"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, we opened our doors. You know the rest.

Our Grand Opening on June 14, 2014.

Our Grand Opening on June 14, 2014.

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. I’ve just always found the topic of beer rating stupid; what’s “best” is subjective, evolving from individual to individual. That’s why I laugh anytime someone wants me to read one when they pop up every now and again. It’s curious to tell others what they should think, or go as far as stating they’re wrong for what they enjoy. They’re simply missing the point of beer existing in the first place: happiness.

So, I don’t waste my time dwelling on them. We get the best reviews everyday anyways: each time an individual repeatedly chooses to spend their hard-earned dollars on one (or several) of our products.

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.

 

Ian Urquhart

Many of you have already mentioned the new photography on our website, so I'd like to introduce you to the photographer/artist: Ian Urquhart. Professional photos are something we haven't been able to do yet; as a young small business just trying keep up with the amount of beer y'all are drinking as is, most of our capital goes towards making more. Simply put, we just haven't been able to afford these kinds of cool services.

Then we met Ian. He's a Merrimack local and thus, a great customer here at Able. A fellow Ship-Burner, he reached out to us shortly after committing to building his start-up photography business: Ian Urquhart Photography.

Ian asked if we would be willing to let him come in for a photo shoot, on the house. We get some professional photography, and he is able to fill his portfolio to showcase what he can offer to potential customers. Mutually beneficial, right?

However, looking at these photos, we clearly got the better end of the deal.

I didn't think it was possible to make Mike better-looking. Stud.

Able Photos (1 of 1)-8.jpg

We knew Heather had an awesome smile, and Ian caught one on camera. She hates her smile and thus, isn't a fan of the photo. Please tell her she's wrong.

Able Photos (1 of 1)-37.jpg

We learned Jake looks badass in B&W.

And Chris resembles like the hard-worker he's proving to be.

No comment.

We can't thank Ian enough for the opportunity, and look forward to working with him again in the future. If you're looking for a photographer, we all highly recommend his work.

You can check out more of Ian's work on his website and Facebook page. If you're a fan, be sure to like and share. Let us all know what you think; we're looking forward to reading your comments. Cheers!

-Carl

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

FORUM

On the evening of February 4th, we will debut a new kind of beer dinner at the Bedford Village Inn: FORUM.

I like to think of it as a dinner and a show; our ales paired with both. As you know, everything we create is inspired by a story; stories from history, our personal experiences and combined passions. At FORUM, you will experience a visual storytelling as we progress through the various courses produced by BVI's award-winning kitchen led by Executive Chef, Peter Agostinelli, and ales produced by our award-winning brewery led by Head Brewer, Michael Frizzelle. The finalized menu is as follows:

FORUM begins at 6pm on the 4th, and will be held in BVI's glamorous Great Hall, with an anticipated audience of 80-100+ people. Tickets are $75 ea, and can be purchased by contacting BVI at (603) 472-2001. We invite you to join us for this evening of aliments, ales and anecdotes, and look forward to sharing our story and our work with you all. Cheers.

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

La Mére Marianne

Back in the spring, we quietly began work on a project with Peter Agostinelli, Executive Chef at Bedford Village Inn. I say “quietly” simply because we weren’t sure where this would go, or if it would be a success. The idea was to combine the culinary expertise of an award-winning kitchen with the art & science of beer design into a single product; an ale unlike anything tasted before.

After a few collaborative sessions, and several experimental batches, we found what we were looking for: La Mére Marianne. The first kegs will be tapped on Friday, October 30th. 

The final design brings malts and hops together with fresh, locally harvested apples, brown butter, sage, nutmeg, molasses, brown sugar and thensome prepared in BVI's kitchen. What results is a fragrant, smooth, creamy and savory ale that is well-balanced on all fronts, and sits at a sessionable 5% ABV. As you would expect, she pairs beautifully with a wide range of meals.

At the conclusion of our first meeting with BVI’s leadership, I asked them to name their favorite book. Following confused looks, they cited Auguste Escoffier’s "Le Guide Culinare" (or "A Guide to Modern Cookery") of 1903. Much more than just another cookbook, this work redefined the restaurant world, standardizing and streamlining kitchen practices; it is still used today in culinary schools to train the next generation of chefs. Peter explained this book laid the foundation for the robust and diverse restaurant industry we now enjoy.

Within that book is a culinary style centered around cooked apples, brown butter & chef-specified seasoning which can be used in many dishes: "a la Mere Marianne." Escoffier, a proud native of France, chose to name the dish for his country’s Marianne; the female symbol created by the people to represent their cause during the French Revolution. She is the personification of reason, liberty, equality and fraternity - the antithesis of tyranny and oppression - and her image lives on to modern day. Strong, noble and determined, she embodies what it means to be Able.

This recipe inspired both the design of the ale, as well as its name. Freedom is a beautiful thing; it fosters creativity, collaboration, growth and progress, all of which are embodied in this beer’s journey. Therefore, the mother of free France, Marianne, is a proper symbol to represent our combined work.

One batch - and one batch only - of La Mére Marianne has been produced; she is sure to go quickly. With that, we give our thanks to the fine people at BVI for the opportunity. We all look forward sharing this endeavor with you. Cheers.

-Carl

Burn the Ships: Chapter Five

Gibraltar, 711

The Umayyad commander looks out across his army, which is now gathered on the beaches beneath a great mountain of limestone. Having just landed on the southern shores of Hispania, their faces show signs of concern, uncertainty and above all, fear. He addresses the men:

“My warriors! Whither would you flee? Behind you is the sea; before you, the enemy. You have left now only the hope of your courage and your constancy.”

While Tariq ibn Ziyad does not have the resume of an conqueror, he is about to lead a campaign against a tyrant whose army outnumbers them nearly 10 to 1. Now, against these impossible odds, there is nowhere to go but forward.

“Remember, that I place myself in the front of this glorious charge which I exhort you to make.”

Tariq’s origins are humble to say the least. He is born a slave in the year 670; a role he maintains for most of his life. Throughout these years, he cultivates a reputation for being innovative, industrious and intelligent. It is the Muslim Umayyad general and governor of North Africa - Musa bin Nusayr - who sees potential in the slave Tariq, granting him his freedom, as well as a position within the army stationed at the coastal city of Tangier. Musa was wise in selecting Tariq, as it does not take long for him to rise through the ranks, becoming commander of the entire military garrison at this strategic port lying on the southern entrance to the Mediterranean Sea.

The politics in Tariq’s part of the world are complex at the beginning of the 8th century. Two prominent religious movements have been growing rapidly: the Christians out of Europe, and Muslims out of Arabia; their borders beginning to intertwine around the Mediterranean.

To the north of Tariq’s post in Tangier, across the narrow strait of water separating Europe from Africa, lies the Visigothic Kingdom, who controls the entirety of Hispania (modern-day Spain, Portugal and southern France). Having separated from the Byzantine Empire of Rome, the Visigoths are enduring the pains of cultural transition. Over a century earlier, the sitting Visigoth king converts from Arian Christianity to Catholic Christianity, sparking decades of religious tension across their kingdom. Tensions turn into disputes; disputes into civil wars. Arian Christians, Jews and Muslims throughout the kingdom become targets, initially being lowered in social status or forced to convert. However, towards the end of the 7th century, they become enslaved or executed. After a slew of rulers enter and exit from power, it is King Roderic who violently takes control of the empire in 710.

Roderic is a seasoned military commander; a skill he uses to acquire the throne. Roderic leads his army into the capital of Toledo, seizing it by force and executing much of the standing leadership, including the sitting king himself. This move divides the kingdom, which Roderic mitigates with brutal, tyrannical rule.

“At the moment when the two armies meet hand to hand, you will see me, never doubt it, seeking out this Roderic, tyrant of his people, challenging him to combat, if God is willing.”

The oppressed begin fleeing the Visigoth Kingdom by the thousands, many arriving as refugees in Northern Africa.

The only Christian settlement in Northern Africa is the massive coastal city of Ceuta, lying directly east of Tangier on the same strategic strait. Ceuta, while considered part of the Visigothic Kingdom, is separated from the turmoil occurring back in Hispania, and continues to thrive as a nearly independent center of commerce and culture under the leadership of Count Julius. It is Julius who willfully accepts these refugees; each wave bringing with them graver tales of the violent intolerance occurring in their homeland.

Despite the religious tension to the north, the Christians of Ceuta and Muslims of Tangier are peaceful as neighbors. Julius, becoming increasingly distraught over the state of his homeland, dispatches correspondence to the Tangier commander, Tariq ibn Ziyad. He wants Tariq to assist him in removing the sacrilegious king, Roderic. He even offers the one asset the Muslims lack to take on such a quest: a fleet of ships.

“Should I fall before I reach Roderic, redouble your ardor, force yourselves to the attack and achieve the conquest of this country, in depriving him of life. With him dead, his soldiers will no longer defy you.”

General Musa - the same man who freed Tariq years earlier - has doubts about the proposed invasion, primarily due to the size and reputation of the Visigoth army. He eventually agrees, once Tariq states his intention to lead the expeditionary force himself. Thus, the plan to invade Hispania is set in motion.

And so it was, on the eve of the invasion, Tariq’s Muslim army peacefully marches into the Christian city of Ceuta. Their ranks are joined by thousands of Jewish and Christian refugees-turned-warriors,  increasing Tariq’s strength to 12,000. Together, they make final preparations for battle.

If I perish after this, I will have had at least the satisfaction of delivering you, and you will easily find among you an experienced hero, to whom you can confidently give the task of directing you.”

Looking due north across the strait, they can see their target: the lone mountain that appears to shoot out from the sea - known from antiquity as the northern Pillar of Hercules. Mere miles away, this small peninsula on the southern coast of Hispania will host the main assault. Under the cover of darkness, they depart from Ceuta aboard Julius’ ships.

“If the absolute want to which you are reduced is prolonged ever so little, or if you delay in seizing immediate success, your good fortune will vanish.”

Tariq successfully lands his men on the narrow beaches of the peninsula in the early morning of April 30, 711, and issues the order to set fire to the ships. The men obey without question, and begin gather around him as the vessels begin to burn.

Now, looking out upon the army from atop his horse - an army of Jewish, Christian and Muslim soldiers - as their ships fade away into the Mediterranean, he speaks.

“Do not imagine that your fate can be separated from mine, and rest assured that if you fall, I shall perish with you...or I shall avenge you.”

The words Tariq conveyed to his men that day illustrate the bold nature of leaders who are unwavered by risk; those who scoff at fear when taking on a cause greater than themselves. He was willing to lead the invasion; willing to destroy their only means of retreat; and willing to fight alongside his men for something they all - regardless of their religious differences - believed in. Anyone can set fire to a boat, but it takes a great leader - one who believes in their quest enough to place themselves in decisive battle - to achieve glory.

Although the odds were against them, Tariq believed that together they would be victorious. As they marched north into the mainland of Hispania to face Roderic’s force numbering over 100,000 strong, his men believed it too.

Less than two months after landing on the beaches, his vision is realized. They defeat Roderic at the Battle of Guadalete, killing the oppressive leader himself in the midst of the battle. Tariq’s words become truth, as the remaining Visigothic forces loyal to Roderic succumb to fear and fall into disarray.

Within the year, Tariq’s army marches into the Visigoth capital, Toledo; the gates opened by Jewish slaves who welcome them as liberators.

In 714, Tariq is invited to retire to the Umayyad capital of Damascus, where he lives freely and peacefully until his death in 720. The mountain where he landed would be named in his honor following the invasion. Jabal Tariq - which translates to “Mountain of Tariq” - becomes a metaphor to describe something of unmovable strength, resilience and confidence. The name still remains today in its anglicized form: the Rock of Gibraltar.

With that, this great leader - a slave from northern Africa who won his freedom and rose to lead an army - claims his spot in this saga. Tariq ibn Ziyad united an army that should have never been, and led them to victory, with one action: burning his ships.

Read on:
Chapter 6

-Carl
Owner | Engineer | Brewe

Burn the Ships: Chapter Four

Narragansett Bay, 1772

At times, a line needs to be drawn.

The small yet fruitful Rhode Island colony is one of the key centers of trade in the America’s. With direct access to the Long Island Sound and Atlantic Ocean, her largest settlement - Providence - has grown into one of the most lucrative ports for trade with both fellow colonies and nations abroad.

While merchant trade is booming throughout the 1760’s, Rhode Island - like many colonial settlements at this time - has begun to earn a treasonous reputation with their British rulers. Throughout the Seven-Years War, colonists from in-and-around Providence were known to have secretly aided the French, while withholding goods and funds from the British.

Once England has achieved their decisive, yet expensive, victory against the French in 1763, Parliament begins developing methods to raise funds to pay off their enormous wartime debts, and strengthen defenses throughout their colonial holdings. This was accomplished the best way they knew how: taxes. New taxes, duties and fees began to appear in the colonies throughout the 1760’s - many of which will go on to gain notoriety. For the merchants and sailors in Rhode Island, this meant new customs taxes on the import and export of goods. To enforce them, the British began utilizing their powerful navy - a wartime asset - to police civilian commerce.

The Sugar Act of April 1764 imposed the first post-war tax on maritime merchants, and was heavily enforced by the British Navy, who used it as an excuse to halt and board colonial ships, often times confiscating cargos or outright stealing goods under the barrels of their guns. Tensions begin to rise, and a breaking point comes in July.

The HMS St. John - one of Britian’s patrol ships - has been stealing goods from merchant vessels she stops under the authority of the Sugar Act. In response, a large crowd of citizens are able to storm and capture Fort George on Goat Island, which lies off the off the coast of Newport on the eastern side of the bay. They proceed to arm the cannons and open fire on the HMS St. John. While the St. John is able to quickly flee the harbor, the event foreshadows what is to come.

Naval containment around Narragansett Bay strengthens to the point where local fishers and merchants are rarely willing to venture out into the waters. The towns around the bay have thus become filled with droves of able sailors in desperate need of employment, and a local economy that has slowed to a crawl.

On July 4, 1765 - the King’s birthday - the HMS Maidstone, one of Britain’s larger vessels patrolling the waters off Newport, stops a merchant ship coming into port from abroad for what they describe as a routine inspection. Once aboard, the crew seizes their cargo and much of the crew. Later that evening, a longboat loaded with crewmen from the Maidstone comes ashore in Newport to celebrate the days catch. Upon landing, the boat is immediately overwhelmed by a crowd reportedly numbering over 500 citizens. They scatter the British crew and proceed to drag the boat out of the water and up the street to the center of town. On the lawn of the Newport commons, the people set it set ablaze.

The situation intensifies.

Additional taxes are levied in 1767 as part of the Townshend Acts. One of the first seizures under the new laws is a ship belonging to future Founding Father, John Hancock: the Liberty. British officials in Boston accuse Hancock of avoiding required taxes under the Acts and thus, without trial, his ship is confiscated and refitted to serve as a naval warship under the ironic name HMS Liberty. While charges against Hancock are eventually dropped, the ship remains with the British Navy.

The Liberty is then given her first assignment: she is to head south to Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. The latest of his majesty’s vessels patrolling commerce in the bay, she becomes the next target of the citizenry around Narragansett Bay.

On July 17, 1769, the HMS Liberty halts and seizes two vessels from Connecticut bound for Providence, along with their captains, under “suspicion of having done an illicit act.” Two days later, the captain of the Liberty - William Reed - is captured by locals while ashore on leave, and subsequently forced to order his men to abandon the ship. Locals then row out to the vessel and cut the anchor lines, allowing her to drift aground. The ship is immediately consumed by the citizenry; her masts cut down and the ship burned. The Newport Mercury - a local paper - reported the fires lasted on the beaches of Newport for several days. The two captured vessels, their captains and cargos are subsequently released from captivity.

Not seeing the writing on the wall, the British increase choose to tighten the noose: rather than entertaining methods to ease colonist’s economic hardships, security is simply increased yet again in the waters around Rhode Island. More Redcoats, and more naval warships.

One of the new vessels dispatched to the Narragansett Bay is of French origin, having been turned over to the British following the end of the Seven Years War. The HMS Gaspee arrives in March of 1772, and does not waste time in bringing down the hammer on the rambunctious and rebellious Rhode Islanders. She and her commanding officer, Lieutenant William Dudingston, gain a reputation of ruthless enforcement, stopping every vessel entering or leaving the harbors of the bay. Those who attempt to avoid or flee the Gaspee are simply fired upon until they submit. Resembling a privateer rather than a lawful naval vessel, they capture cargos, crewmen and vessels, and levy heavy fines to all those merely suspected of illegal activity. Without investigation or trial, many local merchants lose everything at the whim of Lieutenant Dudingston.

The Gaspee - a two-mast schooner - is smaller than other traditional British warships. Yet, what she lacks in size, she makes up for with maneuverability and speed; assets which make her nearly impossible to avoid in the complex waterways of the Narragansett Bay. She also sports eight heavy guns, giving her more than enough firepower to overtake any merchant, fishing  or packet vessel. As such, none dare to challenge her in either fight or flight; once approached, all simply submit to the Gaspee.

It is not long before complaints begin to flood into the office of Rhode Island Royal Governor, Joseph Wanton. Not only was the Gaspee hindering trade, confiscating property and detaining colonial citizens, her crew was reportedly coming ashore to forcibly gather supplies from local farmers. In exploring the matter, the Governor finds that in the first 2 months, the Gaspee has stopped and ransacked over 200 civilian vessels, yet found only 2 in violation of the King’s laws. While he has attempted to quell the previous conflicts between the British Navy and his people, Wanton is unable to continue ignoring the situation. He authors a series of letters to Lieutenant Dudingston, demanding he come ashore to present his commission and answer for his actions.

Bluntly, Dudingston refuses. In a letter he writes in response, the British Lieutenant informs Governor Wanton he is under order of the King and thus, answers only to him and his chain of command; he owes Governor Wanton and the people of Rhode Island nothing. Wanton’s appeals to Dudingston’s superior in Boston, Admiral Montagu, are met with similar apathy.

Rhode Island is on her own.

June 9, 1772: It’s a hot summer day on when a packet boat makes it's way up the bay. Captain Thomas Lindsey is guiding his ship, the Hannah, to Providence from Newport. As they venture north, something appears on the horizon that sends fear shooting through Lindsey: Through his sightglass, he spots the full sails of the Gaspee come into view, as she begins to turn west onto an intercept course. Lindsey makes a fateful decision, setting full sails himself in an attempt to flee the pursuing Gaspee.

It becomes clear, however, that the Gaspee far outmatches Hannah on speed. Captain Lindsey watches as the she comes within the range of her forward guns, and begins issuing warning shots. Lindsey, facing the loss of his ship by either seizure or cannon, is forced to make another decision. Looking out across the waters before him, the experienced sailor has an idea. He immediately orders his crew to turn the Hannah east towards the shoreline town of Warwick.

Aboard the Gaspee, Lieutenant Dudingston is confident: simply another colonial vessel attempting to bypass his patrol; yet another he will catch, detain and discipline. He continues pursuit, anticipating the same outcome he has grown accustomed to: Hannah’s inevitable surrender in the midst of his overwhelming power and speed.

Abruptly, and without warning, the unexpected occurs.

The smaller, lighter Hannah glides and weaves over the waters of the bay, which, unknown to the British crew, are becoming increasingly shallow as the tide begins to move out in the late afternoon. Suddenly, Dudingston and crew are violently thrown from their feet as the weight of the Gaspee runs aground on the sands off the coast of Warwick near Namquit Point. Lindsey watches from the stern of Hannah and breathes a sigh of relief as his ship continues north to Providence as the sun begins to set over the bay.

With little damaged - aside from his pride - Dudingston is unable to do much of anything. Stuck in the calm, shallow waters of Namquit, he and his crew simply prepare to spend a quiet evening in the bay as they wait for the tide’s return in the early hours of the following morning.

A few miles to the north, the Hannah arrives in Providence in the early evening. Captain Lindsey, without hesitation, begins regaling his story of evading the infamous Gaspee, leading her to run aground off Warick. John Brown - founder of Brown University, and a leading merchant in Providence who himself has fallen victim to the British patrols - sees in this an opportunity for justice. He organizes a small posse of men, leading them through the streets of the city with a drummer in tow. As word of the Gaspee’s incapacitation spreads, men begin to join their ranks in droves.

One such man is Abraham Whipple - future Commodore in the soon-to-be Continental Navy. The mob enters a tavern where he and Brown begin devising a plot to ensure the Gaspee will never again harass the colonial citizenry. Their plan? To destroy her.

In a letter written in 1839, Ephraim Bowen - the final survivor of the attack on the Gaspee - reminisces the events of that night:

“About the time of the shutting up of the shops soon after sunset, a man passed along the main street beating a drum and informing the inhabitants of the fact, that the Gaspee was aground on Namquit Point, and would not float off until 3 o'clock the next morning, and inviting those persons who felt a disposition to go and destroy that troublesome vessel...About 9 o'clock, I took my father's gun and my powder horn and bullets and went to Mr. Sabin's, and found the southeast room full of people, where I loaded my gun, and all remained there till about 10 o'clock, some casting bullets in the kitchen, and others making arrangements for departure, when orders were given to cross the street to Fenner's wharf and embark; which soon took place, and a sea captain acted as steersman of each boat, of whom I recollect Capt. Abraham Whipple, Capt. John B. Hopkins, (with whom I embarked,) and Capt. Benjamin Dunn. A line from right to left was soon formed, with Capt. Whipple on the right and Capt. Hopkins on the right of the left wing.”

Ephraim Bowen
Affidavit, 1839

In total, 8 longboats set off from Fenner’s Wharf in Providence Harbor. Brown, emphasizing stealth, has the men muffle the oars and row-locks by wrapping them in rags. No one speaks as the men, totalling nearly 70 in number, quietly row 5 miles through the darkness to Namquit Point, where the Gaspee still calmly lies.

The longboats approach from the west, making it within 60 yards of her hull before a watchman takes notice.

“Who comes there?” he calls out; the men do not respond.

He calls again, “who comes there?” Again, no one answers as the boats continue their approach.

Lieutenant Dudingston, awoken from the shouts, steps onto the deck from his quarters. Upon seeing the boats, he demands they identify themselves. Whipple, mere boat lengths from the Gaspee’s hull, finally responds: “Surrender, God damn you!”

A shot rings out from the longboats below, and Dudingston falls to the deck; the round passing through his arm and lodging into his abdomen. At once, men begin hastily climbing the Gaspee’s hull, pouring over her deck and down into the holds below. It is over in minutes. The British crew, caught by unimaginable surprise, give up control of the Gaspee without a fight.

The wounded Lieutenant Dudingston crawls back to his quarters where he listens to the chaos outside as his ship is overtaken. Brown and Whipple find him sitting slouched on his bed when they enter the cabin. They order one of the rebels - a doctor by the name of John Mawney - to tend to the wounded lieutenant.

Once his wounds are dressed, the crew, their belongings and their leader are ferried to Warwick. It’s a little past 3 o’clock in the morning when they land on the beaches, and turn around to see the Gaspee set ablaze. Dudingston, who is put up in a shoreline home to recover, witnesses the flames of his ship raging for hours from his bedside window.

Word of the burning spread quickly. Leaders within the British government are appalled, immediately ordering the formation of a commission to track down, capture and try those responsible back in England for treason. The investigation takes months, but can never gather enough evidence from locals to bring charges against any of the dozens of rebels who burned the Gaspee.

The Gaspee Affair goes on to gain notoriety in the colonies, highlighting both British oppression to colonial commerce and the citizenry’s ability to take a stand and say, “no more.” Furthermore, the resulting investigation crossed a new line with the Americans: the commitment to send citizens back to England for trial rather than in the colonies by a jury of their own peers. Rather than listened to, the colonists were being silenced.

This event, occurring mere months after New Hampshire’s Pine Tree Riot, becomes the second domino to fall in a series of conflicts that will lead up to the American Revolution. Namquit Point is renamed Gaspee Point, where to this day the town of Warwick celebrates the burning of the Gaspee each year with days of events, including the burning of a Gaspee effigy in the waters of the Narragansett Bay.

“Burn the Ships” is about the relentless pursuit of what one believes in; the willingness to put everything on the line for something greater than one’s self. When a line needed to be drawn, the people of Narragansett Bay drew it by setting fire to many of his majesty’s ships, the HMS Gaspee serving as their grand finale. There was no going back to the old, oppressive rule of the British; only forward to the new, free rule of the people.

Read On:
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

-Carl

Independence Day

July 5, 2008, Fort Knox KY.

July 5, 2008, Fort Knox KY.

July 4, 2008: I am stationed at Fort Knox, KY, training with the Armor Officer Leadership Course. 5+ months of day-in, day-out training; most of which out in the mud-caked slopes of northern Kentucky. The guys I am enduring this with will attest to the fact that it’s a grueling course, but they will also tell you that it was one of the best experiences of our lives.

I haven’t seen many of them since we graduated, we formed bonds that will last a lifetime, and still keep in touch. While the course was months in length, you could count the total number of days we had “off” on two hands. One such day was Independence Day, and I remember it well; it was my first as a Lieutenant - a leader within our nation’s military.

The day was filled with a number of celebratory activities scheduled at Knox, up in Louisville, and around the local area. That night, there was to be a party at the airfield including a large fireworks display, loads of food, and live music headlined by ZZ Top.

We didn’t go.

Instead, we spent the day gathered at a common on post, grilled cheap burgers & hot dogs, shared jokes at one another’s expense (usually LT Hoover’s), and drank good beer. Why skip all the festivities that evening? 4am the next morning was our hard time to get back out to the field for tank gunnery. Instead, I packed my ruck and fell asleep to the booming sounds of fireworks off in the distance.

Independence Day has a special meaning for me. Prior to the Declaration, the colonies each had their own individual struggle with British rule. But on July 4, 1776, we, as a nation, came together as one voice against tyranny and oppression. Merchants, farmers, sailors, blacksmiths, cobblers, artisans, statesmen and barkeeps decided as one: enough is enough.

Once word of the Declaration reached General Washington on July 9, 1776, he was not in a celebratory mindset. His army, having successfully ousted the British from Boston a few months prior, was now occupying New York City in hopes of defending it against an imminent British invasion. He personally reads Jefferson’s words to his men in the streets of the city, while British naval ships gather in the bay by the hundreds. The short, simple declaration motivates the men, and they immediately go back to work preparing defenses in and around the city.

Washington and his army would eventually lose New York, as well as many major battles to follow. Even when the war was at its most bleak - when British leadership began celebrating defeat of the rebellion, and signers of the Declaration were scattering across the colony for fear of capture and execution - the volunteers and militiamen of the Continental Army continued on. No longer were they simply rioting against unjust laws; they were defending their country.

As such, this is a day to remember what it took to win liberty, and what it takes to preserve it.

Today, we will celebrate the bold risks and sacrifices of those who, in 1776, were willing to put their lives on the line to live free. I welcome you to join us, as hundreds of our friends and fellow patriots will gather at the brewery to raise a glass in honor of them.

As an American, you are independent; free to live life your way. Freedom is indeed a beautiful thing, but it takes work at all levels - soldiers and civilians - to preserve it.

So, to me, Independence Day is not a day of gluttony, drunkenness and explosions. It’s the day to celebrate the freedom we work so hard to keep.

At dawn on July 5, 2008, I climbed into the turret of my Abrams with my fellow Lieutenants - men willing to voluntarily give themselves to the cause of “defending the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic” - and we went back to work.

Miss you guys; Scouts Out.

 

-Carl

Competition vs. Passion

I am often asked by customers if I have heard of new breweries who just opened. While I wish I could visit every new brewery that comes online, it wouldn't leave much time for my job at this one. The question of whether or not I have heard of them is usually followed by: "Do you think they are going to do better? You guys afraid of competition?" And so on.

Since the Nano Brew law passed in 2011, some incredible breweries have popped up around New Hampshire—including us. With so many new places opening, some may think it would cause rivalry, emulation, competition, or even jealousy. Yet, that couldn't be further from the truth.

So, I answer their questions the same way each time:

There is no competition in works of passion. You either have it or you don't; the passion makes the product unique. Anyone willing to open a business and showcase a product that demands a great deal of time, effort, thought and passion has my admiration, and my business. Our goal here at Able is create the best beer we can; beers that we love. It is simply a privilege to share that work with you.

We brewers are driven by a dedication to create a products we are proud of and enjoy; not a product that is slightly better than the guy next door. After all, what is “better” changes from person to person. I believe there is a simple unspoken respect with all brewers: if you put all of yourself into a product (not literally), then you have done your job. I look forward to finishing my first beer design and getting it on tap so I too can share my work with fellow NH brewers.

While there may be some friendly rivalries, this is not a cut throat business. We love and respect one another’s work, and raise a glass to anyone willing to take the leap. For this very reason, I am happy to be a part of this company and industry. It’s just fun.

With that, I’ll cheers my next pint to creating something that is designed shared and enjoyed, not gloated over. After all, beer always tastes much better with friends than with enemies.

-Jake
Renaissance Man

A Surprising Year

Where are we now?

One strong dolly, an over-worked Transit Connect and a few ratchet straps later, I’ve witnessed Able Ebenezer come quite far for a self-distributing brewery just now marking it's first year. For me, it has been an adventure doing what I love...and I cannot stress enough how incredible it is having found work that I truly love.

After leaving the US Army in December 2013, I began bouncing around between jobs, seeking something that had purpose...something I believed in. In June, I was laid off from a role when they could no longer offer the 30-35 hours of work per week they had able to give. This was when I met Carl, and heard about the opportunity at Able Ebenezer. I knew nothing about brewing or the complicated distribution business, but I did know was I was willing to work tirelessly to learn it, especially with a company that had purpose. I was surprised when I was hired.

Joining this company a just few weeks in, I was given opportunities and learning experiences that aren't close to being fully realized. If a year ago you had asked me how to make a great beer, or how to logistically keep track of accounts that span most of Southern New Hampshire, I wouldn't have the slightest idea how to respond. The answer is “very carefully.”

Through that careful hard work and your support, we have created quite a name for ourselves in these first twelve months. From tasters up to pints, from grilled cheeses to hot dogs, and from a couple restaurants to over 40. Thinking back, I remember seven establishments seemed like far too many to keep track of, but am now finishing out the year with forty-two. Overall, this year has been full of surprises for me.

To quote the man I always turn to:

"History is merely a list of surprises. It can only prepare us to be surprised yet again."

-Kurt Vonnegut

While we don't know exactly what is ahead of us, we know it will be bigger and better.

As great as milestones are, after the 13th we will continue our movement forward. Expanding our lines of attack and seeking those opportunities for growth, all while continuing to service the amazing establishments who currently pour our beers.

Taking a moment to catch my breath and appreciate what I have worked for is a humbling moment, yet something I don’t believe one should get caught up in. It’s never wise to dwell on your accomplishments simply because it is so easy to lose track of the new ones to come.

With that, I am back on the road again today delivering kegs across southern NH, and will be behind the bar tonight to host our weekly live music. This past year required a great deal of hard work, but I know the path ahead will require even more. I welcome it's surprises.

With that, here is to our moment to look back and reflect, and to getting back at it the next day as we drive forward into Year 2.

Cheers.

-Jake

Victory nor Defeat

It’s after lights out. I’m lying in my bunk in the Army’s Officer Candidate School (OCS) holding barracks trying to fall asleep among fifty other soldiers in bunks on either side of me. Having just finished Basic Training on Sand Hill, Ft. Benning, GA., I’m waiting for the next OCS class to start. I have a month of this. For officer candidates, this place is limbo.

With regard to rank, officer candidates aren’t really anything. Although I’m still enlisted, all rank status is lost during the course and any enlisted soldier now outranks me. Typically in the military, there is some disdain in regard to how enlisted personnel feel about young inexperienced officers, and venting these opinions to officer candidates is a common practice for no fear of repercussions.

As I’m trying to fall asleep my mind is racing. Here, the confidence of the day always turns to doubt. Maybe these more experienced enlisted soldiers are right? After all, I have the experience of a new Private, so how could I possibly lead men who had spent years serving? What if I don’t know what to do when everyone is looking to me? What if I make a bad decision and someone gets hurt?

I feel the vibration of my flip phone hidden under my pillow. I hoped it was my girlfriend back in California calling to tell me everything was going to be okay, but it turned out to be my older brother. I answered, and I could tell right away that something wasn’t right, so I slipped away to the only place you could talk in the barracks after hours: the bathroom stall.

He told me he was recently promoted to editor-in-chief of a popular weekly newspaper, and as the youngest editor in the paper’s history at 27, many critics were surfacing who thought he was the wrong man for the job. I could tell that these negative opinions were wearing on his confidence.

I wasn’t sure what to say. I was proud of him for putting himself out there in a leadership role instead of being comfortable as just another writer in the background.  Suddenly, it popped into my head. I couldn’t remember who said it, but at this moment I could remember something I read years before:

"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, "Man in the Arena"

While I had remembered this to help my brother, it was something I needed to hear. Even though I’d read it before, in this moment I believed it; it had new meaning. It was okay to have doubts, but it wasn’t okay to let those doubts keep me on the sideline. I chose to be an officer because I believed I could do the job better than the next guy, and I couldn’t worry about vocal naysayers who made the choice to criticize leaders rather than lead themselves.

Fast-forward seven years to opening a brewery: I still find that anytime you separate from the crowd and follow your true passions there will be critics telling you it can't be done; that you’re doing it wrong; how they could’ve performed better than you, even though they chose not to make the choice. At some point in time, these cynics listened to the critics of their own moment and now assume the collective opinion of the crowd, which only serves to maintain the way things have always been done because it’s safer. Not an evil proposition, but serves as a foundation of regret; of a life spent trying to fend off the inevitable.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the shouting of people in the stands, but if you pay attention, you’ll notice the few willing to step out onto the arena floor and lay it on the line. This uncommon minority serves as living proof that daring achievements are possible with courage as their only prerequisite. Find your inspiration, put yourself out there, and see what you’re made of.

These words have come to define who I am, and who I will be. With that, our new Double IPA shall bear a name in honor of those who step into the arena, unaware and unmoved by the critiques of those poor and timid souls who remain on the sidelines. On Saturday, June 13th, we debut "Victory nor Defeat."

-Mike Frizzelle
Head Brewer

 

Burn the Ships: Chapter Three

Often, we are asked where the name “Burn the Ships” comes from. To us, it’s a personal mantra; a statement about the willingness to put forth everything to achieve victory.

The act of burning one’s own ships is the physical manifestation of this idea; a tactic that military commanders throughout history have used to overcome the challenges that made everyone before them simply avoid the venture. Thus, we found ourselves - both as military commanders and entrepreneurs - inspired by the words, “Burn the Ships.”

With that, I want to share with you why this statement has meaning; the many stories that have made the firing of masts, hulls and sails into a bold ideology (and incredible ale). This, ladies and gentlemen, is the story of “Burn the Ships.”

The Solent, 296

Much of the known world is ruled by the mighty Roman Empire, which is now at the height of its power. Diocletian, who has recently emerged as the first sole Emperor in decades following the Crisis of the Third Century, controls a kingdom spanning from Spain to Mesopotamia, and Egypt to the island of Britain. In the wake of the empire’s near collapse from infighting, he comes to power knowing that political changes need to be made if the vast reaches of Rome are to remain united.

Thus, he makes a revolutionary decision once he takes the throne in 285: divide the empire.

Diocletian establishes a system of subordinate emperors, beginning with the appointment of fellow military officer Maximian to the position of Augustus (Senior Emperor) of the western territories, and later appoint two Caesar’s (Junior Emperors) in 293, while he remains the superior emperor over the entirety of the empire.

History would prove this division to be both a political and societal success, with the Roman Empire stabilizing economically and militarily. There are, however, obstacles to this new-found peace.

Carausius, a man of humble beginnings from modern-day Belgium, is a rising star within the Roman Navy. His ability to overwhelm enemies in battle gains him command over the Classis Britannia - a naval fleet charged with controlling the English Channel and removing pirate threats - in 286. Carausius, however, is found to be corrupt, having confiscated stolen treasures for his own personal gain. He even allows Frankish and Saxon pirates to continue their raids on coastal settlements before moving on them in order to enrich himself further. Upon discovery, Diocletian orders Maximian to have Carausius executed.

In response, Carausius cedes Britain and northern Gaul (Europe’s northern coastline) from the Roman Empire, and declares himself its emperor in 287. He is successful in building his military might, building additional naval vessels and growing his army with hired mercenaries, who were attracted by the promise of vast riches. This added military might combined with his tactical genius allows him to successfully defeat Maximian’s invasion attempts, which Carausius touts as a decisive military victory.

Carausius is beginning to legitimize his empire, quickly becoming known as the “Restorer of Britain” and “Spirit of Britain.” While these titles are mere propaganda produced by Carausius himself, it is undeniable that his grip on the northwest is growing. Yet, his new empire is built on oppression and the unjustified accumulation of riches, breeding corruption within his ranks.

It is seven long years before the Romans are able to begin retaking Carausius’ territory. They slowly liberate northern Gaul in 293 through tedious siege warfare. It is Allectus, Carausius’ right-hand man and whom he entrusted to maintain his empire’s treasury, who seizes the opportunity. He assassinates Carausius at one of their remaining mainland ports, assumes control over the empire and immediately concentrates their forces in and around Britain to prevent any further Roman advance.

While regaining the northern coast of Europe is a victory, it is a minor one at best; the rebellion still maintains a stronghold over Britain and its bountiful economy. Maximian and his newly appointed Caesar, Constantius Chlorus, once again draw plans to attempt an invasion of Britain. Yet, excuses of imperfect weather and the strong defenses of the island impede their progress. As such, their plans continually fall short against Allectus and his legions of brutal mercenaries.

Finally, in 296, after over three years of failed strategies, the two leaders bring in the lesser-known, yet creative, military mind of Julius Asclepiodotus to assist in reconquering the island.

Julius understands up front that while Allectus has a formidable army and navy at his disposal, they are driven only by shallow and selfish means; they lack the sheer determination, tenacity and motivation the Roman legions had become famous for in defeating other seemingly powerful militaries. He recommends a rapid invasion of Britain; an effort to strike one decisive blow against the enemy. He believes that once initially overwhelmed, they will not be able to muster the courage to remain unified against the Romans.

In essence, he knows that once engaged in a battle of wills, the rebels will not match up, regardless of tactical advantage.

Julius’ final plan calls for a dual naval force to cross the channel and approach Britain from the south, landing their army on the shores near what today are the towns of Southampton, Portsmouth and Chichester. The fleets would rendezvous in the Solent - a strait separating the mainland of Britain from the Isle of Wight.

The intent of splitting the fleet is to avoid Allectus’ navy, which will be heavily patrolling the waters around the Isle of Wight since the Solent Strait is key to Britain’s ports and thus, their economy. Julius emphasized that the main objective was to land on the mainland and commit the rebel’s main army; not get bogged down in petty naval skirmishes off the coast, nor costly sieges on the shoreline.

Julius’ superiors approve the plan: The primary fleet and army to be commanded by Caesar Constantius himself, while Julius would to lead the secondary force in support.

The day of the invasion arrives in June of 296. Yet, poor fortune plagues the Romans again as a heavy fog blankets the channel and entire southern coast of Britain. Once again, Constantius, finding it difficult to navigate, becomes wavered by the unfavorable conditions. He expresses his desire to call off the attack, but Julius refuses to turn back. He knows that while navigating the channel and strait could be risky, turning back would further weaken the resolve of their men, while strengthening that of the rebels. They had committed to action; returning without having liberated Britain was simply not an option.

Instead, he leverages the thick fog to his advantage, using it as suitable cover on his approach to the shoreline. While not entirely positive where he has landed, he successfully reaches the beaches of Britain without being seen by any of Allectus’ patrols.

Upon landing, Julius hastily rallies his men and orders them to march inland toward the rebel defenses. His commanders initially question the order, their men nervous and wary about continuing onward without the entirety of their force on-hand. They request they wait until Constantius and the main body reached the shore, or they re-embark into the Solent to attempt to reconnect with his fleet.

Bluntly, Julius responds with a second order: “Burn the Ships.”

When questioned again as to why they would destroy the single asset that would grant them solace back within the Roman Empire, Julius declared that the land they now stood upon was indeed the Roman Empire once more.

This was his message to his commanders and their men: they would not remain satisfied having taken the shore, nor would they embark once again to rendezvous with the larger fleet. By setting the ships ablaze, Allectus would become aware of their landing, forcing Julius’ men to drive forward and attack rather than sit and wait to be attacked.

Thus, Julius led his men inland, their fleet burning behind them.

Reinvigorated with a tenacity only Roman warriors could embody, Julius marched on Allectus’ defenses. Rumors amongst the rebels of the burning ships instill a level of fear that they had not yet experienced. Upon site of the rapidly advancing Roman legions, their will to fight quickly deteriorates. In the midst of the chaos, Allectus quickly finds himself in command of an empire in shambles. He attempts to escape north among his retreating forces, having stripped himself of his lavish clothing and decorations in hopes that he would not be identified if captured.

He would not be captured, however. Instead, Julius is able to quickly outmaneuver his retreating army, surrounding them on the field of battle. Worn, weary and defeated, the rebels succumb to an onslaught that sees every man cut down, including Allectus himself.

Constantius lands ashore in time to witness only the aftermath of Julius’ blitz across southern Britain. His army chases down the last remaining pockets of resistance before securing the island. The revolt has officially come to an end.

Records of Julius following his expeditionary conquest of Britain are lacking. While he is placed in charge of reestablishing Roman authority across the territory, it is Constantius who is credited with the liberation of Britain. History makes a mere footnote of Julius Asclepiodotus and his willingness to place all he had on the line to defeat the unjustly oppressive and heavily favored rebels.

Coming forward with a bold plan to defeat a rebel empire that had repelled Roman military elite for a decade, and subsequently having the audacity to drive onward in the wake of unforeseen obstacles, makes Julius Asclepiodotus a great figure in the Burn the Ships saga.

If something is important to you, you will find a way. If not - whether it be fog, miscommunication, or the idea that it is too much of a challenge - you will find your excuse. Drive on.

Read On:
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

-Carl

Burn the Ships: Chapter Two

Often, we are asked where the name “Burn the Ships” comes from. To us, it’s a personal mantra; a statement about the willingness to put forth everything to achieve victory.

The act of burning one’s own ships is the physical manifestation of this idea; a tactic that military commanders throughout history have used to overcome the challenges that made everyone before them simply avoid the venture. Thus, we found ourselves - both as military commanders and entrepreneurs - inspired by the words, “Burn the Ships.”

With that, I want to share with you why this statement has meaning; the many stories that have made the firing of masts, hulls and sails into a bold ideology (and incredible ale). This, ladies and gentlemen, is the story of “Burn the Ships.”
 

Flamborough Head, 1779

Throughout the American Revolution thus far, the Patriot navy is severely lacking. Short on raw materials, shipyards and able crewmen, the newly formed United States is finding it difficult to raise a suitable force to combat the overwhelming might of Britain's superior navy; the most powerful in the world.

One recent immigrant to the colonies, a Scottish-born sailor by the name of John Paul Jones, travels hastily to Philadelphia late in 1775 to enlist in the new Continental Navy.

Jones had been an officer on British merchant and military vessels for years, but had been expelled from service due to his bold and radical command style. He was known to challenge authority; often developing his own campaigns that proved to be far riskier than his commanders wished. Jones, however, knowing himself to be able and the potential rewards of his plans to be fruitful, saw risk as irrelevant. Furthermore, on the rare occasion that a sailor member spoke out against him or attempted to rally mutiny, he would single-handedly beat them in front of an audience of the entire crew. Jones knew how to win, and did not tolerate those who doubted it.

On the eve of his court martial in England, he left behind his fortune and fled to America; a land he admired due to its ripe opportunities and just cause of individual freedom.

Jones was assigned command immediately, and spent 1776 combating the British and capturing their supply ships along the east coast of the America’s from Nova Scotia to the Bahamas. However, his successes would once again become clouded by his command style. Following a heated debate with his commander, Commodore Hopkins, the unpredictable Jones was removed from the main combat zone; assigned a lesser command over a smaller ship - the USS Ranger -  and ordered to sail to France and assist with the American cause, "however possible."

Upon arrival in France, Jones develops a strong friendship with Benjamin Franklin, who is overseas attempting to negotiate an alliance with King Louis XVI. Franklin encourages the young captain, aged just 29 years at the time, to do whatever he saw fit in aiding the American cause.

The rambunctious Jones wastes no time. With his small, 18-gun vessel he begins a relentless campaign in the waters surrounding Britain throughout 1777 and 1778. Harassing merchants, seizing cargos, he begins his independent campaign to make the British feel that this was not confined to the colonies a world away. He even leads a bold raid on the port town of Whitehaven - where years before Jones had begun his career as a seaman. He burns hundreds of English ships at harbor, covertly spikes cannons within English fortifications, captures droves of British soldiers and seamen, all while seizing English supplies, goods, arms, and even the occasional British warship. Jones, by his own initiative, has successfully brought the “war in the colonies” home to millions of British citizens, who are now beginning to question whether or not this war is worth fighting.

1779 brings a change to the war. France has officially aligned itself with the United States, and Jones now has the support of the French Navy. He takes command of a new, 42-gun warship, naming her the Bonhomme Richard in honor of his friend, Benjamin Franklin, whose internationally famous “Poor Richard’s Almanac” is published in France under the title “Les Maximes du Bonhomme Richard.”

In the fall, Jones takes back to the seas, leading a small squadron around Scotland’s northern coast and down into the North Sea. Now holding the reputation of a violent privateer in Britain, word of his presence causes instant panic in towns along the entirety of the English eastern shore. Yet, Jones simply lies in wait for an opportunity to present itself.

That opportunity comes on September 23rd.

In the afternoon, his watchmen spot a merchant convoy making their way down the coast, protected by two British warships; the 22-gun HMS Countess of Scarborough and the massive, 50-gun frigate HMS Serapis, commanded by the prominent and highly decorated Captain Richard Pearson. Jones pursues them, engaging the fleet just before sunset in the waters just off the impressive cliff faces of Flamborough Head in Yorkshire.

At 7pm, the battle commences as Richard and Serapis open up on one another with full broadsides. The French vessels, Alliance and Pallas are successfully lured downwind by the Countess, leaving Jones alone to battle the superior vessel.

During the initial barrage, Jones discovers that his new 18-pound cannons - the largest guns he has aboard - are defective, as one explodes during the firing of its first round. Now, at close range, the Richard, both out-gunned and out-maneuvered by the Serapis, is being ripped apart by successive volleys. Jones, attempting to remain in the fight, finds her increasingly less responsive as she begins to burn uncontrollably.

Rather than retreat or surrender to save his ship, and thus the lives of himself and his men, Jones decides to commit what little Bonhomme Richard has left. At close quarters, Serapis makes another broadside pass, further ravaging the burning, listing Richard. Captain Pearson shouts to Jones, demanding he strike his colors and surrender. Without hesitation, Jones yells back to Pearson with raging fervor:

“I have not yet begun to fight!”

He turns the Richard directly at Pearson’s stern. This move brings him even closer to Serapis, and thus her powerful broadside guns, but this is exactly what the motivated commander wants: to take the directly fight to them.

Upon impact against her hull, Jones personally leads his men in lashing the Richard to the Serapis. Under fire from the British decks, Captain and crew hastily bind the two vessels together with heavy rope while simultaneously fighting off British marines.

Witnessing the unthinkable, Pearson experiences his first moment of dread since the start of the battle. He immediately orders his men to drop anchor in hopes that the sudden shift in momentum will tear the Richard loose.

Yet, the knots hold strong.

Rather than ripping apart as the anchor catches, the two ships begin to spiral together as if in a waltz. Side by side, bow to stern, gun to gun, the Richard and Serapis spin as men on both sides exchange small arms fire. Serapis’ cannons continue to rip through Richard’s lower decks; the damage is so bad that many rounds simply pass clear through the hull. Yet, despite the dire situation, Jones and his men refuse to quit.

Throughout the violent deterioration of their floating fortress, Jones’ men fight with a renewed tenacity. They hold the the British off, and begin to shift the momentum of the battle.

The Patriots begin to overwhelm Pearson’s crew, forcing British sailors and marines to abandon their posts as they tenaciously fight aboard from broadside on the decks, and from above on the masts and lines.

Pearson and his men begin to wear; their will irreparably damaged by the unthinkably reckless tactics of the Americans. Captain Pearson, staring at Richard’s burning wreckage securely tied to his vessel’s hull, and now witnessing Jones’ men overwhelming his crew as they pour aboard, decides he has had enough. He hastily cuts down his own colors, signaling surrender and thus an end to the battle. The British lay down their rifles, and their ships powerful guns go silent.

In the aftermath, Jones quickly transfers his remaining men to the Serapis, imprisons Pearson’s crew below deck, and orders the burning wreckage of Bonhomme Richard cut loose. She quickly disappears beneath the waves, leaving only the sound of extinguishing flames.

John Paul Jones, now Captain of the Serapis, sails her to port; his trophy for gambling everything they had on the will, determination and ability of he and his men in the midst of overwhelming odds. By remaining in the fight - and thus, allowing Richard to continue burning - Jones placed himself and his crew in a situation of no return. They would either take the enemy ship by force, or perish in the cold waters of the coast of Flamborough Head.

His defiance of defeat - and complete commitment to victory - makes Jones a celebrity overnight. He has defeated a leading British naval commander, and captured his superior frigate.  It is after this victory that John Paul Jones becomes the man widely accepted as the “Father of the United States Navy;” a title he holds to this day.

“Burn the Ships” is a mantra about refusing to give in to defeat, especially when the odds are stacked against you. In accepting that failure was not an option, forcing themselves to give every ounce of strength, ingenuity and drive they possessed, Jones and his men gave us a great example of what “Burn the Ships” means to us...and one hell of a story to share over a beer.

Read on:
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

-Carl
Owner | Engineer | Brewer

Jumping Off Cliffs

Many of you know we were recently voted the "Best Brewery in NH" in the Hippo. It goes without saying that this is an incredible honor, especially being a company only nine months old. We cannot thank you all enough, and are proud that you enjoy our beers as much as we do. Honestly, the best award we can achieve is one we are presented with everyday: Each time one of you spends your hard-earned money on our of our fresh pours.

Once we heard the good news, I immediately thought back to my time in Iraq. The military teaches us that mission success may call for celebration, but always produces a new mission to focus on. Carl explained it well to me: "Victory sets conditions for future victories." During my tour overseas, we primarily focused on convoy escorts on the roads in and around Baghdad. We knew that the days we returned inside the wire safe and successful, the next day would bring new challenges, requiring us to always remain vigilant and focused on what the next day's mission might bring. Even on the eve of our unit's return to the states, our mission was to thoroughly prepare our replacements so that they too could be successful. 

While it is always wonderful to win awards for your merit and hard work, that isn't why we continually work hard and focus on the road ahead. We brew with the hope of showing you our version of beer. Not for medals, accolades or favorable beer ratings.

Saying all that, don't think we aren't humbled by the experience. We just know this is one of many things that we will be growing from, and not looking back. To quote my favorite author:

"We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”

-Kurt Vonnegut 

Awards show you that, yes, you accomplished something. But they also force you to question: could it be done better? This is a question we constantly ask ourselves, always striving to be better than we were the day before. We are not the brewery that opened on June 14th, nor are we the brewery that won Best in NH. We are the brewery that is always focused on jumping off cliffs, forcing ourselves to develop our wings. We enjoy glancing occasionally in the rear-view, but remain focused on what's out the front windshield.

With today's release of Emma Wood, and others down the road such as my coffee porter, we look forward to the future. To hopefully winning more awards, yet reminding ourselves: Alright, now lets go do better.

I look forward to seeing you in the future and figuring out what we can do better tomorrow because of today.

-Jake
Renaissance Man