Hi everyone, Neil and Mark here....
It's been a few weeks since our last check-in. Time is really just flying by. Each day is a sprint. We have had four different teams working simultaneously at the brewery on various projects. We have had to make a ton of on the fly decisions on things each day. We're really flying at the seat of our pants. It sounds chaotic, but it's actually a lot of fun and really rewarding. Due to the chaos we just haven't had time to sit down, reflect on all this progress and share our victories. With that being said, let's get into it.
You probably have heard us talking about this floor since the day we launched the brand. The floors in a brewery are a crucial piece of the puzzle. It's quite complicated and if not done right, it could cause a ton of problems not only for us, but for our neighbors as well. We invested a lot of time and money into it and we couldn't be happier with how it came out.
The first step was designing the layout of the brewery. Each section of the brewery needed different specifications.
We needed to strategically place drains for our bathrooms, equipment behind our bar and most importantly, complex drainage in our production area. The floor was originally cut on St. Patrick's Day of 2022. This was just before our project came to a screeching halt due to issues completely outside our control.
Once the dust settled and the space was finally handed back over to us we picked up right where we left off.
Covered in our previous blog post, the team reinforced all the trenches, ran a series of electrical conduit feeding power to all parts of the brewery, pieced together the unground rough plumbing and prepped the floor for it's new pour.
There were two major reasons for pouring a new slab in the space. The first reason was due to the space being built with a five inch step down from the front door into our unit. Not sure why....but it wasn't ADA compliant so we had to make a decision. The decision was, either build an ugly ramp going through the middle of our taproom OR pour a new slab. Now, the whole concept of pouring a new slab for the whole unit may seem a bit of silly choice for most however, this brings us to the second reason why we made this decision. By pouring an entirely new slab, we had full control of running all the utilities we needed tailored to our design and most importantly we had full control over sloping the floors in the production area for proper drainage.
It was pretty incredible seeing the transformation of the floor itself. The day before cement trucks rolled down Washington St. we sat and watched the team set all of the forms on the floor. The next day would change the image of the space forever. We spent a year staring at any empty space with a bunch of trenches cut into it. It was time to close that chapter and finally move on. We were finally unstuck.
Our team of masons rigged up a series of slides to divert the cement from the cement truck to various sections of the brewery.
They put on their boots and started to rake in all the fresh cement. At the end of the day, we had a beautiful new floor with proper pitch. A few days later we walked the floor. You could feel the slopes in the floor through the soles of your shoes. It was now time to build a proper brewery on this new foundation.
Once the floor was cured, it was time to frame all the structures. While one set of guys were framing another team installed a loft above our brewhouse and prepped the production area for the equipment delivery.
The goal was to finish that side of the brewery so we can properly set our tanks in place. Waterproof FRP panels were installed on the walls of the production area, which would allow us to hose off any mess from the brewing process efficiently.
The floor in fermentation row as well as where the brewhouse would sit had a urethane concrete system installed. This special flooring treatment protects the floor from high water temperature shock as well as protection from the cleaning solutions we use to clean/sanitize our vessels.
We invested a lot of money into this floor and we wanted to protect it. This just wasn't a corner we were willing to cut in order to save a few bucks. The floor in the production area takes a beating. It needed to be properly protected.
Once framing passed inspection the team went right into finishes on the outside walls. The walls were painted, and the rock tile was installed on the outside of the bathroom which would be the backdrop for our mashtun. The production area was now fully prepped and ready to receive all the stainless steel that would occupy that space.
We ended up hiring a fantastic rigging company based in Edison, NJ. Our friends at Double Tap Brewing referred them to us as they helped them with their equipment install. This was one of the best decisions we made.
We have special fermentation tanks that stack on top of one another to save square footage. The team from Izzy Rigging orchestrated everything. They received all our equipment from Stout Tanks out in Portland, Oregon.
Once the equipment arrived at their warehouse in Edison, we went down to their space to uncrate and inspect everything.
We set the equipment delivery for Monday May 19th. It was an early morning for everyone, but totally worth it. We anxiously waited outside our brewery and watched the caravan roll down Washington St carrying our precious cargo. Everyone's face lit up once they pulled up front. The Izzy team pulled back the covering on their flatbed truck unveiling all our tanks. The stainless glistened in the morning sunshine. It was special. There were happy tears. There was a time that we honestly never thought we would see any of this stuff. Another Varitage milestone was about to be checked off the list.
The vessels fit right through our front door. We spent a lot of time debating on whether or not everything was going to fit. Luckily we didn't have to change anything on our entryway. The most challenging aspect of the equipment install was squeezing our glycol chiller unit on top of our new loft area above the brewhouse.
It JUST FIT. Thank God for Izzy Rigging. Once we got the chiller up there things moved quick. The tanks were staged on the sidewalk and put in place/stacked one by one. At the end of that Monday, we officially had what looked a lot like a brewery. These vessels will eventually be used to brew the first craft beer in Bloomfield, New Jersey.
Now that the tanks are in place and construction is winding down, we've been getting a lot of questions on opening day timelines. Truth be told, there's still a few more steps/hurdles we have to go through.
Construction should wind down over the next two-three weeks. We hit a delay with our cold box install, which is slowing us down a little bit. Once construction is complete, the town will come and perform final inspections and grant us our Certificate of Occupancy.
This piece of paper is crucial to our licensing process. A representative from the NJ ABC will come out and perform a final inspection once all our paper work, including our Certificate of Occupancy is submitted. This is the true wild card in determining the opening of Varitage. The inspection from the State could be scheduled in a week, in a month, in two months...let's cross all our fingers that its as soon as possible. This inspection holds a ton of weight because we can't start brewing until we pass our inspections and are issued our license from the State of New Jersey.
Then can you open? Nope....We have to brew all the beer first. It's going to take us some time to brew up enough product for our taproom. We want to take our time here. Quality is key. This is a brand new brewhouse we are working with. There will be some learning curves adjusting to the new equipment and dialing in our efficiencies. Once we have enough product that satifies our quality standards, we will then finally open the doors. We're not far off now. We're hesitant to pinpoint exact dates because building a brewery is so unpredictable. We can tell you that we're pushing as hard as we can for end of Summer. We'll see how everything shakes out.
BUILDING VARITAGE EPISODE 3
If you have been following Varitage since we launched, you are probably familiar with our mini docuseries, Building Varitage. Since day one we wanted to bring everyone along on this crazy ride. We teamed up with Brett from BKM Media to bring this docuseries to life.
It's been over a year since we launched episode two. A lot has obviously happened since then. We actually have been documenting all this work behind the scenes in anticipation of sharing it with all of you via the Building Varitage series. We shot the final footage of this episode last week and it's currently in production. This episode is going to be jam packed with behind the scenes footage and stories. We're really excited to share this one.
In the meantime, get caught up, get refreshed on the previous two episodes here.