brewing equipment

Brandie's First Brew Day

I have a little catching up to do on these Journal entries... This post should have been entered back in October... better late than never.
We are so proud of our girl (and co-owner) Brandie for wanting to learn the entire brewing process. This is her first brew - Cranky Clyde Cream Ale. She was the brewer from start to finish.

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Brandie setting the panel up


For anyone that has ever attempted all-grain brewing, it is a complicated process with a lot of moving parts. Brandie jumped right in (under strict supervision from brew-master Roscoe) and learned the entire evolution. There is no better way to learn then to do.

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Left, Brandie is cracking the grain (called grist) - Right, she is stirring the mash.

In the end, Brandie produced a fabulous batch of Cranky Clyde Cream Ale, and gained a great deal of knowledge on the whole process. Mostly, she got to spend an entire day with Roscoe and I, which is priceless. Great job, Brandie!

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If you don’t like to clean, don’t become a brewer.

The Brewery is Complete!

We have completed the actual brewery build. It has been an eight-month process from the time the controller kit was ordered to the final bit of assembly on the heat-exchanger but we are now ready for testing.
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The testing process will happen in my garage, where we will power up the control box (shown above) and work it through it's paces.
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We will then conduct test brews with water only to check the overall integrity of the system and to check if all the components are working correctly. All we need now is a power source. That will hopefully be wired in this week. Can't wait to crank this baby up!

Shiny New Brew Kettles!

Aren't we something else?!?
Over the last year, while we have been searching for just the right location to open the Brewery, we have been slowly acquiring the equipment that will eventually be our electric 1bbl brewing system. Most of the effort to date has been put into building the electronic brain of the brewery. Since that has been completed and we are fairly certain we have found the perfect spot to open the Brewery, the rest of the equipment needs to be purchased so Roscoe and I can get busy.
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There are many "moving parts" to this project, but they are all anchored by the brew kettles. Pictured above is what will eventually become the Hot Liquor Tank, Mash/Lauter Tun, and Brew Kettle. They are 55 gallon Blichmann Boilermaker brew pots that will be converted into the respective vessels. We will produce 31 gallons (1 barrel) of finished sweet wort through the brewing process which will become six "sixtels" of finished, kegged beer once fermentation is complete.
We are thrilled with the pots and can't wait to get our brew on!

Nothing happens when you push the button...YET.

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We are making progress (albeit slowly) on our brewery controller. Since we don't have a location for the brewery yet, we have the luxury of taking our time and doing it right. As you can see, construction has been completed on the outside of the controller and all the PIDS, lights, switches and indicators have been installed. The heat sink for the SSR's is also installed.
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Here you can see the electronics mounted to the lid of the box sans wiring. We have a lot of work to do!
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These are the Solid State Relays mounted to the heat sink.
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The bottom of the control box with all the external connections.
We'll have more photos to post as we progress down timeline. Cheers.

Our First Component

A brewery is born! You have to start somewhere. We are starting with the nerve center of our future 55 gal (net 1 BBL) set-up - the electronic controller. Shire Station has purchased the large (>30 gallon) electronic controller kit from The Electric Brewery. This controller will allow us to better control all the variables in the brewing process and will transform us from rag-tag home brewers to a professional outfit. I estimate that it will take us some time to build this panel, but doing so will better allow for repairs in the future. Plus Roscoe loves dinking with electronics.

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The guts of our control panel

The good folks at the Electric Brewery have supplied all the parts and the instructions to make this beautiful (and functional) control panel and we are grateful to them. Once completed, we will be able to program, set and hold accurate mash schedules of time and temperatures and perform step infusions as required. Also, the controller activates the two system pumps for movement of wort and water. No more back-breaking lifting of hot kettles and coolers! Can't wait to get this and start the build...

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What our controller will look like when complete

If you want to own a brewery, you have to have a brewery!

A couple of weeks ago, Sonya and I took a quick trip over to Vegas to visit an old friend, Rock Davis. While we were there, I made a command decision to visit a brewpub, since we don't get to do that a lot here in the big city of Lemoore. We chose the "Triple 7" up in old town, right across from Fremont Street. As we made our way from the smoky casino in to the restaurant, the haze parted and there right in front of me were those glorious copper-clad pillars of malt-conversion nirvana that are the hallmark of any brewpub worth it's hops. I immediately started salivating, and grabbed the seat at our table that allowed for the best view of the system. For the next hour-or-so, Sonya and Rock chatted like high school girls and I stared at the brewhouse, fermenters, and brite-tanks like they were my old long-lost friends. Sonya was getting annoyed because she thought I was staring at any one of the lovely ladies in the place - wish it were that simple. I was lusting after that brewery, which appeared to be about a 20 BBL system with 5 fermenters and multiple brite-tanks, all filled with malty-hoppy delight. I was plotting how I might distract the staff while I made out the back with each component, until I realized there was no back door and that I had no 18-wheeler to haul the tanks away with. SIGH...one can dream.

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Sonya and Rock catching up....................................A wall of fermenters taunting me

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Grist hopper (top), Mash Tun, and Brew Kettle in the background

Not surprisingly, a system like the one I saw in Vegas is just a wee bit out of my level of affordability. Just for kicks, I got a few quotes on some larger (for me) systems from various manufacturers, all which confirmed that I will be starting as a Nano and working my way up. Quotes for the minimal-size systems (7-10 BBL) range from $200K - $350K, and that's for pretty much a basic system, with no frills. Looking at the smaller systems (3 BBL), I got quotes that range in $40K - $50K price point. GULP!!! None of these include the bottling/kegging lines or cleaning equipment, nor do they include shipping. It's no wonder that more folks don't get into this business. It's downright oppressive!

I just want to make beer and have others in this area get to appreciate the good stuff. I did receive a quote from the nice folks at SABCO, who are the manufacturers of a slick little system called the "Brew-Magic". It is a fully automated and computerized small brewing system with all the bells and whistles - in essence, a full scale large production system in miniature. It is affordable (at least compared to the big systems) and would certainly work for my needs EXCEPT that you can only brew 10 gallons of beer at a time.

After Roscoe and I put our heads together, we decided that he is a pretty industrious guy and that I have a little bit of money. We think we have the technology and skill to buy all the components and construct the brewery ourselves. For the same amount of money as the Brew-Magic, we can build a larger-capacity (1 BBL - 31 Gallons) - one that has triple the capacity of the Brew-Magic, and with the help of the nice folks at High Gravity Brewing, make this thing work at a reasonable cost. So I have made the decision to purchase a 55 gal electric-element brewery with three 42 gallon fermenters to start. The entire system, which included the pump, three 55 gallon brewhouse vessels, electronic temperature controller, wort chiller, fermenters and all the necessary lines and probes will cost me less than $10,000, and will give us the capacity needed to start our little enterprise. Of course, that still doesn't include the kegs or the keg washing station, but at least I can swallow this cost without too much pain. If for some weird reason, this all goes down the tubes, I will have the best home-brewing system ever and will apply for the monthly "Pimp My System" on the AHA site. Next, how I plan on "breaking-even (at least initially).