No Dams Given: Albany’s Newest Podcast

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July 16, 2018

We are thrilled to announce that we will be working with The Levee Studios to produce a podcast titled No Damns Given.  Where does the name come from? Let us tell you… We first jotted this tagline down when we were in the early stages of designing our logo for Shoalie IPA. Our good friend Eric Belusko drew an awesome comic of a Shoal Bass blowing up a dam. The problems with dams for this species is that they eliminate rock shoals and riffles, which is where these bass love to ambush their prey. Although the drawing eventually turned into a beautiful image of a bass – we kept the phrase “No Dams Given” as part of the logo because frankly it’s a great pun.

Our podcast, however, is centered around current affairs and events in our community that we most definitely “give a dam” about. Our tasting room is often buzzing with conversation and some of the greatest – and most entertaining – discussions happen with a beer in hand. We decided to invite some of our community’s leaders over to hold conversation about what they are doing to create change and build a better Albany for future generations. We want to spread their message about what we should care about changing in our community, what we can do to help their cause, and to put it in simple terms… why we should “give a dam.”

Once our podcast is edited, we will release the audio segments here on our website. If you have someone in mind who is a mover and shaker and would contribute to the theme of bettering Albany: please send your suggestion to jharris@pretoriafields.com!

 

Independence in the Brewing Industry

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July 10, 2018

This Independence Day, we want to highlight something that we are very proud of: The Independent Craft Brewer’s Seal. “In an effort to educate beer lovers about which beers are independently produced, the Brewers Association—the not-for-profit trade group dedicated to promoting and protecting America’s small and independent craft brewers—launched a new seal touting independent craft brewers.” (brewersassociation.com) So what exactly does all of that mean? And why should we care as consumers?

Before Prohibition, our country’s landscape of breweries was very different than it is today. To start the conversation, the supply chain was extremely limited and ingredients were far more regionally sourced. On the other side of the supply and demand comparison, the sales territory was also far more localized. As more Europeans immigrated to the United States, the beer market grew (even beyond the spirits market in sales) and small, local producers were supported by their communities. (Another fascinating rabbit hole to go down is the relationship that local brewers developed with Saloon owners, forming the first exclusivity contracts in the US’s brewing industry.) Eventually, the technological changes – namely the railroad, telegraph, and mechanical refrigeration – enabled the growth of “shipping brewers” with capabilities to produce greater volumes and achieve wider distribution than ever before. The first of these being Pabst in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, Missouri.

Naturally, the Prohibition period negatively impacted – note that I didn’t say ended – beer consumption. Today, historians estimate that beer consumption dropped as much as 50% during these 13 years, but certainly not entirely. Speakeasies and underground connections kept beer brewing in the country, but it was certainly a detriment to the growing popularity of beer.

Fast forward to 1933 when Good Ole’ FDR signed the Cullen–Harrison Act in March, allowing the manufacturing and sales of 3.2% beer (3.2% alcohol by weight, approximately 4% alcohol by volume) – and then later in December, repealed the Eighteenth Amendment with ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment. But, before the American beer industry could attempt to re-establish itself, World War II began. This further inhibited the re-emergence of smaller breweries because much of the grain supply was rationed due to the war, forcing the breweries to use adjuncts such as corn and rice alongside the barley traditionally used in brewing. By the 1970s, consolidation and dominance by the country’s major brewers led to the fewest number of breweries in the country’s modern history. Despite this, the period also saw the beginnings of the country’s current craft beer movement. In 1976, optical engineer and homebrewer Jack McAuliffe founded New Albion Brewing Company in Sonoma County, California, becoming the nation’s first microbrewery since Prohibition. New Albion ignited an interest in craft beer and set a precedent for a generation of craft brewers, including Ken Grossman and the owners of Mendocino Brewing Company, the nation’s first brewpub. By March 1986, five brewpubs had opened in the United States. The total number of breweries rose from 42 in 1978 to over 2,750 in 2012, reaching or exceeding the number of breweries estimated to have existed during the colonial period. Virtually all of this growth is attributable to small, independent breweries. (wikipedia) 

So, if you’re still with me, you know that our beer industry is what it is today because of the small guys. The creativity, the pursuit of ecological advances, the community involvement – these are all things that Independent Craft Brewers bring to the table. Larger producers haven’t had the opportunity to experiment with styles and push the envelope of style standards like the craft brewers have. As the craft brewers began to take a larger slice of the market, the mega-corporations began to notice. In the past 10 years – and especially in the past 5 years – the giants have been doing their best to blur the lines of craft and corp. The Craft Brewer’s Associate has rallied together more than ever in recent years to defend the name of Craft. The Independent Brewer’s Seal is one of these tools: as you must be a registered Craft Brewer to use it on any of your collateral. Requirements to being a Craft Brewer:

  • Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less
  • Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled or equivalent economic interest by a beverage alcohol industry member which is not itself a craft brewer.)
  • a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavors derive from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored Malt Beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.

 

Choose Craft to support Independent Brewers!

New equipment to meet market demand!

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June 15, 2018

After our first 6 months of being open and distributing kegs throughout South Georgia, we are humbled and grateful for the incredible support that we have received. We have tons of gratitude to the entire team at United Distributors who have been representing our brand to their accounts. We knew that our brewmaster, Eric Kirchner, had designed and crafted some incredible craft beer, but you just don’t know how the market is going to respond until pints are being poured throughout the region. Our sales haven’t slowed down yet, and we’ve received requests from all over the state of GA and even outside of our state to get our beers into new taps. And so, it was inevitable that we brought in a few more fermentation tanks and another brite tank to make sure we could get Pretoria brews to the people asking for them! 

In addition to more fermentation vessels, part of our plan for our year open included the move into canning. After hours of research, we decided that a Wild Goose Canning line was our dream machine. Once we contacted their company and learned that there was an opportunity to purchase the system that would be set up for display at the Craft Brewer’s Conference in Nashville, TN, we decided the stars were aligned.

In addition to the canning line equipment, we needed a specialty de-palletizer which would feed the empty cans into the system. SKA Fabricating has ingeniously designed a great machine which works efficiently with our Wild Goose Equipment, and so we scheduled technicians from both of these companies to join us at Pretoria Fields the first week of June to get it all up and running. For our first run, we decided that we should start with Skywater as it is the perfect beer to take along for a hike or trip to the shore. On June 6, the first cans of Pretoria Fields beer were filled, sealed and packaged.

Update: Check out the local coverage in the Albany Herald here!

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!