Tag Archives: craft

I’m still here

Wow! It’s been almost a year since I last posted something. That’s embarrassing. Let’s get a post in before that one year passes, shall we?

Much has happened over the past year in my many lives to keep me from posting here on this blog but I’m hoping to get back to it regularly in the coming months.

Last year (2014) was a very busy year in many respects. I was busy with my life of playing trombone as I spent a season in the pit in Stratford for Man of La Mancha, teaching at UWO, playing with the HPO and OLC (which just announced their bankruptcy as evidenced by the lovely website. LOL)

Family life was busy with an exchange student here in the fall and another here currently until the end of June. Much accommodation has been made to have an extra body in the house but it seems to be going okay.

Brewing at home was relatively busy last year with a bit of equipment acquisition and figuring out the new (now old) system. It’s pretty dialed in now so a brew day is pretty straight forward. I have even done a double brew day with no problem. (perhaps a future blog post)

The biggest news relative to the topic of this blog is that I am now a full time professional brewer. I returned to the brew house at Grand River Brewing to take over the duties of the former head brewer in late January. I am continuing in that position and thoroughly enjoying it. It’s a steep learning curve but things seem to be falling into place.

It’s quite the adventure and also quite a bizarre life to stand over a boil kettle making large amounts of beer and getting paid for it. Twenty five or so years ago when I first started brewing with Peter there is no way I would have imagined that I would end up where I am right now.

That’s it for this post. Let me try to get back here on regular basis to update you on my own brewing and things I bring from the big brew house to the small and vice versa.

Just tapped a rather pleasant IPA this evening and still have an American Stout… It’s what’s on tap.

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Brew Stand Brew Day

It’s all come together! It is, for all intents and purposes, done. There certainly is some tweaking to do and a few bits and pieces on my wish list but it works and makes a bunch of beer in one go.

My last brew day I took some pics to show the set up. Some of the line set up is not pretty but that is part of the tweaking. I’ll just have to have a few more brew days to figure it all out. 😉

This is generally what my driveway/brewery looks like on a brew day. The blue cooler is no longer a MLT but is now a bin to tote material from inside: scale, chiller, pumps, etc.

The Brewery

The Brewery

 

HLT set up for heating strike water. I recirculate the water as it’s heating just to avoid hot/cold layers. It makes the temp reading up top a bit more accurate. This is one place I could use an inline thermometer.

HLT

HLT

 

My fly sparge set up. HLT to pump to MLT. MLT to pump to BK. Flow adjusted so hot water into MLT is roughly the same rate as wort to BK. Works like a charm!

Fly sparge

Fly sparge

 

Top of MLT. Foil with holes just to avoid channeling in the grain bed.

Sparging

Sparging

 

Lauter line into BK. I had originally had the line with the tri clamp fitting as the lauter line and had that attached to the top port. This set up is better with the line going to the bottom of the BK. Less splashing, less foaming, easier to see volume when the wort gets near the top.

Lautering

Lautering

 

This is the set up for sanitizing the chiller. For the last 15 minutes of the boil I just recirculate wort through the lines and chiller. The line set up is not pretty and I’ll be tweaking that so that the moving of lines for cooling in and chasing wort with water is a bit easier and smoother. Using the MLT as a chiller stand was a last minute thought and works well. I had originally thought about mounting the chiller on the stand but knowing now how much back flushing is required it’s easier to have it loose for now.

Sanitizing Chiller

Sanitizing Chiller

 

Set up for cooling in. This basically works. The line from BK to pump needs to be on the other side of the keg the chiller is sitting on. Part of my waste water from the chiller is going back into the HLT so that when wort is done in the BK I chase the wort through the lines with the water from the HLT. This is another place I would use an inline thermometer just to adjust the flow and get the pitching temps right, or at least close.

Cooling In

Cooling In

There you have it! That’s basically a brew day on my new set up. Thanks to Clay for the build and thanks to Scott for the gas plumbing and pump box! Fantastic work!


Still Waters Distillery

A little while ago a friend contacted me about a brewery tour trip. Sounded like a great idea to me: 40 or so people, bus, brewery tours, dinner, home. A decent way to spend a Saturday afternoon. He had contacted me each year about this but I have not been able to attend until this year.

One of the changes to the tour this year was that they decided to visit a distillery, Still Waters Distillery in Vaughan to be exact. Great idea!

I had never been to a distillery. I knew about spirits and the basic (very basic) process involved in creating whisky, bourbon, vodka, etc., but had never seen it action or heard more details about it.

Barry Bernstein and Barry Stein were very gracious hosts showing us around their compact distillery and explaining the processes and answering our questions. I peppered Barry Bernstein with several questions about the process of mashing and fermentation as only a brewer would. I found this aspect fascinating as I had been aware of the connection between brewing and distilling but had never had properly explained to me.

One aspect that was interesting to me and will be of interest to my readers (both of you) is how coarse they crush the grain when mashing in. Barry was kind enough to let me photograph a sample of the grain crush they use and you can compare that to the crush I use at home when brewing beer.

This is how fine their crush is for their mash.

This is how fine their crush is for their mash.

Another one of the differences between distilling and brewing that I found interesting is the amount of sanitizing that is required. When we entered the distillery they were in the process of distilling some spirits that were entering a vessel at approximately 85% abv. No cover, no transfer lines, just liquid flowing from a spout into an open tank. Of course, at 85% abv there isn’t an organism that will survive a swim in that tank!

After an explanation of the process for distillation it was sample time! Barry Stein handled the sample table, explanation of the products, and any other questions from the group. Barry is an affable gentlemen with a fabulous voice (which I didn’t tell him at the time) and was generous with the samples. Not so much in quantity of each sample but we were basically told that whatever product we wanted to try just say so and we could try it.

still waters (6 of 7)

Barry serving out samples to the group.

I’m no spirits expert but I tried the cask strength whisky and regular strength. Both were excellent but I certainly preferred the body and flavour of the cask strength.

Later that day we did visit other breweries but their tours paled in comparison to the Still Waters Distillery visit. I came out of that tour with a renewed appreciation and fascination of the process of distillation, something I had not expected at all. If you can’t get to the distillery itself they do have an excellent explanation on their website of the process. (Bottom of the page.)

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Forked River Brewing Visit

Finally! A craft brewery in London!

I drive back and forth to London frequently in order to play with Orchestra London and teach at UWO and one thing that has been missing for a long time is a craft brewery. London has long been the home of Labatt, which I drive by on my way to UWO, but it has been a while since there has been a real bona fide craft brewer in town.

I was able to get an insider’s view of the brewery when I contacted Dave Reed, one of the brewers at Forked River. He was very kind to take a chunk of time out of his busy day to show me around the brewery and talk shop with me. I know how busy brewers can be and I felt honoured that he took so much time to spend chatting with me about the general operations in the brew house.

Tanks!

Tanks!

The brewery is very small, as you can see in the photo. It kind of caught me off guard to be honest. For some reason I was expecting something larger. That said, it’s perfectly suited to the space and to their current brewing plans. There also seems to be a fair bit of potential for expansion within the square footage that they occupy.

More tanks!

More tanks!

The thing that struck me most about the visit was that their set up is very much like a glorified home brewery. I want to state that there is nothing wrong with that at all, in fact, I found it quite simple and very common sense. They don’t filter, they just cold crash, like many home brewers. Carbonation is done over days, not hours. The MLT/BK/HLT are all just like a home brew set up. The boil kettle and hot liquor tank especially with them both being direct fired. They just seemed like glorified converted kegs!

Dave in action.

Dave in action.

Now the beer… I tried a sample of their Riptide Rye straight from the bright beer tank and it was excellent! I been withholding judgement on rye beers but Cameron’s Rye PA and this excellent example of the style have sold me on using rye in my own brewing. I will definitely be trying a rye beer in the near future.

I also tried a sample of their Capital Blonde Ale at the sample bar and found it to be quite enjoyable. I like the hop presence in both their beers and both beers are also VERY clean finishing which I do appreciate. I ended up buying a growler of the Capital Blonde and my wife and I quite enjoyed a few glasses of it.

There was their newest seasonal that had just started fermenting. I can’t say what it is but it does sound terrific and I’m sure word will get out quickly. I will certainly be trying a bottle of it myself if I can get my hands on some. I have no doubt that future seasonals will be equally interesting.

Dave and my growler.

Dave and my growler.

Dave was super kind to show me around the brewery during “off hours” and I do appreciate it. I look forward to stopping by to refill my growler on my frequent trips to and from London. Of course I invited him to Grand River Brewing when he has a chance but a start up brewery is a busy place. I’ll keep you posted.


Crushed

I had been hearing from a few other brewers recently about the speed at which they run their mills. Hearing about optimum speeds and not full speed or not too fast. I’m sure I had heard this before but probably not paid attention at the time as I was getting my grain pre-milled.

Now I’m milling my own grain on the brew day and having heard these discussions about milling speed finally decided to see what the fuss was about. I did do a bit of reading over at homebrewtalk.com (this thread) and it seems that there is much discussion (surprise, surprise) about rpms vs face roller speed. I also found this quote on http://www.theelectricbrewery.com/grain-mill:

Milling should be done at low RPM (revolutions per minute) to avoid shredding the husks. Somewhere around 150-250 RPM (around 2-4 turns/second) is said to be a good compromise between the time taken and the amount of shredded husk material. At this speed it takes us approximately 2-3 minutes to mill the 15-20 pounds of grain required for a typical 10 gallon batch of beer.

I have to admit, I just wasn’t aware of that. Likely because I spent a fair bit of brewing time not having a mill. Once I did get a mill I just attached my drill and let ‘er rip… or crush, or whatever is supposed to happen.

So hearing about these points I decided to try my own rather non-scientific test to see if there was a difference. I attached my drill and did a run at it’s highest speed and a run at the lowest speed I could maintain. I then photographed the results:

Crush at highest drill speed

Crush at highest drill speed

Crush at slowest drill speed

Crush at slowest drill speed

I don’t really notice a difference.

Now, it may be that if I brewed a batch with a slow crush grist and a batch with a fast crush grist there might be difference in efficiency. It may also be something that is far more noticeable or applicable in larger scales like a commercial brewery would be dealing with. This may be like the many discussions that homebrewers have about hot side aeration.

I’ll leave it to you to assess the results and… Discuss.


a bit of this and that

I’ve been on “holidays” for the past couple of weeks with a trip to the east coast of Canada with my family. It was fabulous and I do want to go back at some point but it sure is nice to be home!

Some bits and pieces for you:

Had some Propeller Brewery beers while I was out east. I had the ESB, Pilsener, and the IPA. All were well-brewed and I enjoyed them. I would definitely have them again but they were nothing “unbelievable”, as it were.

I had a visit to Gahan House in Charlottetown, PEI. A great visit with friends and some very fine beer. Their IPA was quite good but I also had the sample tray with eight (8… EIGHT) different samples on it! ALL very good and well brewed. Not all were to my liking but they hit the styles right down the middle and they were well balanced. Very good brews to be sure.

I have an exciting review coming up in a future post for you. (Full disclosure…) I was contacted by Shawn at BeerClings to review his labels for homebrew bottles of beer. I received the package while I was out east and so far it looks great and I’m excited to try them out and do a bit of a write up on them on this blog. Stay tuned in the next couple of posts and I’ll have that review for you.

I kegged an Imperial Citra Pale Ale and a Citra IPA before I went on holidays. They weren’t stellar when I kegged them (wanted to push them through to have some stuff for the trip east 😀 ) but they were quite fine when I returned after two weeks. The Imperial is quite nice and the IPA has mellowed quite a bit. I wasn’t happy when it went into the keg as it was a bit estery and phenolic (cloves mostly) but it has mellowed. It isn’t my best brew in the last little bit but it’s just okay. It’s what’s on tap…


Brew pause.

Oh, the horror!

I’m off to Winnipeg for ten days to play with the Winnipeg Symphony. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I haven’t brewed since last week and won’t get to brewing either at home or at the brewery until the first or second week of February. Luckily the two batches that I brewed just after New Year’s are ready to go. One is being tapped this evening and the other will cold crash for the entire ten days I’m away. Should be nice and clear upon my return.

No brewing but I’m hoping to try some different beers while I’m in Winnipeg. I was there last spring and tried some nice IPA from Half Pints Brewing. I’m hoping this time to maybe get out to the brewery for a tour just to see what is going on. Seeing other breweries and brewers in action always sparks new ideas for my own process and it’s great to meet the brewers of the beer you like.

I’ll try some beer and maybe write a bit about it while I’m there but I don’t do formal reviews of beer. There are other people who do a much better job at that and I’m happy to leave it to them.

Next post will be from the ‘Peg!