So if any of you have talked with me personally about GrassLands Brewery, you've no doubt heard me talk (on end) about making the journey toward the brewery's ultimate launch as interactive and personable as possible. When I made the decision to embark down this specific path of my life, I told myself that I want to do it right. To me, that means being as methodical as possible and not rushing just for the sake of reaching an end goal. A brewer once said: "Your beer is going to sell in 6 months anyways, so you might as well ensure you've got everything taken care of on your end beforehand." Wise words. Back to the interactivity part - in the months (or *gasp!*...years) leading up to GrassLands' launch, I want to involve the Brewery's future patrons in as much of the process as possible.
That means you.
I want you to be there for brewing parties, tasting events, pairing dinners, tasting events, education seminars, tasting events and tasting events. Did I mention tasting? You will have input in many of GrassLands' final products - isn't that an awesome thought? Years from now, when you notice a buddy ordering a Daisy Pusher Pale Ale, you can tell them you helped make that beer become as good as it is - even though s/he probably won't believe you. But you'll know, and that's all that really matters, right?
With that said, I've recently been considering the appearance of my current setup - while efficient in its capacity to brew great beer, it doesn't really turn heads. In fact, any double-takes its way are most likely due to its rugged features. Old Red (below) is a propane-fired, gravity-fed tier system with two beat up 15.5 gallon kegs and one 12 gallon cooler (mash tun).
Like I said, it's a good gravity system, but presentable? Cost effective? Quiet, even? I might be able to do better. Lately, I've been intrigued by the idea of electric brewing (yes, we've finally come full circle from the ridiculous title of this post). Brewing with electricity (rather than propane or natural gas) is much more cost effective and much more repeatable (meaning, achieving the same results from batch to batch to batch). For example, it typically takes nearly half a propane tank to brew a high gravity beer - that can add up after time...while the amount of electricity used during an electric-brewed batch is akin to running one load of clothes in your washer and dryer.
Electric systems use low-density/high wattage elements (pictured below) to heat your wort from the inside out, rather from the outside in (propane/natural gas). If you've got a GFCI setup at home, they're much safer than burning and you can brew any time (save for a power outage - what's the cost of a commercial generator, anyways?) Also, you don't have to talk to your brewing assistants like you're at a Metallica concert. Propane/natural gas burners, when cranked full bore, sound like jet engines. Electric brewing is fairly quiet by comparison.
I've been researching and researching and researching over the past few months on what it would take to have a system using a Blichmann Top Tier setup like this below (and yes, I know it's a burner setup, mine would just have shelving instead):
I've found that it isn't a crazy idea! In the next few months, I might be changing things around to build an E-HERMS (Electric Heat Exchange Recirculating Infusion Mash System) brewing system. HERMS setups are great in that you can accurately maintain all your temps (Water, Mash, Boil) throughout the course of your brewday. HERMS setups have their limitations, but I've noticed that for those who've jumped into the HERMS-style of brewing, few have jumped out, so to speak.
For any of my fellow (home)brewers reading (Hello, is this thing on?), can you imagine a Blichmann Top Tier with a Blichmann 15 gallon hot water kettle, a 15 gallon Blichmann Mash Tun and a 20 gallon Blichmann boil kettle with a Ranco controller w/heatsink, two March 809 pumps and a Blichmann Therminator - all maintained by an electric control board? I know the rest of you may have just read "Bla bla bla bla bla Blichmann bla bla bla", but I can assure you that homebrewers might go ga ga over the sight of such a creation. I know I would.
So yeah, we'll see if this idea pans out. I'd sure like it to. Hey, it'll all be for you and your GrassLands pre-launch experience(s); I promise.
Other updates: Ethereal Earth Belgian Strong Ale & (what I'm now calling) the Heavy Hefe have been bottled. At 9.3% ABV & 7.1% ABV respectively, these suckers will have you smiling in no time. Pictures soon!