The Collective Includes Thousands of Honeybees

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April 29, 2018

While many folks know that we are farming organically here in Albany – currently producing blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, hops, 6 row and 2 row barley as well as emmers, a biblical wheat variety – many people don’t know that we also keep honeybees on our property. The image below is symbolic of how intertwined our agricultural practices are with the natural world, and specifically, the honeybee: apis mellifera. In this image, the bee’s wings are stalks of grain, and remind us that we all rely on pollinators in order to eat many of the fruits and vegetables that we love (and depend on).

One of the fascinating things about honeybees is that they are classified as a “superorganism.” This term is used to describe a social unit of eusocial creatures which have highly organized division of labor, and where individuals are not able to survive by themselves for any length of time. In 2007, Jerry Seinfeld voiced the lead character in “Bee Movie” which offered an animated peek into the lives of bees. While a few facts and details were exaggerated for dramatic effect in this children’s movie, a lot of viable information was shared with viewers who otherwise wouldn’t have learned about the highly organized life of a honeybee.

Throughout the year, it is the duty of a beekeeper to maintain the health of a hive, while doing his or her best job to limit interference with their natural cycle. In colder months, when there is less forage (pollen and nectar) for bees, their colony numbers diminish as the queen bee slows her egg production; she will stop laying eggs completely in some climates where temperatures become too low. As the winter changes to early Spring and flowers begin to bloom, the colony will grow again. It is the beekeeper who must monitor these changes and react by making the hives larger or smaller in size to accommodate the colony.

Most commercial and hobby beekeepers use a hive design called “Langstroth frames” which are stackable boxes that have four sides, and no top or bottom. These boxes hold up to 10 vertical frames of honeycomb inside, and the beekeeper can easily add/remove entire boxes, or simply swap out frames that are filled with honey for empty frames. Bees are a complex society, and even those who have been practicing beekeeping for decades often report that every year they learn something new about bees and their behavior.

This Spring, as our hives grew in size, our beekeepers decided to perform two “splits” in order to create two new colonies. This is done by locating the queen bee and moving her, along with plenty of eggs, larvae, honeycomb, honey and adult bees, into a new box. As they continue to grow their colony in the new box, the bees left behind will create a new queen by feeding only royal jelly to a chosen larvae. Our brewmaster, Eric, and our marketing director, Jennifer, are our beekeepers along with the director of farm operations, Harris. Together, they monitor the bee hives and ensure that they have ample room to grow and fill with honey. Although we don’t harvest much honey from our hives (they NEED that honey to get through winter) we hope to one day brew a braggot (which is a beer made from barley and also honey) to continue to celebrate these incredible creatures and spread the word about the necessity of protecting bees!

Fundraisers at Pretoria Fields

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April 5, 2018

One of the most important aspects of serving our community is opening our doors to local nonprofits to host their annual fundraisers. With room to welcome at least 350 guests (more if the weather is great and we can fill our patio space!) we have been fortunate enough to partner with organizations such as The Albany Chamber of Commerce, The Albany Symphony Orchestration, Albany Advocacy Resource Center and more.

On March 16, 2018, The Albany Symphony Orchestra filled our tasting room with Irish Luck for their 2nd Annual St. Patrick’s Day event. (Save the date for March 15, 2019!) In addition to phenomenal live music with Wolf & Clover, there was a live auction and an array of food trucks in our back parking lot. 

We love working with local organizations and nonprofits to host their annual events for many reasons, but perhaps the main reason is that these are win-win nights for everyone. As our doors open to these groups and their attendees, our staff is able to welcome community members into our space who haven’t previously had the opportunity to come to Pretoria Fields. We often hear remarks about how it is so much more than they expected, and are pleasantly surprised by the elegance and decor of the space. The organization/nonprofit benefits as they have little to no equipment, seating or restroom rentals – as our space can accommodate the needs of a large event. Keep your eyes out on our calendar for more awesome community events at Pretoria Fields!

Kevin’s Arrival

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March 25, 2018

We are thrilled to introduce you to our newest team member and brewer: Kevin Hilton! Our brewmaster, Eric, received resumes from many interested candidates in the past month and when he encountered Kevin’s application, he was thrilled. Kevin graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in Hospitality and Management. While he managed a golf course in Maryland, his homebrewing hobby grew into a passion. He then picked up a bartending job at Craft Works which led to an apprenticeship in the brewery. After realizing that his interest in beer was not going away anytime soon, he sought out the opportunity to brew. He accepted a position at Bluejacket Brewing in DC. This restaurant/brewery honed his understanding of how well beer compliments food.

It was at Buejacket that Kevin worked with multiple souring and wild yeast strains, as well as coolship practices (in addition to the traditional ale production.) Eric is looking forward to working with someone who has also managed multiple yeast strains, and eventually they plan to bring a little funk to our planned barrelhouse out on our farm.

Kevin and Eric jumped right into brewing on our 60 barrel brewhouse system together so that Kevin felt at home in the brewery. After a month of brewing our current beers, they will begin to experiment on our pilot system and collaborate on some recipes for new beers!

Kevin’s rich experience with fruited-sours will be perfect as we continue to develop and cultivate fruit on our organic farms to be added to seasonal beers.

Made in Albany, GA

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February 20, 2018

In our modern industrious world, we often neglect to think about how many things are made locally in our own communities. Even much of the food we consume is transported from other regions, and certainly many of our commodities and possessions come to us from outside of our state – and even outside of our country.

Why is it important to think about what is made locally? When we are able to support a farmer, a restaurant, or a skilled trade that produces or creates their goods locally, we are reinvesting in our community and instead of sending our dollars outside of our community. Of course, our grandparents didn’t have to consider spending their dollars on goods and services made locally – it was all they knew.

Things are different today, and that’s why we couldn’t be more excited to be a part of The Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission’s campaign “#MadeInAlbanyGA.” This project is dedicated to promoting community pride in our local resources and industries in an effort to increase awareness and support of the operations right here in Albany-Dougherty County.

The EDC’s campaign includes videos of many of these operations and the final video in their series focuses on Pretoria Fields Collective. We hope that you’ll take a few minutes to check out all of the videos on their website. Next time you’re downtown, we invite you to come in for a pint of beer that was not only brewed and fermented locally, but created from many ingredients sewn right here in Albany soil.

Our First Month!

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January 14, 2018

Our tasting room doors have been open just over one month downtown, and we couldn’t be more proud to call Albany our home! As Dr. Tripp Morgan and his team began planning and designing this site, a primary goal of theirs was a gathering space for everyone in the community: children and dogs included! Our 30 barrel brewhouse has been built adjacent to our tasting room, divided by large glass windows – allowing the stainless steel tanks and fermenters to be viewed while patrons enjoy their brews. From the day that the pen hit the paper up until the day that the brewhouse was installed, the Pretoria team considered first and foremost the most efficient way to brew beer. Refrigerated storage, kegging and sanitation are all just as important as the brewhouse itself.

We have loved serving you pints and samplers of our four Field Series beers and hearing your response. During our grand opening week, we released our IPA and our Stout. Our IPA, affectionately named the “Shoalie” after the Shoal Bass found locally in our rivers, presents an immediate hop aroma of apricot, melon and tangerine. This medium-bodied beer comes in at 6% ABV and finishes with a mild hop bitterness – without being overwhelming. We appreciate our local hop heads telling us that we can throw in some more hop character, and our brewmaster plans to continue to develop the hop addition schedule while remaining true to its balance. Also on tap during our first week was our Walker Station Stout, named for the historical railway station that once sat adjacent to our farmlands. Our bartenders reported that customers who often shy away from stouts acknowledged that this chocolatey brew was an easy beer to enjoy. It’s dry finish means it doesn’t sit too heavy and the dark roasty malt character balances well with the light hop flavors.

Our next release was our Skywater Pale Ale. Coming in at 5.1% ABV, this beer has been the go-to for many of our regulars in the first month. Our goal was to bring you a light golden ale that still presents both significant hop and malt flavor. With additions of oat for a perceived creaminess, the Skywater pairs well with just about any food you’re consuming (although we may be partial to Mexican food with this pale ale!) Our last release in the Field Beer Series was our Gose – a traditional German beer that we brew using a kettle-souring technique. A what you say? Kettle-souring is a practice which incorporates bacteria – before the yeast – in the brewing recipe. The sugars from the grains are first allowed to ferment with a Lactobacillus culture which produces a slightly tart flavor, but is not allowed to continue developing this flavor beyond 24 hours. Once we heat the grain again, the souring process is immediately halted. This results in the refreshingly tangy flavor of the finished beer. With plenty of sugars left to ferment after the bacteria is halted, the yeast is then allowed to take over and complete the fermentation process. Our Flowing Well Gose will be offered year-round, while seasonal batches will be created with fruits from our organic farm. These seasonally inspired Gose’ will only be available in our tasting room, and so we invite you to come down to try them for yourself. Our first was a Berry Gose, created with strawberries and blackberries that we picked fresh on our farm and preserved just for this beer. It won’t last long – but the next one is sure to be delicious, as well.