Monday, November 9, 2009

Day 100: A New Journey

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

Day 88: Candace Update

I've had a few requests for updates on Candace, the canning machine. Unfortunately there isn't much of a story to tell right now. A few small mechanical changes are going to be made to increase reliability and right now Steve and I are waiting for the parts. We should be receiving the parts this week and then work to get her running ASAP. Not to give too much info about our timeline (we gotta keep you all guessing!) but we are thinking new years would be a good time to celebrate sending a few pallets of cans to the distributor for the first time!

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

Day 87: I'm Good at Stuff!

Today was THE DAY that I removed our old glycol storage tank from the basement. You may remember my previous post about removing the old glycol chiller, this was the second step to that process. The cool thing about what I accomplished today was that I did this all on my own. Without any help from Steve (until the very last part) I managed to get the 1000+ pound tank onto a pallet, moved over to the elevator, raised up high enough to fit over the elevator railings, and moved it upstairs... by the way, the tank is 54" wide, the elevator opening is 54.5" Check out the pictures!!!

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

Day 85: MY FIRST BREW!!!!

YESTERDAY I BREWED MY FIRST BATCH AS A PROFESSIONAL BREWER! It is not the most exciting news though because it was only a 10 gallon batch, and I didn't have to do any of the work to get the wort... but I am proud nonetheless! Here is the story:

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

Day 81: Brewing is fun (even on Sunday's)

So I had to go into work on Sunday (boooo). It wasn't too bad though! The reason that I was summoned to help brew a batch of Headplant Pale Ale on a Sunday was because last week I took a few days off and drove home to MN. Thanks to my Twin, Derek (, Mike, and Randall for showing up at Stub and Herb's to drink a few beers with me and have some fun! I know you guys enjoyed the Hopfest '09 Brown Ale.

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

Day 80: What is my job title?

This week I have worn many hats. So far, I have been a painter, an excellent boyfriend (from Kelly), a mover, a one man clean-up crew, and an equipment remover guy. I will probably be a chemical handling specialist today... along with probably a chicken tender muncher (its chicken tender friday!!!)

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!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day 72: Hop Harvest Heard Round the World!

Let's play some catch up!

Saturday the 19th, Steve and I brewed our very first fresh hop ale! The idea formed a couple weeks back when we received word that MSU Bozeman started growing a few select hop varieties this year in a test plot. They were looking for homebrewers/breweries to come and harvest the hops on Saturday the 19th. After a little prodding and some day dreaming about a fresh hop brew, Steve finally gave in to my prodding and we decided to go ahead with the idea. We had quite a few ideas for the style of beer but eventually agreed that a fresh hop pale ale would be the best platform to showcase the green/wet hoppy character. Unsure of the amount of hops we were going to recieve, we decided to only brew a 1/2 batch (5 bbl).

I spent most of the days leading up to this brew day brimming with excitement! This is the first batch of beer that I have been able to collaborate with Steve on! Finally Saturday arrived!

I drove to the hop field with Kelly sitting shotgun and left Steve at the brewery to mash in. Once we arrived it only took about 45 minuts to fill the back of my truck with hop bines (not a typo, they are bines not vines). The most efficient way for us to deal with the trimming of the hops was to take whole bines back to the brewery and to have an army of volunteers/beer lovers chop them up for us. Below are a few images of the harvest taken by Kel.

Here I taking down a bine of fuggles. As you can see in the picture, some of them look much bigger and more fruitful than others! (We made sure to take the really awesome looking ones!) We ended up with mostly cascades, a few bines of fuggles, and a few of a native north american variety that I don't recall the name on.

The back of my truck... with as many hops as we could fit!

Our kettle + 24.5 lbs. of hops! They look like little green cockroaches!

The "Lone Peak Fresh Hop Pale Ale" (I know boring name) is still fermenting right now. I tried it yesterday. The aroma is sweet and slightly grassy, the flavor was still yeasty from the fermentation but a toasty malt character definatley comes through, and the finish is a light but apparant hop character that can be described best as fresh! (Score that was our goal).

P.S. Just to show all of you how we have fun in Montana... this is my buddy Alex biking over a bonfire at the bar last night!

P.P.S. Tomorrow the forecast is 38 degrees and snowing all day! Ski season here we come!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Day 64: How my job has changed...

Last year, in a lunch meeting with the owner of a very prestigious St. Paul based brewing company, I remember asking "How has your job changed since you started Summit Brewing Co.?" Often before I had these lunch meetings I would sit down and generate lists of questions. This was one of the questions that I had come up with for that meeting and to be honest I wish I would have thought of it years ago...

My dream is to someday start a brewpub (and craft distillery cough cough). Of course, I have bigger aspirations than just any brewpub though. I am hoping that this brewpub turns into a pilot/test/fun facility and I end up with a much larger production facility to produce beer that sells all over the country. Many have already accomplished this in their own lives. When I asked Mr. Stutrud about how his job has changed over the 20 years that he has run Summit Brewing Co., I was asking how MY future may change when I accomplish the same someday. Too bad. Instead of discussing my awesome question, I ended up learning about the 3 tiered system and how it hurts craft breweries
(which is still very important, but not exactly what I wanted)

Luckily for all of you I will ask myself the same question (and answer it) Spencer, how has your job changed over the 60 days you have worked at Lone Peak Brewing Company?

The greatest change from Day 1 to Day 60 (that is when I started writing this post) is my independence...

I began as a "camera". This stage lasted a few weeks and consisted of me following Steve around and watching/mimicking what he did. It took me a few weeks to buy that black notebook of mine (adding the record function to the camera); I would recommend buying one and keeping it with you during this stage of learning. It will speed the retention of what is observed greatly.

I next transformed from an observer into a "robot". Instead of watching and learning from what Steve did, I was instructed by him to do things. These tasks ranged from clamping hoses and setting up tanks (in the correct configuration) to starting cleaning cycles (in the correct order of events). After a short time of performing small ordered tasks, I became an upgraded robot (v2.0). I was instructed to "set up a tank for sanitizing" or to "mill in for the IPA." These tasks involved a series of the smaller tasks that I had previously learned how to perform and complete in the correct order.

The next stage was "Artificial Intelligence". Suddenly, I was predicting what Steve was going to do. On my own I began to do things like dig the mash tun (uninstructed) after he was done brewing. Then I would go mill in for the 2nd batch of IPA. He would tell me that he needed to harvest yeast from FV4 and while he wasn't looking I would set the whole thing up for him! I believe that it was this stage that I really started to develop into a valuable employee. Steve was then free to spend more time completing his responsibilities and less time monitoring me. An important note here: as I developed into a self-sufficient being, I learned that completing the job CORRECTLY is just as important as completing it. If I made a mistake I knew that I had to correct it myself, and do it right away. Otherwise, Steve would have to repeat what I did, wasting my time and his.

What the fuck comes after Artificial Intelligence in robot development? I knew I couldn't keep this analogy up... Somewhere between the last stage and today I have become capable of managing myself and my time to be productive without Steve's direction. Although we often still collaborate on what needs to be done around the brewery, I am very aware of what needs to get done to keep the brewery running. Once I receive the green light to transfer a brew, I can complete the transfer, clean the tank the beer came from, carbonate it, keg it, put away the kegs, clean the brite tank, and record the necessary paperwork. I am capable of preparing distributor orders, getting kegs out the door and receiving them from customers, changing kegs, fixing kegs, and fixing our draught equipment. Almost every task in the brewery other than brewing the beer and doing the paperwork I can complete now.

What is going to happen in the near future? Well, I have been dedicating all of my free time to getting Candice working. I anticipate that because of the amount of time I have dedicated to the machine, and the familiarity I have with it (and my silly engineering background) that I will be in charge of running it, maintaining it, and troubleshooting it soon!

It has been a long journey! I am looking forward to what I learn in the future and will keep this story going someday...

Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Day 59: From Russia with Beer...

I named today's post after the mostest boringest James Bond movie ever made. Today was pretty boring! The off-season is beginning to hit pretty hard and as a result the main priority influencing our brew schedule is "we need to keep the yeasties alive!" instead of "oh crap we are going to run out of that beer!" Today was the first day we have brewed since late august (I believe). I still am keeping myself busy with beer transfers and kegging, but we are almost out of beer to transfer now!

Candice the canning line is what will be keeping me busy starting tomorrow. We had a small computer chip malfunction and had to order a few more... thanks to labor day our "two day shipping" turned into "almost a week." Tomorrow should be the day that I get to start canning water though!!! I'm very excited. Although Candice and I didn't get along very well at first meeting, now I know her better than ever and we are developing into a great team.

Although the day was pretty slow, the end of the day was filled with horror, suspense, and a little drama... It was about 5:07 in the PM, I had just gotten done milling in for the IPA we are going to brew tomorrow. I walked up stairs, wondering to myself "what can I do for the next 50 minutes before I can get out of here?" That was quickly answered for me! Steve was about to clean out our transfer line/heat exchanger that we use to get beer from the kettle to the fermenters. After we had finished our brew we had chased the line out with hot water and then cold water like we always do. When he started the pump on the CIP cart to circulate hot cleaner through the lines, nothing happened! This was puzzling to us...

Could the heat exchanger be frozen? No, the glycol was turned off hours ago.
Could it be clogged with crap? No, we didn't send any crap to it.
Could there be a vapor lock? Nope, not with 500 some odd channels for liquid to move through.

We kept turning on the pump for short bursts only seeing a small amount of liquid trickle through the line back into the CIP cart. More questions and tinkering went on for a good hour. Eventually Steve just told me to go home, he would keep playing with it for a short while and then head home and we would deal with it in the morning. Lots of swear words had been said by now. What if our heat exchanger was somehow clogged?!?!? We would have to rip it apart and send it back to the manufacturer to be reassembled! What if we have to buy a new one? That could cost $5000 easily... I chose to take the easy route and just get the hell outta there. Right as I was leaving though, Steve stopped me and with a stupid smile on his face said "so I got it working" "What did you do?" I asked. "You don't want to know," was his reply.

It turns out that when he put together the filter housing that we use to catch shit running through the lines, he didn't put the metal basket in the bottom. What was happening was the filter bag was clogging our outlet, essentially slowing down the entire wash loop. WOW! One wasted hour and a few extra points on our blood pressure because of a stupid filter bag. I love my job!

Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Day 58: The ____ Brewing Company

Most days at the brewery , I have some monotonous, tedious, slow paced and or boring job to complete. Today, I spent about 3 hours washing kegs, which is about as "bad" as it gets. Now this isn't a bad job by any means, I am just implying that of all the jobs at the brewery, keg washing can pretty much be done well while you are half asleep. Other jobs like this are milling in, cleaning pigs, scrubbing tanks, and blowing off yeast. Usually while I do these jobs I tend to day dream, most often about my future and the brewery that I want to start someday.

Lately, I have began to feel intimidated and left out in these day dreams. (That is sad considering they are my dreams!) The main reason behind this is that craft beer is exploding! Our industry is growing in a sinking economy. New and exciting beer styles are introduced every week. Breweries and brewpubs are opening left and right. Awards and honors are being given to the newest, greatest, and most contributing members to our movement. Renewable and alternative energies are being harnessed to create techniques and systems that are better for the environment.... All this is going on, and I am at Lone Peak Brewery, up in the mountains, washing kegs.

I have come to realize that for every brewery that is exciting and cutting edge and creating the next best and most sought after beers, there are probably 10 breweries who are just chugging along making good beer quietly in their corner of the world. For those 10 breweries there are probably 20 more that aren't even making good beer, that are in turmoil, that are closing their doors. What if my brewery is the latter? What if I don't even get there?

Sorry for the lack of confidence in this post, but if I were to say that I was 100% confident all the time I would be lieing (I am human). What I plan to do to ensure a successful future is to do what I have done my entire life when seeking personal growth and opportunity. I learn as much as I can, I dedicate myself to doing the best that I can, and I surround myself with the people that I one day want to be like. Currently I am dedicating myself to doing the best that I can. I guess I am learning as much as I can (I would like to be reading more, but working 10 hour days seems to be covering me for now). Somehow I still have to surround myself with the people that I one day want to be like.

If I had my dream... oh wait I have that right now... okay if I could continue my dream, I want to go work for one of the great's in the near future. Stone, DFH, FFF's, Avery, New Glarus, Southern Tier, Goose Island... the list goes on. I want to work for a brewery that makes beer that people are willing to trade across the country and the world for, that people are willing to drive across the state for, that people are willing to brag about. Only by becoming apart of the team at one of these breweries can I begin to understand how to foster such a creative and positive environment for myself and my brewery someday.

Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal to all the greats out there!

Monday, August 31, 2009


I have been planning this post for a LONG TIME!!! While I was at home last weekend, my dad reminded me about my homebrewing roots and requested that I pay homage to my experiences back home in my parent's garage... Those were the days!

I first started homebrewing just after I turned 21 years old. My twin brother Colin had recieved a stove-top homebrewing kit from my parents and I for his birthday and had just finished his first brew (I believe it was an imitation of Bell's Two Hearted Ale). Colin was immediately hooked! The beer turned out delicious, but I think at the time I was still learning to like IPA's so I may not have enjoyed it to its full potential, just a sidenote. The next batch, I jumped in on and became hooked! At this point it was readily obvious to both Colin and I that the stove-top thing just wasn't going to work for our hands-on, tinkering/engineering, bigger is always better mentalities. We started development on our all grain system...

Colin and I have both been incredibly busy since we brewed our first all-grain batch in the winter of 2007. Colleges, careers, and social lives always seemed to get in the way of homebrewing. Despite the obstacles, we tried as hard as we could to fit in brewing here and there back home at Mom and Dad's house. During these years I started to realize (again) that what I was doing was too small for my aspirations and I wanted to start a career in the mighty and wonderful world of craft beer. If I can't make time in my career to make beer, why not make my career beer?

Here are some of the pictures from my homebrewing days:

Our very first batch on the brand new all grain system!!! I believe this is the "Buffalo Spit" Nut Brown Ale (way better than moose drool!) Sidenote: We got those A-B kegs for $12 a pop at a liquor store... now I know it was illegal... but they sold them to us!!!
Look at how unsafe the sparge was!!!

Brewing in the middle of winter!!!! Go Weizenbock!!!

Kitties love beer!!!

Wow are sparging technique got so much better! Here is the last homebrew batch I did before I started my job at Lone Peak (notice the first use of the cover-alls). We are brewing an imperial oatmeal stout aged with scotch and oak chips named Magnificent Demise (M.D.)

Now this post wouldn't be complete with a little advice for all you homebrewers out there (who also apsire to become brewer's someday).


Someday you are going to have to have recipes of your own, you might as well start working on them now! Try familiarizing yourself with as many styles of beer that you can. Once you find a recipe you like, make it again but try to make changes that improve it. Hone in and have at least 3 good beers in your arsenal before going anywhere near your own brewery.

Get to know your ingredients!!! You have the time and resources to experiment now. Use them to develop multiple IPA's, use the same malt bill but change the hops and compare them. Other ideas, try using different yeast strains for the same beer to learn about what flavors they create.

Go extreme! Great extreme beers don't (usually) turn out the first or even second time you brew them. Brew to the extreme while you are making small batches. Man it would suck to have to dump a 10 bbl batch because there is too much oak flavor.

Try new techniques and practice practice practice!!!

One more point... stop using soap or detergents when cleaning your equipment. That stuff leaves residue and messes up the flavors of your beer. Try getting ahold of PBW (pro brewer's wash) we use it around the brewery and man it works well.

Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!!!

Day 50!!!! (and 51): Those Crazy Montana Weekends...

Kelly and I decided to tap into our wild side last weekend. It all started on Thursday... Kelly was complaining and whining and pissing and moaning (okay it wasn't that bad) about not being able to go to the Minnesota State Fair this year. For those of you that haven't been to the MSF, you are fucking missing out! I texted her on Thursday afternoon "why don't we just go this weekend then?"

After some excited text messaging, whimsical planning, conniving with my dad, and one of the hardest and fastest paced brewery days I have worked yet, Kelly and I left for home at 3:30 pm on friday afternoon. Our plan and rules were as follows:

1) Drive straight to my parents house in Plymouth
2) Rest up and have breakfast with my parents and aunt
3) Surprise my brother at the fair, spend the day chowing and partying with him
4) Leave fair about 6 and head off to Brainard to surprise Kelly's family (Happy BDay Patti!)
5) Sleep in a little on Sunday and then drive back to MN
6) We don't tell anyone we are going, except for our families!!! We don't have enough time to deal with friends (so sorry)

mmm... August Schell's Roggenbier, Oktoberfest, and Firebrick!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In brewery news, our canning machine IS ALIVE!!! (Dr. Frankenstein voice) After transferring 10 bbl of Nordic Blonde (without the help of the CIP cart, I'll explain that later) I spent some time with my new friend Candice (the canning machine). I got her all turned on, for the first time wo hoo, and played with her buttons for a good two hours. So far what I have learned is that I have no idea how to run a canning machine... lol Steve and I are excited though, our first play session taught us that she responds well to our touch, and with some sensor tweaks and a better understanding of her internal wiring we could be up and running in no time!!! (Of course, we aren't sure if either of us will EVER truly understand her internal wiring, but hey, from what I hear, all men have this problem)

OMG look! The little blue screen is lit up!!!

I'm off to catch up on sleep! Stay Tuned! Lots of posting this week!

Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!!!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Day 48: I'm Beerstoned

So, it's wednesday afternoon, Steve left me this morning because he had to go run some errands in Bozeman. My responsibilities for the day are the following:

1) Jump the Wit's End White Ale from 1/2 barrel kegs into four 1/6 barrel kegs
2) Jump the Hopfest '09 Brown Ale from 1/2 barrel kegs into one 1/6 barrel keg
3) Load up the YC delivery van with their beer order when they arrive
4) Clean BT2, FV1, and FV2

On Monday, I cleaned and sanatized BT2 in preparation for the Hellroaring ESB which we had to keg on Tuesday. After the cleaning cycle I peaked in the door to make sure everything loked clean and shiny and I discovered beer stone (da du duhhh)!!!! The quick solution for the problem was jumping in throw the small hole on the front of the tank and scrubbing the stone by hand. But, this was only temporary, and brings up a great subject for discussion.

Caustic cleaners (such as PBW which works great btw) are designed to clean and dissolve organic matter that is left behind after using the equipment. We generally use caustic washes to clean all of our tanks, soak our parts, the kettle, and the mash tun. Everyonce and a while though we have to switch up our cleaning regiment and use acid cleaners. Acid cleaners are designed to clean and dissolve inorganic deposits (water scale, rust, alkaline scale, and other minerals). From what I have read, it is common for breweries to use caustic most of the time and use acid everyonce in a while to remove scaely build-up. Each brewery will have its own cleaning regiment though designed for the optimum for their own situation.

Below is a picture of me and TJ (Steve and Vicky's 5 year old daughter). I just wanted to rub it in to all of you aspiring brewer's out there that while you are working your butts off trying to get through brewing school and get jobs in the industry, TJ is getting on the job experience for free and at a very young age! Here she is watching the sight glass on a beer transfer. She also knows how to dig the mash tun, roll empty kegs, clean the outside of empty kegs, and poke Steve and I with the broom handle when we aren't looking!!! Adorable huh?

I'm off the finish my cleaning! Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Day 46: The Empire Strikes Back

Since my last update, life at the brewery has been slow. We spent a few weeks brewing and kegging like crazy, and now we have a cellar of beer that is overflowing and not so much work to do. Steve has had the fortune of catching up on the never ending pile of paperwork that is a side-effect of running a brewery. I tidied up the brewery, scrubbed the floors, cleaned out tons of used pigs, and of course spent some more time with my new best friend Candice (the canning machine).

Friday turned out to be the greatest day at my brewing job yet... After showing up at 8:00 in the morning and starting to do a few of my morning chores, Steve got a phone call from a friend who also happens to be a fishing guide in town. "I had a trip cancel on me today," Adam the guide says, "you wanna play hookie and go float the Yellowstone River?" Steve tells me this and of course my response is "I'm in." Within 15 minutes we had the place closed up and were on our way to spend an entire day fishing on the Yellowstone river with an awesome guide and his boat!

Was it a fun time? See for yourself!


I had more fun this weekend because Kelly's sister Kristing and a mutual friend Maria were in town. We did some more river floating (less fishing, more drinking) on Saturday. On Sunday we headed off to Yellowstone National Park. The highlight of the day was eating lunch with the herd of buffalo. It is mating season right now and we saw the following illeagal offenses:

1 - Assult (two males fighting)
2 - Public displays of affection (kissing and ass licking)
3 - Domestic abuse (males pushing around females)
4 - Loitering (standing in traffic)
5 - Public Urination (and defication)
6 - Child abuse (males pushing around calfs)
7 - Indecent Exposure (see video below... yes it is a buffalo with a red rocket!)
8 - Rape (males mounting females)
9 - Noise Complaints (yelling and swearing at each other)
10 - Vandalism (charging at our car!)

Later this week, I would like to explain how to clean pigs (I have been meaning to do this for a while!) and touch more on the development of our canning machine!

Thanks for reading! Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Today was only a 10 hour day... lots of keg cleaning and then more work on the canning machine.

I want to share another aspiring brewer story. This one I received yesterday and man I am excited for this guy (Owen). What dedication! What an idea!
Here we go:

"I wanted to briefly share with you my journey as an aspiring brewer, mostly for reasons of camaraderie because it seems like we have a lot in common - I'm a young, a recent college grad with a degree in biology and a desire to enter the brewing world despite limited 'field' experience. I just graduated from Brown University in Rhode Island this past May, where I developed my interest in brewing and craft beer. I've been homebrewing for a little over a year now and got so into beer last year that I was able to design my own class on all things beer - its history, brewing science, the brewing industry, and how to appreciate a good beer (sensory evaluation, choosing the right glass, all that frou-frou stuff that I can't get enough of) - and I got
credit for all this nonsense! I was able to visit most of the brewers in the state of Rhode Island and sit in on a couple brew sessions, as well as volunteer for the Great International Beer Fest (it was an absolute shit show. Got a ride home in the back of a cop car but luckily wasn't arrested). I read as much beer literature as possible and got so psyched about beer that I made it my mission to pursue a career in the beer industry, specifically brewing.

Now, you're right that it's exceedingly difficult to find a job without any experience. I explored as well and nearly all the classifieds required some experience. How do you get an entry-level job if they all require experience? So, I got creative. I've always yearned to travel, especially to Europe, and I had heard of a cheap way to do so through a program called Willing Workers On Organic Farms (WWOOF). I thought, "There must be some way I could tie brewing into this..." and, sure enough, I searched the database of farms and found a handful of them that have microbreweries. (Through the WWOOF program, volunteers find farms and work for them in exchange for room and board... most of the places produce vegetables, meat, cheese, and sometimes wine, but there are several farms that produce special value-added products). So, in less than a month I'll be starting in France at a farm that grows its own hops and barley to produce Belgian-style beers (my fave) with such oddities as walnuts and truffles. I hope to find other breweries in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the UK, and Ireland. After this trip (which I hope will last up to a year) I'll be back in the states with some experience under my belt and a whole lot of enthusiasm! I'm still considering brewing school, but I'll just have to play it by ear. I've also got a blog started that will document my adventures when I leave on September 4th; if you're interested, it can be found at
. Wish me luck!"

Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!

Monday, August 17, 2009


I again want to thank all of you readers out there! Sorry that it has been a few days since I have posted last... a few of you have done quite a good job pestering me to keep on writing! So here I am, and I have alot to share!

The most exciting bit of news was the arrival of the canning machine today(fucking finally). We have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for this thing since I started work at Lone Peak Brewery. I think it's arrival today marked the 8th or 9th week that it was late. Nonetheless, we finally have it! Not only is this big news because it represents the future of our brewery and it will take up the rest of the capacity of our brewhouse, but it is the key to me keeping my job at Lone Peak through the winter time. Our brewery (and Big Sky, MT) has a seasonal market: the winter and summer are huge booms, and the spring and fall are pretty depressing. I have heard on multiple occasions that it just doesn't make financial sense to keep paying me through the off-season (starting in September) when there is no need for a 2nd brewer. The canning machine allows us to sell beer in liquor stores all over the state, bridging the gaps in our sales.

The most surprising bit of news was that my good friend (and hopefully future business partner) Matt Lange is starting his first brewing job! I got the call yesterday while setting up the canning machine so I am a little short on the details, but I will fill all you in with the whole story soon!

Coming up this week:
- How to clean and fill pigs
- Another awesomely awesome e-mail from one of you readers
- Our struggles with the canning machine
- The details of Matt Lange's entry into the brewing world

I gotta go to work, I'm late!

Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!

P.S. This picture is for Clarice... YUM!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day 40: Jump Around (Remix)

By request of Kelly's cousin Marie... I have to tell Kelly the following tidbit:

"Come out of hiding!!!"

Now, onto the beerogging (is that a new word I just invented?) So, I only have about 20 minutes to write this. I'm at work right now, at the computer behind the bar. I am cleaning a brite tank in back... just for your info the hot cleaning cycle on a tank takes about 20 minutes, the whole cycle takes about an hour though!

Okay, I lied, my boss just showed up, so I left to do more cleaning stuff... now I am done with the hot cleanse and the hot rinse. I am refilling the CIP cart with cold water for the cold rinse and then I have to set the tank up for sanitizing. Once I get the sanitizing going then I will have another 10 minutes to write in this thing!!!

What I want to cover is jumping kegs. Keg jumping is moving beer from a 1/2 barrel keg to a 1/6 barrel keg. I guess that this definition could be expanded to moving beer from any size keg to any size keg, but at our brewery we only have 1/2s and sixels. When I keg beer, depending on the style, I usually fill anywhere from 3 - 15 sixels. Most of our draft accounts are for 1/2 barrel kegs, but there is a handful of bars that order our beer in 1/6 barrel kegs so that they can fit two kegs in one draft box. Some of these bars go through our beer fast! It begs the question, why don't they just get 1/2 barrel kegs instead, but they are stuck in their ways, so we give them what they want. This week we ran out of 1/6 barrel kegs of Lone Peak IPA early and needed to get 5 more.

So it was as easy as 1 half-barrel keg = 3 sixth barrel kegs right??? NO! We end up losing a small about of beer here and there during each keg jump. Instead of sending out nearly full 1/6 barrel kegs, we decide to make 1 half barrel keg into 2 sixth barrel kegs and a leftover partial half barrel keg. Usually this isn't a problem. When we have a partial keg of anything we stage it as the next keg to be used up for our taproom and it disappears within a day or two. Because we had to jump 5 sixels yesterday though we created 3 partial kegs of IPA! We also did some pig filling two days ago which follows the same reasoning (we'd rather leave partial kegs than end up shorting our piggy's). In our cold box downstairs we have 5 partial kegs of IPA!!! I don't know how long it will take us to burn through them, but the next week is going to be hectic for that beer!

Check out the picture below. This is why you always should put all your money on black when you go to Vegas. Here is me and my buddies winning $40 each on one bet! I believe that I had the green chips... pretty sexy huh?

P.S. I hate this blogger program. I can't move my pictures around right now by my usual method of copy and paste. When I copy and paste the text around the pictures it reformats all my font and takes out all the spaces between the paragraphs!!! AHHH frustrating!
Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Day 39: I am baaaaack!

Sorry for the absence to all of my readers out there. I spent a few days recovering from a trip to vegas and spent a few contemplating the direction of my blog.

I feel as though the initial spark and excitement of having my first brewing job has worn off (alot). Now I am in the rhythm, learning what I can, perfecting my personal responsibilities, and starting to thirst for more. I had a nice chat with Kelly (and probably a black bear) while sitting out back in the hot tub last night and here is what I remembered/concluded.

1) I was given this advice by Terry North from J. J. Taylor Distributing at a lunch meeting at S&H while drinking a August Schell Stout: Master your craft.

2) I was given this advice from Jeremy Hunt at DFH: Never stop learning! Read whatever you can get your hands on and stay ahead of the curve!

I am planning on joining some professional brewers associations, doing some online research for reputible online beer related periodicals, my subscription to BA is coming soon!, and now I want to start homebrewing like a madman!

I'm not sure how to take on the homebrewing part. We have a great 30L pilot system at the brewery and most of the malt and hops that I could ever use. I'm not sure if I should focus my efforts on one style of beer for a while or go nuts making a variety of styles.

RIght now, I am late for work!

Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!!!

P.S. Thanks Colin and all the BA's back home that give me encouragement to write in this! I can't wait to see you guys on DDay Eve

Monday, August 3, 2009


Wow, what a weekend! I turned 24 (happy birthday to me) and got to go to a beer festival in Gardiner, MT (the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park). This was a great beer festival because the locals close up shop early and show up to PARTY. They also all have dogs, and all brought their dogs. It was kind of a combination of beer festival with dogs running and playing everywhere. Here is a nice shot of a thirsty puppy stealing our keg ice.

Our beer festival volunteers were great this time! We ended up not having to serve much of our beer at all, and instead playing horseshoes and drinking heavily with all the other brewers in attendance. The way that Montana does beer festivals is quite screwy: Someone who wants to host a beer festival has to get a permit to distribute the alcohol. Then that person can only use their employees and volunteers to dispense the beer. So essentially us brewers end up driving all over the state, setting up our shit, and then watching someone else pour foamy cups of our beer while botching questions about what we are serving. I heard someone the other day serve our pale ale, and then say "you are going to love this WHEAT beer"... WHAT THE FUCK!

The other cool part of the beer festivals is the free food (usually). I took full advantage and ended up eating 3 hot dogs, 2 brats, and 1/2 hamburger. Of course after drinking beer all day and eating all that "healthy" food, Sunday was not fun for my stomach. Kelly and a few local friends took me rafting on the Madison River for the day. It was great but I wish that I could have had a few more beers...

My stomach has finally recovered and I'm off to work. I'll be back into the brewing routine for a few days this week, then on thursday I am leaving town. Look forward to two more posts and then I'm gone until Monday!

Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal

Friday, July 31, 2009

Day 34: Aspiring Brewer(s) #3

Here is the final installment of my "tales of the aspiring brewers" This one came from a couple, Steph and Tim, who sound like they are truly going to go far in this industry...

Hi! I love your blog! Thought I'd respond to your request for stories about people who want to "go pro."

My husband Tim and I are both currently engineers. He's a mechanical engineer and I'm a software engineer. Neither of us like doing this *at all*. We've been homebrewers for about 3 years now, and are totally obsessed. We brew about once a week (though sometimes we do skip a week).

Our goal is to open a brewpub sometime within the next 10 years (we're only 25 right now, so we've got some time). Tim will be the head brewer, and I'll be sort of running the show for the rest of the restaurant, while continuing to brew pilot batches with Tim.

To prepare for this massive undertaking, we're of course writing a business plan, and just sort of hashing out ideas for it. We plan to go to brewing school within the next couple years, and are hoping to get some volunteer experience at a local brewery. Oh yeah, and we brew *a lot*. We're constantly working on perfecting our recipes for our future brewpub.

So, why do we want to do this? Well, we both want to own our own business for starters. But it's mostly because we just really want to brew beer every single day of our lives. It's our passion, and it's the reason we get out of bed every morning, spend 8 hours at a boring, unfulfilling job, then come home to attend to our various fermenters. We can't wait to make brewing our career!

If you're interested, I'm a blogger as well. My blog is called (I'm also really into food). Take care, and keep having fun brewing!

Update: Yesterday afternoon, Tim and I received our acceptance letters to the American Brewers Guild! We'll be starting the Intensive Brewing Science & Engineering program in January 2011. We'll graduate in July 2011, after spending a week at a brewery in Sacramento gaining some practical experience! We're extremely excited to attend brewing school, can't wait until 2011!

Congrats on the acceptance to both of you!!!

Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Day 33: Aspiring Brewer #2

Here is another wonderful, whimsical tale of a young man and his endeavors to enter the craft brewing world... in Philly!

My name is Andrew Riggar and I am an avid homebrewer and a passionate beer enthusiast. Currently I'm chasing my dream of becoming a professional brewer and to ultimately launch my own craft brewery. For the last two months, my dream has been sort of a wild goose chase. I just graduated college from Temple University in Philly and am unemployed- more time to homebrew! However, now that I've gotten school out of the way I can focus on what really matters to me: applying to UC-Davis Professional Brewers Certification program. Fortunately I satisfied the bulk of my prerequisite courses at Temple, but was one shy; I need to take Organic chem. So it's back to school for one class in the fall. Once I finish this course, then a major step will have been taken thus letting me finally send in my application!

I want to become a pro-brewer for too many reasons... the more the merrier, right? Said simply; I love craft beer, I love brewing it, and I love learning about it... hell, I even like the cleaning/sanitizing! Each batch of beer that I brew is a product of what I've learned, what I've thought about, and how dedicated I can be. Having such a lovable and thoroughly enjoyable hobby has been what's made me realize that it's my dream. And as you are well aware of, having a dream is a special thing. I've always known that I'm not the desk job type so discovering a dream has been very motivational for me.

What I'm up to now is a whole heck of a lot of homebrewing, reading, and preparation. The nice thing about brewing this summer is that it's in preparation for a regional contest at the end of August. I plan on having about 12-14 entries! I've been reading basically everything I can about brewing and the beer industry. I just finished Sam Calagione's book Brewing Up a Business and now I'm onto Beer School by the guys from Brooklyn Brewery. Not to mention all the articles and such on (my user name is ajr24 fyi). Reading about other commercial ventures is just as important to me as the technical and brewing stuff.

ALSO, once I'm done writing this e-mail I'm going to a local brewpub (Rock Bottom... it's a chain) to confirm my "play date" with their brewmaster tomorrow. I'm extremely excited to see/feel hands-on the transition from homebrewing to industrial brewing. From reading your blog, I actually feel tons more comfortable with how some smaller scale brewhouses work... well your blog has desensitized me to some terminology. But tomorrow will be my very first experience. I can't wait! Tours of breweries are great, but actually getting to work in one will be all the more valuable.

The amount of integrity and the will to help others out in this industry will never cease to amaze me.

Once I graduate from UC-Davis I would love to contribute to the diverse beer scene in Philadelphia. Currently Philly is experiencing a huge revitalization of its rich beer past. Being a part of that is what I'd love to do. It's the city that made me the beer lover that I am and I'm grateful for it. I've been toying with the idea of creating a Philadelphia Hop Estate in which local brewpubs/breweries can grow/harvest hops- most likely outside of the city. Land outside Philly is pretty cheap at the moment so... I think it's doable.

Here is a quick followup to the story... The Rock Bottom brew date didn't actually work out : ( Andrew is maintaining contact with the brewmaster and working on setting up another day!

Comments? Thoughts? Questions? What are you drinking right now?

Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Day 32: Aspiring Brewer #1

The following story was sent to me last week from a good friend of mine. He is a very intelligent and driven individual, I know that he is going to go far someday. Here we go:

"I thought I'd write a little about my path towards becoming a professional brewer even though it is just beginning. When I was a sophomore in college at the University of Wisconsin, my mom thought it would be fun to give me a basic home-brewing kit for Christmas. It was essentially a fermentation bucket, a bottling bucket, a racking cane, some airlocks, and some tubing. I quickly brewed up my first batch and let it sit for a month after fermentation. When I opened it up and shared it with my roommates, I was suddenly the most popular guy around. It was fantastic. Since then, I have read every book on brewing I could get my hands on, bought more elaborate equipment, made far more complex beers, and entertained the idea of becoming a brewer as a profession.

During the time I was practicing home-brewing, I gained major respect and love for craft beer. After having some Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA it was settled, I wanted to be a professional brewer. Since I am a film major, I didn't have any real marketable brewing-related education so I decided to take an online Siebel course on brewing. It was great. I sat down, worked for hours on a resume, and sent it to about 10 Wisconsin breweries in search for a summer apprenticeship. Even after calling the breweries for a follow up, I was still getting no response, until finally I got a call from a small brewpub in the Dells who wanted me to come in for an interview for a summer assistant brewer position. The interview went well, but unfortunately I didn't get the job.

I ended up realizing my dreams of being an apprentice brewer for the summer were dashed so I enrolled in summer school to finish off my remaining 9 credits. In mid-September I start the Siebel Master Brewers course. The class starts with one and a half months of theory in Chicago then I'm shipped off to Munich to study brewing practice for another month and a half. I then have a break until June 2010 when I go back to Munich for the 6-week Advanced Applied Brewing Techniques course. During those weeks, I get to work on every step of the brewing process and I get to brew my own beer from conception of the recipe through the packaging and consuming of the product.

I can't be more excited for this coming year, and I hope that this education will help me to find a position in the craft beer industry."

Let's have a discussion! Comments? Questions?

Monday, July 27, 2009


The life of a brewer is damn fun! Really really damn fun!

Should I start with the Bitterroot Beer Festival or my day today? Let's go backwards in time!!!

I'm drinking a DogFishHead World Wide Stout and writing in my blog... feeling great!
I ate some dinner with Kelly at the brewery... chili cheese waffle fries and some Hellroaring ESB
I weighed out the "all-natural" ingredients for a quadruple batch of TJ's Old Fashioned Root Beer
I ran with Steve to the compost facility to dump our week old spent grains... smelly!!! (I really hope the farmers come and pick up the next load)
I cleaned 21 half barrel kegs and 2 sixth barrel kegs... right when I finished and dumped my cleaning solution I found 5 more dirties downstairs... whoops and damnit
I ate a hot dog and some carrots for lunch
I showed up for work at 1 o'clock
I spent the morning WHITE WATER RAFTING down the Gallatin River! Such a great time! The rapids are pretty weak in most parts of the river this time of year, but that was okay because we had TJ, Steve and Vicky's 6 year old daughter with us on the river. We didn't want her falling out of the boat now! I also got to plan a trip near the end of August... here are the details: we are running a ~20 mile stretch of Beartrap Canyon, Class 4 and 5 rapids near the bottom, world class brown trout fly fishing near the top, oh yeah and we can bring beer! Who could ask for more in a day?

Now onto the Bitterroot Beer Festival! Kelly, Steve, TJ and I pulled out from Big Sky at 8:04 AM on Saturday morning. We ventured about 4 hours west and north through Missoula, MT to Hamilton, MT for the festival. On the way we stopped off at Kettle House Brewery (they make a delic Scotch Style Ale called Coldsmoke!) Tim from Kettle House showed us his new facility which is located in a restored train station. It was beautiful! I am definately jealous of parts of their setup, but from what we heard he for sure has his own set of difficulties in his process. No brewery works perfectly!

We arrived at the festival "late" or so we thought. We were asked to show up at 12:30... that would have been a huge waste of time! The festival started at 3:00 PM, we showed up at 2:30 and finished our setup in 17 minutes flat. There was somewhere around 15 breweries with over 40 beers there. We were in a tent in the middle of a blocked off street. At first the festival started out slow, but by the end of the evening I saw wristband #2000 floating around... it was packed!!!

Beer festivals are probably my favorite part of working in this industry. The main reason for this is that the people who show up at the festivals are very very open to trying beers they normally wouldn't try. Before serving our beer, people usually ask things like:

"What is your lightest beer?"
"Do you have (bud, miller, coors...)?"
"I've never had that style before, will I like it?"
"What is your best beer?"

These people obviously don't have much experience with craft beer. Usually after they try our beer, 99% of the time they say "Wow, that is so good! I never expected that!" I can witness the enlightenment of newly converted craft beer drinkers! Some of the other breweries brought silly "crowd pleasing" beers that are light and fruity and unappetizing (to me). They miss out on this opportunity! Who has fun serving beer like that? Your customer doesn't learn anything knew and you certainly miss out on the experience of helping them learn more! We brought our Lone Peak IPA and our Hopfest '09 Brown Ale, not exactly "comfortable" beers for most of the beer drinkers in the world. We flaunted the fact that we love hops, and in my opinion we were rewarded greatly for it! As the day went on we saw more and more returning customers because our beer was simply "more yummy" than all the other beer at the festival!

Here are some things that I learned while at this festival:

1) Don't drink your own brewery's beer, you drink it all the damn time, go try other beer and compliment the brewer (its free anyway!)
2) Have some swag to give away with your brewery's name on it so the drunk people can remember the delicious beer they drank
3) Bring business cards, it is networking heaven
4) If you see someone standing in front of your booth looking lost, be friendly and gesture them over, give them a beer sample, they will love you
5) If at the end of the festival your boss says "Boobs for beer" and people start lifting their shirts for pints... I didn't learn anything here except that this works!
6) BRING A TOOLBOX, things always break!

The end of the beer festival was quite a shit-show, this is becoming a trend... I get to go to another festival this weekend, if it also turns into a shitshow then my hypothesis will be confirmed and I will explain why this happens in detail.

Here is a snapshot that Kelly took during the festival, it rained on us just a little bit (don't worry the beer drinkers stayed!)

Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 29: My Favorite Style of Beer!

My favorite style of beer is... Bourbon Barrel Aged Oatmeal Stout!!!

This is a picture of filling the VERY FIRST KEG of Lone Peak Bourbon Barrel Aged Hippy Highway Oatmeal Stout! It was a busy and exciting day at the brewery. Any day that starts with a pint of bourbon stout has to be... am I right?

Why was I drinking a pint of this stuff in the morning you ask? Because I could? Well yes, that is part of it! The other reason is that Steve and I could not bare the thought of wasting all the yummy beer that was leftover in our filter and lines after we were done kegging. We did what any respectable brewers would do and pulled out two pint glasses and slowly captured all the "waste" beer.

The rest of the day was very hectic. While cleaning tanks, brewing Lone Peak IPA, and finishing TJ's Old Fashioned Rootbeer, we also transferred yeast, dry hopped the pale ale, and worked on carbonating a different batch of IPA. This was all before 3 o'clock, I might add. At three Steve and I headed up the mountain to install a root beer system as fast as we could, and then back down the mountain to set up a beer tent for music in the park (a weekly local music event), and clean out the mash tun, wort lines, and kettle!

I am exhausted sauce. Thanks to all of you that have e-mailed me your beer story so far. I am still looking for more! Here is a picture Kelly and I took while we were at Yellowstone last weekend (I love buffalo!)

Oh yeah, and a photo of Yellowstone Lake, the most beautiful place in the world!!!

Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day 28: Tinker Toys

What a day!!! It was 7:40 in the AM, I turned on my cell phone after its nighttime sleep, here is the text message I got: "Rafting today, bring Kelly to the brewery, see you at 8." Kelly and I have been hearing that the brewery staff was going to take a day off and go rafting down the rapids of the Gallatin River since the first day I stepped into the brewery. I would estimate that the trip has been tenatively planned at least 5 times since then. We have waited patiently, watching the river reach its peak (above 3500 cfm) and now is down to below 2000 cfm. The rapids are shallow and weak now. Nonetheless, we were excited to find out this morning that today was finally our rafting day!


Our group was stood up by our guide. No rafting today : ( Steve and I ended up back at the brewery at 9:15 AM to get a start on our day (of tinkering with our equipment) about an hour later than we usually would.... A new trip is planned for Monday though, cross your fingers!

Our goal today was to transfer 20 bbl of Lone Peak IPA from FV7 into the new brite tank (BT1). After quickly finishing the glycol (chilling) lines to the dimple jackets on the tank, we had to inspect the passified surface on the inside of the tank, and outfit the rest of the parts to prepare it for holding beer. Let me spare you all the gorey details, this process took about 3 hours and involved me inside the tank (sweating my ass off) scrubbing some scungy spots; fixing and rigging up a carbonating stone, fashioning a blank for a 2" opening out of a ball valve and some elbow grease, and lots of tank rinsing (and repeating of course!) Lots of tinkering!

We started transferring into the tank at about 2:00 PM. We had no idea what to expect for how long the transfer would take, and no "full" line to shoot for!
The transfer took about 4 hours, it probably could have gone faster, but we didn't want to push our luck by pulling beer to fast and risking gunking up our "shit catcher." Consequently there was a lot of waiting to "see what happens." At about 6:00 PM the beer from the fermenter got so gummy with entrained yeast and dry hop residue we stopped the flow of beer. Tomorrow we will keg the IPA and find out what yield we got (I'm hoping for 39.5 kegs!). I will also have the opportunity to start cleaning FV7, my favorite! Below is a picture of the sight glass on the tank while it is filling for the very first time! Also visible is 1/2 of the tiny doorway that I had to use to climb into the brite tank while scrubbing it today.

Because we "wasted" most of our day tinkering with the tank, near the end of the day it was a scramble to finish all the of the other tasks we had planned. (I say wasted not because it actually was a waste, but just because it feels like one making such little progress all day) I got to harvest yeast from FV6 (Headplant Pale Ale) on my own! This was great for me because just last week I watched Steve harvest from another beer, and took notes in my notebook. Without any more guidance or practice I was able to do this task all on my own, just based on my notes! Here is a picture of the yeast harvest:

I also was fortunate enough to mill in the next batch of Lone Peak IPA that we are starting to brew tomorrow! This is the end of my day. Kelly showed up and we had a few beers in the taproom and now I am home, writing to you!

So far I have recieved two very insightful and interesting letters from you aspiring brewers out there! If you need some catching up, on Day 26 I asked for you, the readers of A Brewer's Journey, to write in to with your story about becoming a pro-brewer. I'm hoping to receive many more of these before I post my favorite of the stories in this blog. For those of you that have already e-mailed me, I am working on responding to you personally, but there are only so many hours in a day! Hopefully this weekend I will be all caught up. Thanks to all of you!

Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal