As detailed in the wonderful books of deceased Irishman Patrick O’Brian, it wasn’t a completely unusual part of the average British tar’s workday to undertake, in a great big Busby Berkeley sort of choreographed burst, the complete overhaul and camouflaging of one of Her Majesty’s ships while at sea and sailing. Maybe you had the good sense to see the feature film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (starring Russell Crow and Paul Bettany, directed by Peter Weir), which is based on the great author’s work and which includes a montage of the HMS Surprise, in fact a dangerous frigate, disguising herself as a wounded Dutch whaler in order to ensnare a powerful French ship-of-the-line: look at the men draped on rope ladders over the side, painting the hull anew; look at what labor it is to tuck away the cold tons of cannon; look at the officers chuck their hats and cover their pips, the false colors set reeling up the mast. Here’s the conceit: the French Broad Brewery, right now, is the HMS Surprise, the first several phases of the battle are finished, we’ve arrived at a heroic moment with all poised in the balance, we are up to our ears in work, the prize is in sight and the paint isn’t hardly dry.
We are not exactly Busby Berkeley-caliber, of course. If Chris Farley went into choreography…maybe that. And while our lines are bluff and our sails trim, we’re not quite up to Her Majesty’s bar either. Merchant Marine, maybe. Mc’what’s-his-name’s Navy, is more like it.
All the above italicized I wrote back on June 13, like a man ejected from a submarine popping through the border of the sea and sucking air. We’d been invited into a maelstrom of change by whatever pantheon of yeastbearded gods arranges the fates of craft breweries. (And by gods I am probably alluding–poor me, little mortal–to some VC, some so-called “angel”, a remote billionaire who’d through some more or less random process cottoned on to our little operation and, easy as opening a wallet, altered our lives.) Chris Richards, who’d captained our ship five someodd years, graduated half an hour south to Sierra Nevada; his first lieutenant Aaron Wilson was given a well-deserved battlefield promotion; Alex Chambers (who may or may not bear a striking resemblance to Nikolai Tesla–I don’t know, but it seems likely) was brought on full time from Asheville Home Brew Supply to the brewhouse; Shannon of the Warehouse (Man of Many Names…Domino, Sluggo, Baby Girl, etc.) exited stage right, in his wake a whooshing vacuum we occupied toot sweet with Wes Barnes, lately of Riverside Drive’s sortofsprawling All Fun Gifts (the headshop supplier and one of Asheville’s fastest budding home grown industries, ahem), all while learning how to use our canning line, the Very Expensive machine from Canada whose functionality at a critical moment depends entirely on a rubber band. A rubber band.
Well, now things are even more fun. Land of the Sky Mobile Canning is sharing our new capacious warehouse space with us and we’re nearing a record year. We’ve largely tamed the beast of Mondays (Mondays we go a’canning). We’ve instituted a calendar-dated bottle-tasting regimen as sure to improve our brewnomics as to tipsy up our mornings. Farmers of all stripes (cows, chickens, goats, vegetables) are hauling in and out of here daily, their trucks laden with spent, steaming grain. And there’s a brand new enormous shattered concrete divot in the back for us to get the forklift stuck in all the time. Fun!
The world out there today is gray and a little rainy and cold. Perfect weather for a pint! A Porter sounds good about now, doesn’t it? Or maybe a spot of barleywine, now well past a year since its “Born-On” date. As the saying goes, “Barleywine: it’s Not Just a River in Middlearth.”
Anyway. I love you. Have a nice day. Come in and stay awhile. Cheers!
P.S. Of course I meant Brandywine, not Barleywine. As the saying goes: “Barleywine: It was Never a River in Middlearth.”