Getting Ready for More Beer!
We really like making beer. We like making it almost as much as you like drinking it.
And you guys really like drinking it.
Since you like drinking it and we’re expanding our distribution northward and westward, we need to increase capacity. By, like, a lot.
So… more people! More hours! More tanks!
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be receiving eight new sixty-barrel fermenters, three new bright tanks, one new cold liquor tank, and one yeast storage tank. That’s a baker’s dozen of new things, all of which will greatly increase our capacity.
“What dictates capacity is how many fermentation vessels (or FVs for short) we have, how long it takes to complete a batch of beer (brewing, fermenting, maturing, and packaging), and how many hours in a day we’re willing to brew,” explains Director of Brewing Operations Jimmy Valm.
We’re going to be tackling all three of these aspects over the summer. We’re bringing in new tanks, we’re expanding our production staff to enable us to package more beer, and we’re moving to a 24-hour production schedule, Monday through Friday.
“Long story short, we’re going to be crazy busy making a ton more beer!” Jimmy says.
Staffing-wise, this means that we’re hiring a boatload of new people. We’ve had three guys come on already, and Jimmy’s got another seven people coming on in the next few months. (You’ll read about them all at Straight to the Pint!)
In addition, some of the guys on the floor are getting promoted. Since, believe it or not, Jimmy and Head Brewer Brian Hink actually need sleep, our two senior brewers — Andrew Ewing and Mark Graves — are being promoted to shift supervisors. One of our trusty Cellarmen, Eddie Siciliano, is being moved up the ranks to Brewer/Shift Supervisor, as well. Our Lab Tech, Lauren Appleman, is being promoted to Lab Manager, and she’s getting an assistant, as well. We’re moving Kevin Kately and JP Thomas from Packaging to Cellarman, and we’re bringing on a number of new people to the packaging crew.
It’s a shake-up, but it’s a good shake-up. Everybody moves up. If things keep going this way, eventually Ryan and Hank will get to go home and Mop Man gets to run the joint. That’s when things get interesting.
So, what’s the deal with all these new tanks?
The Yeast Storage Tank is exactly what it sounds like — it’s a small tank designed to house the yeast that we’ve harvested from a complete beer. But you need a little more than something akin to a big bowl.
“Basically, we need an agitator in the tank to keep the yeast slurry homogenized, otherwise the slurry would compact over time with all of the yeast cells settled in the bottom of the tank,” Jimmy explains. “Since one harvest gets us enough yeast to pitch 2-3 batches, without the agitator, the first brew would get all the ‘good’ yeast.”
That’s not fair.
We can also use the Yeast Storage Tank to propagate our own yeast, which we do two to three times a month.
“This will be our third Yeast Storage Tank,” Jimmy says, “which is great because it enables us to do multiple harvests in a day without having to wait until one of the other YTs becomes available.”
We’re also getting a new Cold Liquor Tank, which sounds a lot more fun that it actually is. Basically, all the water we use in brewing is referred to as “liquor”, so this thing is going to hold the cold water we use to cool down the wort before it goes into a fermenter with a pitch of yeast.
“It’s basically a large tank that has coolant running in a double jacket on the tank,” Jimmy explains. “We fill it with filtered water and it cools down to a nice 40° F. We already have a 60-barrel Cold Liquor Tank, but that won’t be enough for us this summer since we use about 1 barrel of cold liquor for every barrel of wort we’re cooling. Since it takes a little time to cool down the liquor in the Cold Liquor Tank, we needed another tank so we won’t be held up with production.”
Yeah. It’s basically a gigantic water cooler. (But it’s so much sexier than the one in your office next to Brenda’s desk.)
And the three new Bright Tanks are going to be keeping everything running smoothly.
(NB: There seems to be some confusion as to whether it’s a “brite” tank or a “bright” tank, but there doesn’t seem to be a difference. The words are interchangeable. Jimmy uses “bright,” so that’s the one we’re using. We’ll give him that much since he spells Scotch “whiskey” incorrectly.)
Bright Tanks are the last ones in the process. It’s the last tank the beer is stored in, used for finished beer — beer that’s been fermented, matured, and then “brightened”.
“It’s brightened by settling, filtration, or, as in our case, centrifuging,” Jimmy says.
Here, it’s carbonated and readied for packaging. And with twice as many bright tanks, that’s packaging beer twice as quickly.
So… do we get to go inside them?
“No, we have not climbed inside,” Jimmy says. “Have you seen the size of the man-way hatch to get into one of these tanks?! Let’s just say we might be borrowing one of our employee’s kids to get into these, just like they did back in the good ol’ days before child labor laws. It’s certainly not easy for us bulky brewers.”
All kidding aside, they’ve been inspected, but not by climbing inside. The permits needed for someone to actually climb inside one of these tanks are lengthy and cumbersome and we don’t get them unless we absolutely need to.
And then we send Eddie in. That’s what he gets for being young and in shape. (Still kidding!)
Anyway, we’ve got a lot going on in production, mostly because we’re growing so quickly. We’ve needed this shake-up to keep up. We’re going to make sure that supply keeps up with demand. Keep demanding and we’ll find ways to keep supplying.
In the meantime, come down on the weekend to get a tour of HQ. You’ll get to see all of these new tanks in action.