It’s hard to believe that we are here. Ten years ago, it was dream, seven years ago, a topic of regularity, “a must- do”. Yet, as it goes in the brewing world, other large projects (a-hem new bottle-line, new cellar) kept diverting focus and cash. And, oh yeah, in those years we kept growing as a business – so just making a lot of beer kept us all pretty busy.
It was in the late summer of 2014 that Brian Faivre, our Brewster of Operations, really put some meat on the wishbone. Through multiple meetings and debates, he led us through vision and scope, defining what the pilot brewery would and wouldn’t do. We ended up in a very different place than we had originally envisioned- but the system is incredibly flexible and unique to our processes and the beer styles we make. We designed a 2.5 hL system, that split after the pre -run tank into 2 kettles, 2 whirlpools and 2 cooling systems. This allows us to test the same wort stream under different hopping regimes and fermentation profiles.
After shopping our requirements around the world, we landed in Germany in the tiny town of Schroebenhausen to work with Esau & Hueber. Our tradition to use mainly whole hop cones created some unique challenges, such as how to boil hops for flow testing during the Factory Acceptance Testing:
The trip was a big success though, and we left with confidence that a great system was heading our way.
Installing a pilot system of this size needed a lot of space, and our barrel program had to relocate to a new space in the warehouse to make room under Cellar 3 (the tanks you see out front as you drive by our main brewery):
While we had a good amount of floor space, there was a lot of legacy piping and wiring overhead to work around, while running a slew of new services and utilities to the (9) new skids and (5) pieces of support equipment. To ensure all the gazinzas and gazoutzas lined up as efficiently and elegantly as possible required 3D modeling. We used the affordable and user-friendly Sketchup modeling software to explore routing options and issue field drawings for construction.
Several months later, and untold hours piping, wiring, testing, and commissioning our system envisioned years ago has become a reality.
So here we are- this week at brew # 35 (It’s a secret beer that could see a shelf near you). We are so excited to be able to execute a much higher number of tests for beers we are developing without pub schedule constraints or tears over dumped beer. With the close proximity of the brewery to the rest of production we can pull from nearly every wort stream, fermentation batch or bright beer batch and tweak as needed.
The pub brewers are stoked to have more creative and event opportunities. The brewers are getting their names drawn from BINGO wheel to get a whirl in the pilot brewery to brew whatever creative whim they desire, and we as a whole are thrilled to have a very nice system that can contribute to research for the greater good of the craft beer community.
Written by Brewmaster, Veronica Vega, and Project Manager, David Gawlowski