July Recap

When you begin building a brewery, the sheer number of stars that must align is mind-blowing. Between coordinating the construction, the equipment, the permitting, and the un-ending smaller details, the scope of the project is huge! For this very reason, we have been guarded about setting a specific date for our grand opening. So many times, we have seen a brewery do just this only to have to postpone the big event. All it takes is one hiccup and the schedule can be easily derailed. However, we have finally crested the steepest part of the brewery's build, and we think, just maybe, the end is in sight.

If we had to call it right now, and please understand that we still have a great number of uncertainties, we think our doors will finally open later this September.

Brewhouse arrival day was such a huge milestone for us.

At this point, our equipment is nearly all on site; process piping has begun; and with any luck, we should be firing it all up and brewing next month. (After what is quickly becoming nearly three years of preparing, just typing that feels surreal!)

The brewery's outdoor areas have really come together! Streetscape improvements are almost completed, with new trees and sidewalks both in front of the brewery and along the light rail trail. The building has a fresh, new coat of barn-red paint, and in large areas where there was once asphalt, we have green-spaces for enjoying a fresh beer on those perfect Carolina afternoons. The patio will also be wrapped up soon, complete with pea-gravel, plantings and a shaded pergola. On the best days, a large retractable glass door will open to the taproom and allow a natural breeze and the flow traffic to move back and forth freely.

On the inside of the taproom, the space has transformed! Every day, the aesthetic of a dark, old auto garage has steadily disappeared, and in its place, we have created a space with lots of natural light, a prominent bar, and a very natural finish. A highlight is the large amount of North Carolina lumber that we bought from a Pittsboro family who had two of their trees locally milled and carefully stored over seven years ago. You can even see the lines on the boards from where they rested on their stacking spacers for so many seasons.



...and nearly there.  

...and nearly there.  

Please keep your fingers crossed for our timeline. Declaring an opening date, even loosely, is a risky proposition, and we do not want to disappoint. Every day we are fighting to open our doors as soon as possible, and if all goes as planned, we're nearly there!   

Things are moving fast and really coming together!

All systems are go with Sycamore at the moment. Construction is racing ahead, equipment is on the cusp of arrival, and new batches are steadily being brewed and refined.

The bar is framed up!

We'll replace all of our old steel doors with glass.

On the construction front, so much has happened in such a short amount of time. We have removed the old floors and re-poured them, complete with NC-made trench drains. Our cold storage box is nearly complete, and even though I knew a 16' tall box would be huge, there is nothing quite like seeing it in person! Walls have gone up, and the skeleton of the bar has been built. Our exterior bay door openings are being framed to allow for new glass walls and retractable glass doors. These will not only lead to the patio but also allow visibility into the production area from both sides of our building. Countless hours of tweaking plans and conceptualizing the layout has come to life! It is quite surreal.

Outside of our brewery, both the front and rear of the property have slowly begun to take shape. Along the light rail trail, as more and more asphalt is removed, the path from the trail to our building is coming together, as is our natural area for outdoor yoga and beers in the sun. In the front, we have poured a new sidewalk and, in the next few days, we will begin establishing our planting beds for trees. No new paint has gone up outside, but we aren't too far away from a fresh coat – a dramatic change that we're really looking forward to.

Prepping the Hawkins Street side of our property for sidewalk and trees.

We're removing asphalt at the rear of our property to allow access from the rail trail and for a green-space.

Here comes the equipment! Our first tank purchased was Triple C Brewing's old cold liquor tank, and I'd like to place this one on our production floor first, if for no other reason that symbolism. Then late next week, our first fermenters will ship, and shortly behind them, our brewhouse will arrive. Meanwhile, our boiler, chiller, and grain handling will all be delivered and the fun of assembling our process piping begins. We will finally begin to build the heart of the brewery, and I cannot wait!

Our brewhouse is coming together!

Made locally by North Carolinians.

As far as recipes go, we never really stop brewing. The last few batches have been a mix of sessionable Belgians and saisons, some gratuitously hoppy, experimental-hopped IPAs and our home-smoked ESB. The anticipation of sharing these beers really is our driving force. When we decided to start a brewery, the impetus was to make something that people would really enjoy, and thankfully, Sycamore is on the brink of pouring! In the meantime, we're really striving to make the best beers we can. Stay thirsty!

Smoking Malt

In preparation for brewing one of our favorite recipes this weekend -- our smoked ESB -- we decided to take things a step further in the DIY direction and give it a Carolina, backyard twist.  Instead of using our standard addition of cherrywood smoked malt, this batch will be brewed with barley we smoked ourselves, using freshly cut hickory.  

An ESB, or extra-special bitter, is a slightly more full bodied and robust English styled ale.  They carry more caramel malt sweetness and hoppiness than a standard bitter, with notes of toast, biscuit, and nuttiness in the background.  Basically, it is the perfect style for a light hint of smokiness.

After two courses of hickory smoke, the grain has definitely been infused, and the final results taste and smell delicious.  Hickory has given these few pounds a unique aromatic from your standard smoked malts, and our hope is that if ever there was a beer brewed to pair with grilling out and BBQ, this may be it.  

We'll keep you posted on the results, but in the meantime, please enjoy some pictures of the smoking itself.  Cheers!

Pruning is underway.

The best kind of yard work

Freshly chopped hickory in the smoke box

We used 2-row for our to-be-smoked malt

Rising to temperature

...and we have smoke!

A look at the grain during round one of smoking.

In order to infuse the malt, we frequently stirred the grain.

The final results are delicious and ready for brewing!

The final results are delicious and ready for brewing!

A Construction and Build-Out Update

The number one question we get these days is, "When will Sycamore Brewing officially open?"  

We removed the old concrete and cut down the mechanics'  service trenches to make way for our new sloped production floor and trench drains.

The good news is that all systems are still go for this summer.  In fact, if it fell completely on our timeline, we might have been able to open our doors next month.  The reality is, however, that there are other considerations somewhat outside of our control.  Navigating the permitting waters with the city and county is no joke, and has absolutely been our number one delay.  

Trenches have been cut to allow for new plumbing and our draught lines.

Thankfully, as of today, our plans are fully approved both for the building and our overall site! Now, with construction on the cusp of kicking into full swing, opening this summer still seems do-able.  Demo is behind us, and our building has been taken back to the exterior masonry walls.  The production area floor will be re-poured, complete with drainage.  Trenches have been cut to allow for process piping and plumbing.  Progress!

Our building was once a Ryder Truck Rentals garage, and we've managed to repurpose an old engine hoist beam as a header in our taproom.  This has allowed us to convert a simple doorway into a 10'x10' opening, to be completed with sliding barn doors by the time we open.  

An inscription on our floor.  "Through this door go the best RTR diesel mechanics, Amen." 1967 (Ryder truck Rentals)

Opening up our taproom with a repurposed engine hoist as the header.

On the equipment side of things, everything has been ordered and is scheduled for a near-term arrival.  Our local NC brewhouse is being fabricated; our NC glycol chiller is being constructed; and our NC boiler has been sourced.  (Notice a theme here?)

Our locally made 15 BBL brewhouse is currently being fabricated just up the road.

When Sarah and I thought about our tap line-up, it was important to us that we have a dynamic offering.  Our goal is to make the taproom a place that we will really enjoy having a few pints ourselves, and we're both very excited to be running 16 ever-changing draught lines, with a few other surprises in store.  We understand that it will take a while before we are able to fully flesh sixteen taps out, but we think the end result will be really exciting.  Variety is the spice of life, after all.

On another note, thank you as always to those of you who have been following our progress.  Seeing our stickers and t-shirts around town is amazing!  

A thank you is also in order for our South End neighbors, Triple C Brewing and The Unknown Brewing Co.  The camaraderie and help we have been shown is really special.  Thank you!