Shovel Snow, Beer, Shovel Snow, Beer

The day before Valentines Day the family and I packed up and took off for the mountains of Nellysford, Va. Since we did not leave the house till later in the evening we stopped at our friends house in the Hampton Roads area of Va. They were kind enough to offer us a place to crash. And since it was their house we were headed for in the mountains, we simply followed them the next morning. We arrived around midnight Thursday and woke up a little after 4am the following morning in order to hopefully miss the traffic.

A large snow storm had moved through our destination area the day before. I had seen all the reports of large accumulations but was not concerned. After all, its the mountains. This is not anything new to these folks. We didn't see the first bit of snow till after the Richmond, Va area. And it quickly went from a patch here and there to being measured in feet. Roads were clear though and we continued to roll. Temperatures were also in the low to mid 50's. It was quite surreal to be walking around in a t-shirt with snow everywhere.

So we got to the town of Nellysford and decided to head to the house first to drop off our stuff and then head back to one of the many breweries. The 3rd picture below shows what we were greeted with. That's actually after the initial part of the road was cleared. Its worth mentioning that both our car and our friends large Jeep became stuck on the initial attempt to enter the area. Both cars bottomed out. We were lucky enough to do it sooner in our Subaru and were able to just back down the large hill. Unfortunately our friends were much further up the mountain and needed some shoveling. There were areas of snow around them that were waist deep. Needless to say lots of shoveling was done. Mostly by our friend. Long story short, he freed himself and we took off for Blue Mountain Brewery to wait until the plows could make it through.

Blue Mountain Brewery (pics 4-6) is a great place. Beer and food were really good, prices were very fair, and the setting was great. Not to mention the staff which was very sympathetic to our plight. It's not a small place but not too big either. The view of the mountains across the valley is incredible. The hop garden is located just outside the windows. After spending quite a while at BMB we decided it was time to check the road again.

This time we pulled up and there was the plow, just starting to clear the road. It was clearly going to be a while. A lot of road and 3ft of snow will do that. What to do what to do? Lets go to Wild Wolf Brewing (pics 7-10). Great idea! This brewery is located on 10 acres of land. There is an everything store and also a homebrew supply store located on the property as well as the brewery and restaurant. For our initial visit we had a flight or two and some appetizers to help pass the time. The kids played outside in the snow while the air temp hovered around 56 degrees. The food was great and the beer was good. It was probably my least favorite drinks of the places we visited, but still was by no means bad. And the kids enjoyed themselves here more than anywhere else. We also took a tour of the brewery on our way out of town. Nice people and a great vibe.

After leaving Wild Wolf we made our way to the road again. This time we found it cleared almost all the way to the driveway of the house. After a brief wait, the plow made its way past the house thus clearing a path to the driveway. Myself and our friend shoveled a path up the driveway to the house. This was not easy. As you can see in the last picture below, it was a long steep driveway. After the shoveling and sweating were done, it was time to haul the luggage and children up the mtn, I mean driveway. I'm happy to say that my heart did not explode, although I think it was close. But after a few trips up and down, you got use to it. It all added to a really fun time and great memories. We had a fun night and got some sleep so we could tackle the next day.

The Mrs. and I awoke the next morning to heavy snow falling outside (pic 3). This was a surprise. Beautiful to watch, and not a lot of accumulation. So no harm done. Our friends made a very nice breakfast for all of us. We spent some time outside playing in the snow and sledding. This is the kind of snow that you wont see many times. We wanted the kids to enjoy it, and they did. After a few hours we made our way to Afton Mountain Vineyards (pics 11-13). I'm not the biggest wine drinker, but the setting alone is enough reason to visit this place. It's a beautiful place. It's surrounded by mountains and there isn't a bad view from anywhere. This was just a brief stop so our friends could pick up a gift.

Next up on the trip was Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery. This was a unique place. They make fruit wines and meads. And it was some of the best stuff I've had in a while. They had a tasting which was paired with different foods. Some of their stuff was incredible. We walked out of there with a number of bottles of a few different things. Some did not survive the night. But we did manage to make it back to MD with a few. I cannot say enough good things about this place. if you are in the area make sure you pay them a visit. Beautiful setting just like most places in and around Nellysford.

Our last stop of the day was at Devils Backbone Brewing Company (pics 14-15). These are the big boys in the area. They opened back in 1996 and have seen rapid growth. Especially in the last few years. They are expanding their distribution area all the time. Their brews reached our area on the Eastern Shore a little less than a year ago. The beers that are sold in our area are ok. Nothing special. But I knew that by visiting their "basecamp", we would be able to sample brews that we cannot get around here. So we of course ordered flights of everything. There wasn't a bad one in the bunch. And there were a few standouts. My favorite was the Dead Bear Imperial Stout. Incredible beer. A very easy drinking smooth stout. Definitely a taste of chocolate and a bit of coffee. It comes in around 8.5%. I ended up settling on it and proceeded to have a few. We all had a blast here. For such a big establishment this place had the friendliest staff. They went out of their way to stop, talk, and interact with the kids. Making them feel right at home. I cannot recommend this place enough. If you are in the area, stop by for incredible food and drinks.

We had an amazing time on our trip. It was far too short. We cant thank our friends enough for the invitation. They are incredible people. And have the cutest little guy you've ever seen. Our children have been talking about the trip since the moment we returned home. Even drawing pictures of the house and all the breweries. Daddy's little brew masters. There is just a certain peace and comfort that comes with the mountains. Something our family enjoys immensely. Add great friends and great brews to the mix and you have an amazing weekend. Hope to do it again soon. CHEERS!

Brewery Vacation

Atomic Donkey staff will be braving the worst snow storm since, well, the last snow storm in order to visit 3 different establishments this weekend and picking the brains of all those that will allow us to. We will be looking for advice, ideas, etc.. Anything that can help. And of course we may try a few samples as well. :) We will report back with pictures and a write up of what we learned. The 3 we will be visiting are listed below. Follow the links and check them out. Cheers!!

Devils Backbone Brewing

Blue Mountain Brewery

Wild Wolf Brewing Company

Galaxy IPA Day

Yesterday was another brew day at the Crooked Oak facility. This time we got to brew on a very nice Blichmann burner. This thing was great. Very nice even flame that heats the entire bottom surface of the kettle. A faster and more effect heating experience. Thanks to our friend Gary for the loaner. The brew day itself went off without any issues. Started around 9:30 to 10am this time around. Believe flame out was around 2:30 or so. Time flies when you're drinking and making good beer. OG was 1.062. The recipe is already listed under the recipe tab. That was for a 5 gallon batch so just double the amounts. I did however up the hops just a bit. Went with a few more ounces of Galaxy for the dry hop. Pictures are below. The final picture was this same brew last spring. This one should come out just about the same. We added just a touch more grain in hopes of bumping the abv up just slightly. Cant wait for this to be done. Galaxy hops are incredible. The taste and aroma are second to none in my opinion.

We are taking this weekend off and then right back to it the following weekend with the second coming of our black RyePA. Another favorite of ours.

Next step in our brewery startup should be complete this week. Will keep you up to date as things happen. CHEERS!

Website and Email

Last night we took a small yet important step towards our dream of opening a commercial brewery. It's very minor, but exciting to us. The website now belongs to us. It was important to get this address before someone else did. Goal 1 accomplished. Obviously the site itself will be further down the road. For now, it will redirect you to this blog.

Also, all brewing and brewing/beer related email will now be sent from And if you have any questions, please send to that address.

Next up on the agenda is our LLC. Will keep you all up to date. CHEERS!

Exciting Developments and a Big Thank You

Things are happening right now. I don't want to jump the gun so I wont say exactly what they are. But some smaller aspects will be happening as early as tonight. I will update as things occur. Stay tuned friends. And thank you from the bottom of my heart for visiting the blog and being overall supportive. The craft brewing community in unbelievable. I've never owned a business and therefore have not dealt with people on that level in other fields. But I have heard the stories of kindness and generosity from brewery owners, brewers, etc.. There is no other community like it. And I am happy to be a part of it. Learning everyday from so many others. Always learning.

The biggest thank yous go out to my beautiful wife and Doug Griffin of Xtreme Brewing. My wife is the reason I brew. Brewing was her idea. She thought I should give it a try. I don't think she knew, and I certainly didn't, that it would turn into what it has. But she has been supportive in every aspect from day one. And she has kept me level headed those times that I dropped a foreign object in fresh wort or blew lids of fermenters. She didn't kick my arse when my double chocolate stout hit the ceiling of the dining room during a vigorous fermentation. If not for her I would have given up after a bad batch years ago.

Doug Griffin is the mad scientist behind so many home brewing addictions. The man makes incredible beer and is an encyclopedia of knowledge. The author of The Complete Joy of Homebrewing coined the now popular saying, Relax, Don't worry have a homebrew. They are perfect words to lice by and I have learned to finally do so. But my favorite brewing related phrase comes from Doug. And I cant tell you how many times I've heard it now. Now matter the problem, now matter how screwed you might think your latest batch is, you are guaranteed these priceless words of wisdom. "Don't worry, its just beer". My wife is the reason I got into brewing, but Doug and his beautiful wife Patty are the ones that made me fall in love with it. Can't thank them and the incredible staff of Xtreme Brewing enough. I will always be grateful.

There is no telling where this latest adventure will take Atomic Donkey Brewing. We are happy as can be with how things are right now. Always having fun and loving what we do. But a new adventure is very welcome and we cannot wait to see where this goes. CHEERS Friends!