A Near Spill

A few more days without power and Port City Brewing would’ve had to change its name to SkunkWorks. As the Washington Post reported earlier, in the aftermath of the de recho storm, the start-up beermaker was in a race against time and temperature.

“It should be around 50 degrees,” [owner Bill Butcher] said Monday morning after a long weekend without power in the midst of a relentless heat wave.

“It’s around 62 right now,” [head brewer Jonathan Reeves] said.

The two men were racing against the thermometer to preserve the contents of the 1,860-gallon stainless steel tank, which (they hope) will be bottled as Downright Pilsner.

“If we have to drop the tank, it’s about $20,000,” Butcher said. “As a start-up business, every dollar in sales is critical. We don’t have any margin for error. This is a crisis situation.”

Lucky for them, electricity came on just in time. As the DelRayPatch noted last Friday, “Butcher said the company was able to rent a generator to keep its ‘critical systems’ operational and keep tanks containing beer temperature-controlled. All other aspects of the business, such as the tasting room, were shut down until Thursday.”

But won’t that temporary fluctuation in temperature from 50 degrees to 62 degrees affect the flavor?

UPDATE 2:18 p.m.: Port City founder Bill Butcher has issued this open letter that does address the higher-temperature at which some of the beer has been fermented (courtesy of HeatherFreeman.com):

July 9, 2012

An Open Letter to the D.C. Beer Community:

Last Friday’s freak storm caught the entire D.C. area by surprise. The destruction that the unexpected derecho caused is astounding. As I write this, there are still people without electricity, and our thoughts are with them as the region continues to recover.

Our power was out for five days at the brewery, and our production has been completely shut down during this time. We have been unable to brew, package, or ship any beer to market. We were fortunate to find a generator to supply enough power to run our critical systems to try to keep our 13,000 gallons of beer from spoiling.

All of us at Port City Brewing Company were absolutely amazed by the community’s response to our plight. The support from the D.C. Beer community has been unbelievable. We received messages of support and offers of help from all over. Our fellow brewers, our restaurant and retail customers, and many beer drinkers contacted us to ask how they could help us to save the beer.

The willingness to step up and help a neighbor is what defines a community. We found in a very real way that D.C. Beer community is strong and supportive of each other, and we will always be grateful for this. We are truly honored and humbled by the response, and we’ll always remember the support that everyone has shown us.

We have a long way to go to get our brewery back to normal operations. It will take weeks to get caught up with production, and unfortunately, there will be ongoing out of stocks in the market as we try to recover. We appreciate your patience as we work to catch up.

Many have asked us if we were able to “save the beer.” We continue to monitor the beer very closely, and we test and taste it daily. Five of our six tanks appear to be just fine. The 6th tank is a 60-barrel batch of lager beer that fermented at a higher temperature than we intended.

There is a beer style that developed in San Francisco called steam beer, or California Common beer. It is a beer made with lager yeast and fermented at higher temperatures like an ale. This is exactly what happened to this 60-barrel tank of our beer.

As a result, this storm has given us Derecho Common beer.

We will release the limited Derecho Common beer in early August. It will be draft only, and will be limited to about 120 kegs, which will be sold only to bars and restaurants in the D.C. Metro area.

Thank you for your continued support.


Bill Butcher
Port City Brewing Company

One thought on “A Near Spill”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *