Monday, August 31, 2009

Day 53: I AM A HOMEBREWER!!!

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).

HOMEBREW WITH GOALS!!!

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!

IS THAT REGULATION SIZE OR WHAT?!?!?!

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!)


video


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

Day 43: THE CANNING MACHINE (Part Deux)

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 probrewer.com 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 www.thewashedrind.blogspot.com
. Wish me luck!"


Cheers, Prosit, and Skoal!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Day 42: THE CANNING MACHINE!!!

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

Day 36: WHAT A WEEKEND!!!

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