Monday, November 9, 2009
Sorry that it has been so long since my last post. Big changes have taken place in my life, but I am almost caught up with the whirlwind!
I have accepted a brewing job back in good ol' Minnesota and will be moving home this friday! I have plans to revamp my blog, change the direction a little bit, and move it to a new host (wordpress).
For those of you that have followed my journey so far, thank you! It will continue once all the dust settles and I start my new job on November 30th. Stay tuned!
Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal to my future!
Thursday, October 15, 2009
On a lighter note, we are doing a Maine Lobster Feast at the brewery on Wednesday and Thursday this week! So far we have received 105 live lobsters and are still getting 35 more tonight! We have our pilot "brew tree" system in the brewery, all gooed up because we have been cooking all the lobster back there; quite a nice smell too! See below the collection of ~70 gimpy lobsters that we used to make the lobster ceviche, lobster bisque, lobster rissoto, lobster ceaser salad, and lobster smothered puff pastry. I had the pleasure of tearing the claws and tails off of all of these lobster, and then pulling the meat out of every single claw and tail! (okay, Vicky helped too) I have to go enjoy this dinner tonight and I am already sick of these little guys!!!
Either way, it was a great time for our guests last night and we are looking forward to tonight. If any of you make it out to Big Sky in the winter time we are going to be doing more of these 5-course dinners! Don't forget the meal finishes with a steamed 1.5-2 lb. lobster of your own to rip apart and eat!
Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!
Monday, October 12, 2009
Steve helped me unload the tank from the elevator and move it into our storage space next door. After this project, which took me nearly all afternoon, I was exhausted! I sat down, had a few bites of quesadilla, and drank an nitro IPA. I'm very proud that I was able to engineer the removal of this tank without breaking anything or hurting anyone!
Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!
Thursday, October 8, 2009
It was a dark and stormy Tuesday. I showed up to work a little late, I'm afraid to admit; so I snuck in quietly, hung my coat on the rack, and began working diligently. Suddenly, Uncle scrooge storms up behind me, I knew I was going to get it for being late (and I put an extra piece of coal on the fire to warm up our icy brewery), boy was he going to be mad! He says, in a calm yet upbeat voice, "Check out this article about the new beer laws in Montana." I was taken aback. No mention of my tardiness (of course he didn't mention the coal, that was a joke, if you hadn't caught on yet).
After reading the article, I learned about a certain liquor store proprietor who is celebrating Montana's new law, allowing beer above 8% alcohol by volume (abv) to be produced and sold. He is celebrating by visiting each of our 23 or so breweries in the next few months to try the strong beers that we are now going to make. I mentioned this to Steve, implying that we don't have a strong beer to serve this guy. Then the wildest thing I have ever heard came out of his mouth. "How much grain fits in our mash tun? Lets make an Imperial IPA." WHAT!?!?! I exclaimed. You see, Steve isn't actually like Uncle Scrooge very much, but he does keep a very watchful eye on his resources. This is the main reason that Lone Peak has been as successful as it has, and will continue to be in the future. There are sooo many ways to waste money in the brewing world, one of the only ways to run a lasting and successful brewery is to be very tight about what you choose to buy and don't buy. In this situation, I never thought that throwing an ass ton of grain and nearly 3 pounds of hops per barrel would ever cross Steve's mind. But, here is a lesson that I taught him with our Bourbon Barrel Aged Oatmeal Stout: people will pay more for big and extreme beers! Using that justification he is now all about there beers!
So, yesterday, we brewed the Fatal Exposure Imperial IPA! To answer Steve's previous question, 850 pounds is how much grain fits in our mash tun. Check out the picture below. We are about two inches below the sparge (spray) balls!!!
Here is the "hop mountain" on the inside of our kettleafter transferring the Imperial IPA into the fermenter. Notice the small moat of wort around the mountain of hops. We added nearly 21 pounds this time!
That is one full mash tun! In order to get the gravity of our beer up to where we wanted to, we decided to only brew a 7 bbl batch, which also saved us money on our hops! Let me stop here and say that my day was already very very exciting. On top of this Imp IPA, I hooked up a nitrogen tank to a sixel of Lone Peak IPA so we could start experimenting with nitro beers! I'm super stoked about this (more later). But my day got more exciting! As we were lautering, we realized that the gravity of the wort coming from the mash tun was about a 1.050, and we were almost done filling the kettle to our 7 bbl mark! Thinking on my toes, I quickly ran to the basement, grabbed our pilot system, and began lautering into two 7.5 gallon pots. I was going to make my own beer!
Here is the begging of the lauter into the first pot. Because the pots were so heavy, I pushed them on a dolly over to my brewery... check out the following picture of the first pot beginning to boil and the second waiting to be hoisted into place.
Now wait a minute... what kind of beer was I going to brew? I suddenly feel like the homebrewers who are getting (or have already gotten) wort from Surly, except I have less than 30 minutes to decide on a style, brew it, while completing the rest of my brewery responsibilities! After pondering, I decided to brew a beer that I have dreamed about for a long time: an all-hop IPA. As a homebrewer, it would be difficult to make a beer like this because I would have to buy so many damn hops! Here is what the beer contains: E.K. Golding, Willamette, U.S. Challenger, Galena, Styrian Golding, Palisade, Ahtanum, Chinook, Centennial, and Columbus. I would have added a few more varieties, but we are still waiting for a few hop contracts to show up this year!
Below is a picture of our sweet cooling apparatus. Luckily Steve has two copper cooling coils lieing around (who the fuck has two!?!).
And here is my favorite picture of the day. Before I post it, here is a question: when you work in a brewery, how do you get yeast for a pilot batch of beer? Steve had an ingenious solution! Sanitize a ziplock bag, then fill it with yeast from the bottom of a tank! Then just throw it in the sanitizer bucket again until you need to pitch it.
What a silly method. I never saw that coming!
And what about these nitro beers that I mentioned earlier? Check out the new 3-tap tower that I installed today! The middle tap is a nitro tap! Our plan is to constantly rotate our nitro beers as Steve and I please. Today I got to try my very first nitro IPA after installing the tower... OMG! It was better than... well you know.
Fun times at Lone Peak Brewery this week!
Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Let's quickly jump back to Friday. After posting in the morning, I showed up at work at 9AM!!! (I love those days) and wasn't sure what we were going to do. Steve and I decided the best course of action was to continue the "get the old ass glycol chiller out of the basement" project, so we drove to the Madison River Brewing Co. in Belgrade for some free 55 gallon chemical drums (needed to store our glycol in from now on). Being a brewer and going to other breweries is AWESOME! We spent a good hour walking around the brewery with the owner, Howard, learning about their processes, how their business is doing, what is up and coming, etc. Then we hung out in the tap room for another hour and sampled some beers, talked more brewery stuff, and even walked out of there with a free growler! I also got to spend some time with the brewers while Steve and Howard were talking big boy stuff. They were brewing a batch of the Hefe on their 30 bbl brewhouse which had a mash mixer, lauter tun, kettle, HL tank, and whirlpool!!! (I was jealous).
After we returned, with our 6 drums, we figured out that we had to wash them. Luckily these drums came from a local dairy and previously held cleaner for the equipment. Because brewery and dairy cleaners are very similar... we didn't have a problem cleaning out the drums. The invention we came up with to clean the drums was a cannibalized CIP arm and spray ball, pointed at the sky, and we set the drums on top!
Here is the set up before a drum was on top....
And here is the invention with a barrel top!!! That was most of the excitement for friday. I spent the afternoon draining the glycol from our old tank into the drums, and then cleaning up my mess. I left work after milling in for the Headplant Pale Ale.
It has been snowing a TON in our region over the past weeks. Here is a shot of the mountain that I took on my way to work on Monday morning. Oh man I cannot wait for the ski season!!!
Here is Steve and Vicky's youngest daughter Sadie enjoying a warm cup of Buck Snort Porter wort as we were brewing it on Friday. Adorable.
Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!
Friday, October 2, 2009
Monday I was mainly a painter. We are finishing up a storage room in the back of the brewery building that will act as the new cold/dry storage area for the restaurant's food. This is one of the many steps in the process of converting our "brewpub" into a "brewery" and "restaurant/bar". By splitting the business we can take advantage of longer day to day operating hours, removal of the 3 pint daily beer limit, and now we can serve wine and some spirits if we desire!
Tuesday and Wednesday I spent most of my time re-organizing stuff around the brewery, cleaning up small messes, and also taking on two bigger projects. The first was to remove the old glycol chiller from the basement. Glycol is the working fluid that is used to cool the brewery's fermenters and brite tanks. Down in the basement we had a system that involved a 300+ gallon overflow tank and a small chiller unit which cooled and circulated the glycol upstairs. Apparently it was an unreliable (piece of shit) and a new one had to be purchased. The old system is still downstairs, taking up space, and filled with glycol. I took on the challenge of removing the stupid chiller unit... with no previous experience doing anything like this!
Obviously, I was successful! Here is the unit on a pallet, upstairs, waiting for its final resting place. Ideas that Steve and I have had so far: dragging it behind a truck, driving on a trailer to Bozeman (not tied down... whoops did it fall off?), using it as part of our dummy for the 2010 Big Sky Dummy Jump (go youtube 2009 big sky dummy jump), and of course burning the damn thing! I feel like it actually is going to end up at the recycling plant, but hey we can dream right?
Look at all the space that is opened up in the basement!!!! The other project I took on was removing the wood/metal waste that had accumlated on the side of the brewery. After a couple years of broken pallets, small construction projects, a few new tanks, and some other random events, we had accumulated a very nice pile of scrap metal and wood. Because of the looming weather, we knew that this had to be dealt with now or it would remain until the spring thaw. It only took me two trips! One was to a local who has a giant trailer that is destined for the dump, the other trip was to the Bozeman recycling plant. Check this out!
Yes! That is a giant magnet dragging scrap steel out of the back of my truck (in a gianter mud puddle!) One of the coolest things me and Ron (my truck) have done together so far. Also notice that she is topless... only for a little while, I took her back to the brewery and put her top back on.
Wednesday morning, Kelly and I awoke to this view out of our condo... notice the unusual occurance of snow in SEPTEMBER! It kept going all day and to our surprise (not really) this is what it looked like on thursday....
Fucking wow! It is still like that today (friday morning), but we are anticipating it will be melting soon. I gotta run, I don't want to be late to work! Thanks for reading!!!
Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!