In February, we said goodbye to our old 1.5 BBL system and installed our shiny new 3 BBL system. We’ve been brewing on it for a month now, and I’d like to talk about the experience and what it means. This is a very useful post for anyone looking to open a nano, because I believe that a 3 BBL is what you really want to start with.
Before I get into the technical details, I just want to talk about what this means for customers. We’ll be focusing a lot more on our core beers, so our tap list isn’t going to change around as often. After nearly three years, I think we have really developed a good set of beers that are unique and well-liked, and I’d like to start focusing on keeping them on tap. For this summer, we’ll be featuring:
Peach Habanero and Cherry Cayenne Storm IPA
Achilles Rye IPA and cask Lemon Serrano Achilles
Supernatural Hibiscus Saison
La Resaca Gose (lime, dark, and cucumber variants)
Expect to see these on tap fairly frequently. However, we’ll still be experimenting, so there will be some different beers thrown in there.
Now, on to the new system. The system is manufactured by Stout, and uses a Brewmation control panel. It is an electric system with an insulated mash tun. HERMS is now available from Stout, but was not at the time I placed my order. I would prefer HERMS, but I haven’t had any issues hitting my temperatures, and this is good practice for when I move up to our 10 BBL system.
Along with the brewhouse, we opted for some slight changes to make things a bit better. First, instead of taking both 1/2 HP pumps that Brewmation offers, we bought only one and ordered a 1.5 HP VFD portable pump from CPE systems as our second pump. The portable pump is a key component at any brewery, and we wanted one in order to clean kegs without a keg washer. Cleaning kegs can be accomplished by hooking your pump up to a coupler on the beer out side, and running caustic through each keg, then water, then acid sanitizer, then CO2. A bit more time consuming than a keg washer, but with the limited amount of kegs we need to clean, it works fine.
In addition to the pump, we ordered some custom hoses instead of the ones Stout offers. For the wort side, I ordered some sanitary brewers hose from Ace. These hoses are machine-crimped, so debris and bacteria has less room to hide between the hose and fittings. Consequently, these hoses are extremely expensive. On the water side, I got a set of Novaflex band-clamped hoses from Five Star. I am less concerned with dead spots on the water side, and these hoses are considerably less expensive.
Along with our nice new system, we also have begun upping our game in other areas. First, we no longer use PBW for CIP. We switched to Loeffler Chemical’s line of products, specifically Lerapur and Lerasept-O. These caustic cleaners are relatively expensive, but concentrated, which makes them more economical than competing chemicals. They are also a world apart from PBW in terms of power. Five minutes of CIP with both will leave a boil kettle covered in hot break looking like a mirror. These new chemicals will also do a much better job on the weakest point in any brewery, the wort chiller. Please remember that if you are using such chemicals, gloves, safety glasses, and proper footwear are absolutely mandatory. We still use PBW for parts soaking, and Saniclean as a sanitizer.
We also have been taking PH readings at every step in the process. I’ve had great success with the Milwaukee meter. Accurate PH testing is critical for sour beer production, which we are about to get back into after a hiatus. We had stopped doing kettle sours after losing a batch in the kettle due to activity from an unwanted organism which produced a lot of isovaleric acid, ruining the beer. The old kettle made from a steel drum was too difficult to adequately clean–kettle sours require the utmost care to keep unwanted organisms out. I am very excited to start producing some tasty goses this summer.
We also purchased a microscope in order to begin plate testing our beer. I’ll probably do an expanded blog post on this later, but basic tests are fairly easy and inexpensive to perform. We constructed a basic incubator with a temperature controller. We also purchased a stove-top pressure cooker to use as a makeshift autoclave. (Note: fine for this application, but not for anything where incomplete sterilization could cause bodily harm)
Using the new equipment is very satisfying because it is basically a scaled down version of a big system, so if you can brew with it, you can brew on anything. I have no fear that I can make some good beer on our 10 BBL system, which I ordered last week!