It's no secret that we've started brewing - unless it was up until now - but we don't want to keep it that way!
I cannot tell you how rewarding the past two weeks have been. I really can't. To try to put our feelings into words is extremely difficult, but I'll do my best - this coming from a former wordsmith, no less.
I'll start with the wait. It's ironic, that the brewing process itself is a bunch of hurrying & scurrying around, then a bunch of waiting. The average brew session, as you know by now, takes anywhere between 6-9 hours depending on how efficient one is with his time (or his team's time). Then comes the wait - which sucks. In many ways, the impatient homebrewing spirit has never left me...perhaps it never will. One can only keep brewing so that there's always something to be done. Well, equate that to the long, arduous process we went through to get to this point. Lots of hurrying & scurrying, only to be forced to wait and wait. Honestly, I really felt for our staff...those that have been with us since the beginning and those who have yet to be hired - waiting for us to finally get to brewing - answering our increasingly excited patrons' questions about our timeline. Now we get to change the messaging, finally!
With that said, we've brewed 10 batches in just over two weeks! At around 5 kegs production per batch, we're nowhere near where we want to be in terms of amount, but it's a good start...a good transition into becoming brewing professionals. We're dialing in our pilot system and getting more efficient with each & every brewing session. We've been blessed with an awesome team that will surely grow in the coming months; perhaps faster than we originally anticipated. After 10 batches, we're still learning how to get better. In fact, here's a couple lessons learned 50 kegs worth in:
- Time management is tough when you're brewing. No joke, time is a precious thing that we tend to take for granted. The saying "there aren't enough hours in the day" is legit. We started at around 12 hours in the first couple batches and we've systematically begun reducing that load bit by bit. We're down to a much more manageable 7.5 hours per batch, which will help us streamline multiple batches in a day, if we have any desire to do so. Regardless, it's extremely difficult to remember to do any of the other 8 million tasks needed to be done around the brewery - let alone remember to take a breather & eat something every now & then...at a minimum, drink water. It's effing hot in our brewery warehouse.
- Full-time brewer or janitor? No offense to the custodians of the world, but we're now well-versed in the overlooked art of keeping a 4,000 square foot piece of concrete, metal and FRP clean. It's a daily struggle - in order to produce consistently high-quality beer, we need to maintain a consistently high-quality (and clean) workspace. That means not just the brewing station, but the cold-room, the floors, the walls, the fermenters, the ingredients, ourselves, etc. - the list goes on & on. We knew it going in, but it's still a PITA. I always tell people, if you like cleaning, you'll love brewing. That certainly hasn't changed. If you don't like cleaning...well, that doesn't really matter.
- My (and my team's) homebrewing days are well behind us. 2.5 barrels isn't exactly 15 or 20 or 50 or 100, but it's still a far-cry from 5, 10 or 15 gallons production. The sheer increase in wort volume is a huge adjustment. Minor flaws aren't necessarily realized at those levels - but they certainly are when your avg. production is 75+ gallons. Taking care of the four main ingredients of beer (water, malted barley, hops and yeast) has never ever been more important. It's been amazing to utlize the level of knowledge on brewing/water chemistry that my team has at its disposal. Knowing our city's water profile, what effect(s) certain malts have on it, and how it reacts when pushed to certain levels has made a huge impact on the quality of our production so far.
- Full-time brewer or engineer? In addition to full-time custodial work, we've also had to become engineers on the fly; mechanical, electrical, you name it. When something breaks and you're on a tight budget - who do you think is responsible for its fixing? You guessed it right, us. Wouldn't it be nice if things were just plug & play? Nope, that's a dreamworld. The reality is that things break or malfunction all the time. Given that we're getting much more efficient on time, I'd say that's a great indication of our grasp of on-the-fly engineering. That and it's awesome to know awesome people who selflessly help you out. You know who you are - we can't say enough about how much of an impact you've made and continue to make on our beer production.
- This is exciting stuff, folks. As the step count continue to increase (as of now, I've walked an unbelievable 106+ miles since we brewed our first batch on July 31st - and most of it has been on site at GrassLands), we're all smiles despite the fatigue. It's certainly rewarding to see the evidence of our production growing in the cold-room - but to see the growing levels of excitement in our patrons' faces when we tell them we're a mere couple of weeks away from serving our own beer on tap (some much sooner than that!). Knowing that many of you have been waiting just as long as we have to buy a pint directly from us, we'll get there eventually. And the beer will continue to improve. We'll solicit as much feedback as we can get from you too - keep that in mind. Getting your input hasn't changed as one of our priorities. When, in the next couple of weeks, our beers finally get put (permanently) on tap, we'll be more than happy to hear what you think about them. Constructive criticism from our awesome 'Hoppers has played a large part in our journey to this point and we hope that it helps push us to further increase the complexity of our beers. We continue to invite you to help in this regard.
How's that for a few lessons learned in just two weeks? We're not naive enough to think that we're done learning. We figure out something new to help us every day - and we're only at a nano-production level. Imagine 7 times the size of what we're brewing now? We'll continue to get better before we've got a LOT to learn when the big system arrives at the end of this year. Ready to come with us? We're jumpin' at the opportunities ahead of us all!
With that, we'll leave you to it for another awesome week. Enjoy it along with us because you know what? You definitely deserve it, dear readers.