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It’s been said that construction is equal parts planning and patience. As our new Mills River, NC, brewery gradually comes online, the process is maddeningly close to completion. We’re whittling down the impossibly long "to-do" list.
Our Beer Camp Across America festival in Mills River last month set a tough deadline for the dozens of crews working on the brewery. The festival marked the first time we invited guests (oh, just about 5,000 of them!) to see the brewery, and construction was at a feverish pace in the weeks beforehand. Since the party, our heads have remained down, and it’s paying off.
We’ve been making beer in Mills River for months, so now the work is focused on the experience—the finishing touches that make a visit to the brewery so much more than just a tour of a factory. These projects, while much smaller than others we’ve tackled, are in many ways more difficult. The crews completing them are craftsmen and experts in their fields; to watch them work is nearly magical. At the end of each day, one can look at a space, and by the next morning, it’s transformed into something completely different. Like Santa’s elves, the craftsmen labor long into the night adding beauty to formerly unfinished and semi-industrial spaces: sculpted wood reclaimed from the site, dramatic light effects and even green living walls.
One such craftsman is artist Ben Johnston who we’ve commissioned to do a "chalk" mural of the brewing process in the visitor lobby of the brewery. (In fact, it’s not chalk at all, but rather white wax pencils which give a similar look, but have much more staying power than actual chalk.) Ben is rendering different aspects of the brewing process on slate-black walls to give guests at the brewery a taste of what we do before they even walk through the main doors into the building.
Already we’re offering limited Hard Hat Tours for those who want to see the brewery as it comes together right before our eyes. Soon, though, most of the public spaces in the brewery will be finished and our tours will encompass so much more.
By January, we expect the Taproom and Restaurant to be completed, and in early 2015 the balance of the site work (hiking/biking trails, river access, and amphitheater) should be finished as well. It’s been a long time coming after years of hard work. At times, patience has been at a premium. Thankfully, the planning has paid off, and the results are truly exceptional.