I’ve always wondered what the secret is to creating a successful brewery.
I know I can’t speak for everyone that brews their own beer as to why they do it. Having said that, I’m willing to bet more than half of us do it for the creative “let’s see what happens when I do this” aspect. There are so many variables that have an affect on the final outcome of a beer, it’s almost mind boggling. But that’s what makes it so cool right?
Before brewing anything for my new employer, one of the variables that I wanted to get right was the selection of the yeast strains. After doing a lot of research and with the help of the gentlemen at the Brewing Science Institute in Colorado, I was able to get samples sent to me that had the characteristics I was looking for.
Once those arrived, I was able to brew 3 pilot batches in recent weeks for Prospectors Brewing Co. on my homebrew setup. I can’t tell you how many times I have revised and looked at my own recipes, compared them to others, tweaked them again, brewed the beer, tasted it, tweaked it again, etc. I even made the ultimate bone-head move and walked away during the transfer from the kettle to the fermenter.... with the sample port valve open. Yeah, that was a good one. Lost about 70% of that batch and had to brew it again the next day. Talk about a buzz kill!
All in all, I was very pleased with how the Blonde Ale came out. The Wit turned out to have a fairly low O.G. and then it foamed like mad out of the keg, so that was a bit of a disappointment. I’m convinced my homebrew supplier changed their mill setting on me, but that doesn’t explain the foaming. I’ve got the all important IPA in secondary right now, so the jury is still out on that. Being on the west coast, you know that has to be a legit offering.
Not only have I been able to brew at home, but I was able to get some more hands on experience, thanks to my friend Dave Meadows at the El Cajon Brewing Company. I met Dave at my time with the Firehouse and since it’s closure he has been working on getting his own brewpub going with his brother Steve. I’ve gotten to help him with 2 batches so far and I’m hoping to continue do so even after they open in the next couple weeks. Free labor + experience = Free beer and food for Justin! Hard to turn that down.
I also made a 3 day trip up north to try and make some headway on prepping the soon to be old location for an eventual move to a new location. Speaking of that, I think we are getting close to knowing if this is really going to pan out or not. We’ve got a potential location for production and one for a taproom that are about 50 yards from each other on the highway leading into Yosemite National Park and Bass Lake. Now we are going through the process of getting our plan for the locations approved by the county and estimating the costs for getting them ready for business. A meeting with the county officials is being scheduled as I write this to determine what needs to be done to meet their requirements. It will likely determine whether we can get this project off the ground or if the partners involved decide to just sell the assets. By this time next month, I should know if there truly is a light at the end of this tunnel, or if it’s time to change trains.
I think most brewers would agree, a beer’s life begins the moment the yeast are finished with fermentation.
[In the September 2011 issue of BYO, we published a story on new malts. As part of that story (on page 39), I wrote a sidebar on barley farming and malt prices. This is an extended version of that sidebar. ]
If you’ve only noticed one thing about malt in the past few years, the thing you’ve likely noticed is that it is a lot more expensive than it used to be. To find out the the reason for this, plus ask for an outlook on malting for the near future, I talked to Dave Kuske, Director of Malting Operations at Briess Malt and Ingredients.
Kuske explained that barley prices were very volatile right now as a number of factors were contributing to a steady drop in worldwide barley production. But, it wasn’t always that way.
The Good Old Days...
We’ve been spending a lot of time lately scrubbing some used kegs we bought.