a food processing tank from Massachusetts as our boil kettle. I welded on the leg extensions and firebox, as well as did all the piping and valve work. A special thank you to Cam at our neighbors - AC Heating & Air Conditioning - for refining my welding technique...and for letting me borrow his welder for a couple months.

Building of our 10-BBL production brewing system.

Building of our 10-BBL production brewing system.

Thank goodness I “wasted” a couple grand in my garage learning the ins and outs of metal working on a brewing system. Saved us a ton of capital.

We bought the fermenters and process pump used. I had to spent a couple days rebuilding the pump so it would actually work (but saved more capital in the process). I can thank my years working in biotech for knowing how to perform preventative maintenance on sanitary rotary-lobe pumps.

It took us six months to build out 31 Columbia Circle into a functioning brewery. No, we didn't take any pay.

On June 14th, 2014, we opened our doors. You know the rest.

Our Grand Opening.

Our Grand Opening.

It's been a hell of a ride thus far, but what has it all for?

Let’s go back to the beginning: happiness, one pint at a time. We’ve successfully created a craft brewery that produces beer we truly love, and share them with the many thousands of you who love them the same.

So, I’m in the arena. I stepped into it willfully, burned every ship I had and worked tirelessly to get here, and now fight daily to remain. I stand here victorious alongside my fellow warriors - Mike, Jake, Heather and Chris - and proudly put my name on everything Able Ebenezer has done and will do.

My battle buddies.

My battle buddies.

I don’t think about the other people Roosevelt spoke of; the critics of the world. They’ve never mattered to me. They’re simply missing the point of beer existing in the first place: happiness.

There will always be naysayers; you’re not good enough, you’re not ready, you’re not capable. But they are the ones who are afraid; unwilling to take the on the risks and endure the many defeats necessary to taste victory. Roosevelt called them the "cold and timid souls who neither know Victory nor Defeat."

The critics are always loudly inviting people to join them on the sidelines, so I’ll be the one voice welcoming you to join us in the arena: if there’s something in this life that you truly love, don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. I assure you, it’s pretty sweet. Cheers.

-Carl

You can read Mike's original "Victory nor Defeat" story here.

 

Kilgore

"Kilgore Trout once wrote a short story which was a dialogue between two pieces of yeast. They were discussing the possible purposes of life as they ate sugar and suffocated in their own excrement. Because of their limited intelligence, they never came close to guessing that they were making champagne."
-Kurt Vonnegut

I'd like to tell you a story about an author, a beer, and how I came to write you about them today.

When I started at this company, I didn't know much about brewing. To be honest, I didn't think I would get the job in the first place. But job interviews at Able are unique from others; it isn't just about your experience, it's about what drives you as an individual and inspires your passion—be it a product, idea, or way of thinking.

During my interview, I was asked to "name someone who inspires you and why?" That’s a deep question to face. After a moment, the answer dawned on me: Kurt Vonnegut Jr., someone who has helped me through a lot in life, and who I could always count on to be there in hardcover or paperback.

After I was hired, I asked Carl why he chose me. He told me something that had stuck with him from my interview: who inspired me and why. Instead of just saying, "this guy is cool," I made him want to go out and read his work—he wanted to experience what I had from Vonnegut's writing first hand. Never in my life did I think this author—with his sarcastic tone and his habit of chain smoking Pall Malls—would help me get a job at a brewery. So why Vonnegut specifically?

Well, Kurt Vonnegut is a legend.

I go to his stories to think, discover new ideas, and to relax.

His writing inspires me to push beyond what I believe to be possible.

His words have no filter. After all, one should only limit their words if they are scared of someone else's opinion on them.

He also warns you not to be afraid of the mundane, for those moments are hard to find in a busy world.

He survived the Dresden firebombing as a soldier in WWII.

He (accidentally) burnt down at least two of his houses from smoking in bed.

He even attempted to sue the Pall Mall cigarette company for living so long since they promised smoking would kill him.

So, for those of you who haven’t read Vonnegut’s work, who or what is Kilgore?

Kilgore Trout is Mr. Vonnegut's alter ego, appearing in many of his stories, including my favorite work by him, Timequake. He is cited as being a classless vagabond character with over twenty fiction novels to his name. He is a horrible science-fiction writer, yet is held in high regard because everyone owns his books, knows his name and speaks of him often.

Thus, Kilgore is a window into how Vonnegut really felt. The man had a strong opinion on almost everything, but the one for himself was never very high. Nothing he did was good enough; he always believed he could be doing better. It is because of this that I have always loved Kilgore Trout as a character. When naming this beer, I couldn't think of a better name than Vonnegut's alter ego.

While the beer’s name was inspired by my favorite author, the flavors were inspired by another passion of mine - coffee.

We partnered with A&E Roastery, where I worked over a year before I found my place at Able. When I decided that I was going to make a coffee porter, I immediately thought of A&E. Like us, they create their own incredible product on site, and self-distribute thousands of pounds of coffee each week across the state. I couldn't think of a better company who would share the passion behind a product and love for a craft.

Emeran, the owner of A&E, was nice enough to open their doors to us as Mark - their Head Roaster - walked us through the roasting process—from green bean to the final product. We were walked through a tasting of a few different roasts they thought would work well in beer. After bringing a several back to test pilot batches with, we decided on their Papua New Guinea roast, which has a well-rounded taste with subtle sweet and fruity flavor notes. It was the perfect fit for us.

“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center.”
-Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

This beer has become as much of a confidence boost as it has been something keeping me up at night. After all, it’s been over a year since I wrote about brewing the first test batch of this coffee porter.

Once I started brewing for the first time on my own on the pilot system, I learned a lot of lessons the hard way. I faced the challenges of beer design: raw material selection, temperature control, timing, sanitation, and above all, patience. Several months in, Kilgore began to take shape. It was good, but Mike and Carl told me the standard to get a beer on the board was “perfect.” I obviously had my moments of frustration as the months went by, but the extra time and effort has paid off.

This is why brewing has been such an awesome experience for me personally. This beer isn't just about the grain, malt, coffee, yeast and water; it’s the ups and downs I've experienced over the past year. It’s going into the unknown and coming out with a few more scars, but still a little smarter than when I went in. It’s about the chapter I’ve added to my life story - one I’ll be proud to tell for the rest of my days. After all, beer should be a shared experience of flavors, friends and stories, not simply a coveted pint with a perfect head.

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”
-Kurt Vonnegut

This is a notion I have tried to apply to every aspect of my life. Soldier to Barista to Brewer, and all the others in between, I haven’t really fit into many of the roles I’ve held. But just like Vonnegut I continue on seeking the next challenge. After all, this is the year of “taking the hill.”

With that, I hope you will join us on March 14th for a beer and a story on the edge of this cliff, waiting for the next opportunity to jump. Cheers.

-Jake, Renaissance Man

 

 

Burn the Ships: Chapter Six

Yellow River, 207 BC

It’s late winter.

Amidst the bitter cold, Xiang Yu moves his army of 50,000 soldiers across the river to the northern shore, staging them for an attack against their much larger and more-established enemy. It's a strange scene to witness, as once upon the banks his men begin methodically setting fire to their boats and destroying their supplies. The men pack enough food to last them just a few days, gather their arms and begin the nearly 100-mile march northwest towards Julu.

This moment is centuries in the making.

China has endured hundreds of years of turmoil throughout what becomes known as the "Warring States" period. Many factions had battled for control across the continent, creating an ever-changing landscape as borders continually shift amidst the fighting. One faction emerges from the chaos: the Qin state, led by brutal - but brilliant - military commander Qin Shi Huang. Assuming control of the state after the passing of his father, it takes him only 9 years to do what no one during the generations before could: unify China.

While a unified nation seems positive on the surface, the Qin Dynasty does not rule on behalf of the people. Shi Huang's government is highly bureaucratic; all aspects of life are standardized, and everyone is categorized based on their perceived “value” to the empire. Under this harsh political philosophy - known as Legalism - religion is restricted, speech is suppressed, books are burned, scholars are executed, and common people are forced into manual labor on behalf of the government.

But Shi Huang’s rule is not without its accomplishments.

Utilizing his mandatory slave labor rotations, he orders the stringing together of the hundreds defensive positions to the north (built during the Warring States period) to secure their northern border, as well as ensure collection of taxes on incoming and outgoing trade. We know this project today as the Great Wall of China.

He also orders one of the largest art projects in the world. Thousands of laborers and craftsmen work to create thousands upon thousands of life-size sculptures of people, horses, chariots and weapons out of clay, bronze, copper and paint. He orders that the entirety of it will be buried with him upon his death in order to protect and serve him in the afterlife. This project is discovered in the 1970’s by farmers digging wells. We know it now as the Terracotta Army.

While these have become world-renowned tourist attractions, they are also symbols of abusive power.

"There's no end to what you can do when you don't give a f*ck about a particular people. That's where human greatness comes from: f*cking others over."
-Louis CK (sorry, it fit perfectly)

The Qin Dynasty accomplishes a great deal, but the abuse comes to a head in 209 BC.

It’s July when two army officers - Chen Sheng and Wu Guang - are on orders to lead their forces north and take control of defenses on the wall, but their march is delayed by heavy rainstorms and floods. Per Qin Legalist regulation, missing government duty is punishable by death - regardless of the reasoning. Rather than submit to execution, the two officers instead choose to fight for their lives. They begin with a rag-tag army of 900 peasants, which grows quickly to greater than 10,000 strong. The event becomes known the Dazexiang Uprising.

Chen and Wu’s movement may gain a great deal of traction up front, but is almost immediately quelled by the overwhelming size and superior tactics of the Qin ground forces. It ends a few short months later in December 209 BC, with the rebels killing their leaders in desperation, hoping for mercy from the empire. No mercy comes; all are slaughtered.

Yet, the uprising changes the political landscape across China; people now see cracks within the foundation of the empire, which are furthered by the unexpected death of Emperor Shi Huang (he is subsequently buried with his collection of life-size warriors). Although a new ruler is placed in control of the empire, multiple underground organizations begin to form in the shadows, plotting full-scale revolution. Violence breaks out across the various states; the empire falling into anarchy.

The people begin establishing their own local governments, muster armed militias (consisting primarily of peasants), and begin organized ground campaigns against Qin cities across the eastern provinces. Yet, once again, they all begin to face the might of the superior Qin military. This new, galvanized rebellion quickly finds itself on the verge of being destroyed.

It’s late in the year of 208 BC when Qin general Zhang Han - a brilliant tactician and military leader - defeats one of the largest rebel armies, commanded by legendary general from the Chu State, Xiang Liang. Liang perishes in the midst of the battle, issuing another heavy blow to the rebellion. Surviving rebel soldiers flee north and take up defensive positions in Julu. Han surrounds them, sets camp and begins a robust siege operation to wait-out the poorly supplied insurgents. All he has to do is be patient, and the remainder of the rebellion will slowly wither away.

Messengers are sent out to plea for reinforcements, hoping break the Qin army’s siege. Rebel leaders in Chu respond to the call, immediately dispatching a force north in support. Of the experienced military commanders available, it is Xiang Yu - a young man barely exposed to combat - who volunteers to lead the army. He is the only one to raise his hand.

It’s personal for Xiang Yu. Xiang Liang - the Chu general killed in battle with Qin forces - was more than an icon for the rebellion; he was Yu's uncle and mentor, having raised him after his father passed away at age 9.

As a child, Liang taught Lu both academics and combat, but Lu always protested: "Books are only useful in helping me remember my name. Mastering swordsmanship allows me to face only one opponent, so it's not worth learning. I want to learn how to defeat thousands of enemies." It is this attitude which makes Liang nearly give up on developing the young Xiang Lu.

This changes a couple years later in 221 BC, when Liang brings Lu to see the emperor of the newly united Qin Dynasty - Qin Shi Huang himself. Although only 11 years old at the time, Xiang Lu looks up at Liang as the emperor’s procession passes by, stating solemnly, “I can replace him.” Shocked, Liang covers Lu’s mouth and removes him from the crowd for fear of their lives. Seeing the fearlessness in Xiang Lu, Liang continues to mentor the young warrior throughout the Qin Dynasty.

Now, over a decade later, Xiang Lu is hungry for revenge; both for his uncle and his people. Thus, he rallies his men and begins leading them north.

It’s just past New Year’s in 207 BC when Xiang Lu and his force of roughly 50,000 soldiers reach the banks of the mighty Yellow River; the last obstacle standing between them and Zhang Han’s army of well over 400,000.

Xiang Lu knows the upcoming battle is about more than personal vengeance; the entirety of the revolution rests on defeating the Qin army and rescuing their fellow rebels in Julu. He needs his men to be relentless; to find a level of determination within them they have never known.

On the eve of the crossing, Xiang Lu explains to his officers that once they make it to the other side, they are to shed everything they don’t need to survive past 3 days. They are also ordered to dismantle and burn every ship used to cross the river.

“Break the cauldrons and sink the boats.”
-Chinese proverb inspired by the crossing

This decision tells every soldier one thing, and one thing only: defeat the Qin army quickly and decisively, or face death.

Xiang Lu and his rebels waste no time, quickly traversing the 100-mile distance.

Lu approaches Julu, finding he is not the first rebel army to answer the call for help. Others have arrived in the region, but remain on the high ground in fear, reluctant to engage the massive Qin army. What they are about to witness places them in a state of sheer awe.

The Chu rebels suddenly appear over the hills to the south, and immediately pour into the valley; Xiang Lu leading from the front on horseback. They engage the Qin without hesitation.

They single-handedly win 9 consecutive engagements throughout the day. The Qin endure over 100,000 casualties before retreating from the battlefield, allowing the rebels to capture all of their supplies and freeing the now-starving rebels held-up in Julu. The remaining rebels who refused to fight join Xiang Lu. Shamed by their own cowardice, the commanders drop to their knees and refuse to look up as they request permission to join Lu’s army.

“Pit the strength of one against ten.”
-Chinese proverb inspired by the day's battle.

Han retreats west, but doesn’t make it far before he is caught, out-maneuvered and surrounded by Lu. After enduring even greater losses, the Qin general surrenders his remaining 200,000 men, who have lost all will to fight against the unrelenting rebels. The Qin empire falls shortly after when fellow general from the rebel state of Han - Liu Bang - surrounds their capital. Although the victorious commander, Liu Bang allows Xiang Lu to be the one to bring the empire to an end. He enters the city, executes the emperor, and burns his palace to the ground.

A new unified government rises from the ashes of rebellion: the Han Dynasty. This new government maintains an emperor, but decentralizes his authority to localities in order to empower the people. They make wide advances in agriculture, manufacturing, technological advancements, expand individual rights (including women’s rights), privatize currencies, and remove religious restrictions. The Han Dynasty will last for over 4 centuries, and becomes known as the “golden age” of China. To this day, the majority of people in China proudly identify themselves as the Han people.

Thus, the Battle of Julu becomes a key turning point in Chinese political and cultural history. When time was of the essence, Xiang Lu took measures to ensure his men would not only muster whatever they could to achieve victory, but would do so without hesitation. Without burning his ships on the northern shore of the Yellow River, history would most likely have been written very differently.

This example of sheer tenacity and fearlessness in the face of impossible odds is what earns Lu and his Chu rebels their place within the saga of “Burn the Ships.”

Get some. Cheers.

 

-Carl

Take the Hill

We’ve officially boxed up 2015. It was one hell of a year for Able Ebenezer, and we couldn’t have done it without you and your support. With that, I would like to share with you what we’ve accomplished:

Production
This was a big year for us on the brewing side of the business, as we needed to increase our output in order to keep up with growth. In essence, we reached the top end of our current production capacity, and sold every ounce we produced; not one drop of our inventory lasted long enough to reach its expiration date. We consider this quite a feat, since we maintain no bottling or canning operation; all of our production volume goes into kegs. To facilitate this growth, we increased our keg inventory by the hundreds and doubled our cold room space (since it is our standard is to keep everything we produce cold until it pours from the draft). Throughout, we maintained our superior quality and freshness.

Distribution
A year ago, we distributed our products actively to roughly 20 local restaurants within the Merrimack River corridor running from Nashua to Concord. Today, we distribute to over 60 restaurants across a territory spanning east/west from Portsmouth to Peterborough, and north/south from Laconia to Nashua. Numbers? We ran well over 800 individual deliveries, moving over 1,100 kegs (or nearly 12,000 gallons) in the process. We also welcomed the addition of a new delivery vehicle to assist with the heavy lifting: Able 2, a Jeep Renegade outfitted to carry up to 12 kegs (shown in the photo above).

The Ale Room
Many of you are familiar with our on-site bar at the brewery, where we share the full Able Ebenezer experience with you and yours. This small bar has been one of the most fun parts of our operation, as this past year we hosted several special events with some of our partnered restaurants, unveiled our outdoor seating area, welcomed Jimmy’s Food Truck, debuted Jake’s N64 in the living room, and watched as our live music night on Monday’s grew into a local staple. By the numbers? We moved around 9,000 gallons of beer through this venue, most of it going into the nearly 8,000 growlers we filled. Even as I write this now, the Ale Room is full of people enjoying playoff football over a pint or flight with friends and family.

So yes, 2015 was one hell of a year...but we have higher expectations for 2016.

Throughout my time in the Army, I viewed military operations as 3-part exercises: Setting Conditions, Taking the Hill, and Defining the Next Mission. Thus far, our demand has vastly outpaced our ability to keep up; we’ve been limited by production capacity, storage space, keg inventory, and the simple availability of time (after all, there are only 4 of us). As such, we’ve had to make sacrifices, such as taking products off draft in our Ale Room to free up inventory for restaurants, and wait-listing new restaurants to ensure our current partners never lose their access to product. We've learned from these sacrifices, making adjustments and maneuvering the company into a position where we can move forward without limitation. We have set our conditions.

“You must be slow in deliberation and swift in execution” -Napoleon Bonaparte

Tactical patience has paid off; now the time has come to pull the trigger. No more wait-lists. No more holding back. This is a “Take the Hill” year for Able Ebenezer.

Production
Next month, we will begin increasing our production once again, as new brite tanks arrive in mid-February. This will put us in position to triple our capacity and thus, begin to actively grow restaurant partnerships once more.

Distribution
In 2016, we will double our distribution operation. To support this effort, we’re happy to announce the addition of a new member to our team. Chris Clement - a fellow military veteran - has accepted our offer to join the movement, coming over from our friends down the street at Anheuser-Busch. Chris gets his boots on ground with us next month.

We also recently completed our mobile app - AbleOPS - which is designed to track all of our inventory throughout our network, process orders digitally, and calculate consumption trends at our partnered restaurants to streamline production rhythm and inventory planning. In true Able fashion, this app was designed and built by us, in-house. In the future, we plan to roll AbleOPS out to restaurant managers so they too can view our available inventory and place orders instantly via their computer or mobile device.

Ale Room
Will still be open 7 days a week; same hours, same good times.

With that, we cannot thank you all enough for taking up the cause alongside us...and we’ll need you again as we move forward this year. Together, we will continue to grow the movement, and Take the Hill in 2016.

-Carl

 

I'm Thankful

With operations at the brewery shut down today, I find myself reflecting on our journey thus far, and can’t help but feel thankful.

For me, this journey didn’t begin last June when we opened our doors, nor did it begin when we started building the facility in December 2013, nor when I came up with the idea for Able Ebenezer in early 2013, nor when I started homebrewing years ago. For me, it began in 2008 out in the desert of West Texas, when a fellow brother-in-arms and dear friend gave me a book.

Reading Atlas Shrugged granted me a new perspective on life; a perspective that was magnified by my time in the military. Some out there would call this book controversial or offensive; some may even judge me for placing it in such high regard. Spoiler alert: I don’t care, nor do I think about you at all.

Written words are a special thing; they preserve thoughts and ideas for the generations to come, ensuring they don’t become lost. I have found I learn something from every book I open; whether or not I agree with the author’s idea is irrelevant. Within Ayn Rand’s story, I found individual strength, purpose and passion; it made me a better soldier and more capable leader. Above all, I discovered meaning for my life: I wanted to build something; something which would make the world a better, happier place.

Now, several years later, as I sit here amidst the rare silence and calm within the brewery, I must express how astonished I am to look at what we’ve built thus far. 17 months in, we’ve already maxed out our production capacity (don’t sweat; more tanks are on the way), and have our products pouring at well over 50 local restaurants - and counting. It has taken a great deal of hard work and sacrifice, as it does to build anything of meaning (just one of the lessons I learned from Atlas).

Yet, this - the success of the company - isn’t what I’m thankful for.

I’m thankful for those who chose to join this journey. They are the ones who didn’t see a naive man foolishly dropping a solid career in pursuit of a silly dream. They are the ones who saw someone with a vision - someone who believed in something.

I am thankful for Mike, who has been a battle-buddy, partner, mentor, teacher, confidant and friend. There was no “good” reason for him drop everything and move to New Hampshire to build this with me, yet he did without hesitation (I did have a slight advantage; he found the same as I in reading Atlas). I owe him more than I can describe in words.

I am thankful for Jake and Heather, who joined us at an uncertain time in the company, and committed themselves to build this into something meaningful. They understood our vision, and believed it could be done with the right amount of work. Without them, there would be no Able Ebenezer.

I am thankful for my father, who has been a mentor and supporter from the beginning. He has always been there for me - through good times and bad - and has believed in my “crazy” ideas. His belief in me is why I've pursued the "craziest" ones.

I am thankful for the restaurants who have given us a chance within their draft lineups. Since we only keg our products, we have to compete for these hotly contested lines. While we have still been told “no” more than “yes,” we owe a great deal of appreciation to those who have given us a shot; the opportunity to prove what we could do. We work tirelessly to ensure we don't let them down.

I am thankful for our customers, many of whom have become friends. While it’s obvious for a business owner to say he’s thankful for his customers, since they ultimately pay the bills, I mean it differently: They too see our vision, share our beliefs and have voluntarily joined our cause. It is they who, out of all the products they could spend their hard-earned dollars on, choose to spend them with us. They have become insurgent salespeople, spreading the word about our work. They mitigate moments of doubt, and make challenges easier to overcome. Above all, they remind us everyday why we built this place: to make people happy. We love you guys.

Finally, I am thankful for the book I was given back in 2008. If you haven’t given it a read, maybe it's time. Have a very Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. Cheers.

“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserve and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it's yours.”

-Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

-Carl
Owner | Engineer | Brewer