The Sweet Smell of Production

Posted on November 20, 2012 by Nathan

The sweet smell of production smells a lot like 200 lbs of grain steeping in hot water, and is also not far off from the smell of boiling that resulting sugar water with some delicious hops as well.

And let me tell you, it’s a glorious smell.

It’s been a long journey, but the brewery is finally tranformed out of construction mode and into production mode. The list of projects that ‘must be done’ before the brewery can open is empty, and the remaining construction projects are much more in the ‘like to do’ category.

As of writing this post, the number of batches through the system has hit the double digits, and I’m getting on the schedule of double batches every time I brew. You guys drink a lot of beer!

The production process is really quite enjoyable. Not just because things are settling into a routine, but because the problems that need solving are of a different nature now. The process of optimization is a much slower one than the process of construction, but it’s also a much more nuanced and complex one. I now can say, with certainty, that I will get wort into the fermenter at the end of the brewing day, and that wort will be within specifications plus or minus a couple percent.

But I can do better. I can get those numbers to come out exactly the same every time, and I can do it without any wasted effort during brew day. It will take numerous small tweaks and probably a lot of data to support some of those tweaks, but if you know me, you know data and I have a very intimate relationship.

Just to give you an example, my first brew day was almost 11 hours long, including cleanup. This was for a single batch of the Chateau Americana (which, by the way, has proven to be the most popular beer in the lineup so far). I got about 90 gallons into the fermenter, and at the end of the whole process, after fermenting and filtering, I ended up with about 65 gallons of beer. I was off on my target numbers by a few gravity points. It was supposed to be a 5.5% ABV beer, and was closer to 6% at the end of the day, but I didn’t hear anyone complaining.

This past sunday, I brewed the Chateau again. But this time, I had dialed in several major sources of variability and wasted time in the process, and I was out of there in 9 hours…… with 200 gallons of beer in the fermenter. I was brewing a double batch, and hitting my numbers at the end of both batches, in less time than I had brewed a single batch about two months ago.

And you know what?

There’s about another 30 minutes of ‘wasted’ time in there, maybe a bit more.

This may sound a little obsessive, and I’ll be the first to tell you that it certainly is. But, I’ll also tell you that you really want somebody obsessive brewing your beer. Not because good beer is hard to make, but because good, CONSISTENT beer is hard to make. Especially when you’re brewing as many batches as I brew. Essentially, I have a 6BBL brewery now, because two batches take just a little bit longer than one, so why wouldn’t you do it? But, I have to ensure that those two batches are the same as the last ones, and that the next two are the same as those.

And what of the time element of the whole process? It may sound ridiculous to stress over 30 minutes, but is it crazy to stress over an hour if I can get there? It doesn’t just make for a shorter brew day, but it starts opening up possibilities of triple batches in a day, or 6 batches in a weekend. It means that my next set of fermenters may not be double capacity, but triple. At the clip that I’m moving at, another set of fermenters could be looming in my future in the next several months, and I’m seriously considering getting bigger ones for the 928 and the Chateau.

And that means the bottom line here is more beer with more consistency.

Lets be honest, who doesn’t want more beer?

Post Categories: Beer, brewing, numbers

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