Beer doesn't just "happen."
Well, OK, it did originally, but since then (roughly 5,000 years ago) we've worked to control what we get when we brew. You make good beer the way you get to Carnegie Hall: Practice, practice, practice. Or, put another way, testing, testing, testing.
We're in a fun but nerve-wracking period here in the brewery. We're actually brewing beer. All that pretty equipment is assembled. We've done a "water-only" batch, moving liquid through the kettles as though brewing but without any grain or hops. We've sanitized fermenters, converted five-gallon recipes to fifteen-gallon recipes, and developed brewing and fermentation schedules. Finally, after testing the assembly, testing the electrics, testing the flow of liquid, testing our cleaning procedures, we're...still testing. We're producing beer on the equipment that will brew the first beers pulled off of the taps for sale, and that's the biggest test of all. Beer recipes depend to an almost unbelievable degree on the equipment on which they're produced, so just because our initial batches (at five gallons) were hitting their marks, it doesn't mean these will.
At this point, I should probably add that by "we," I mean Seth. Sure, the rest of us pitch in, but he's the one quarterbacking this whole enterprise.
Where are we now? Well, the first beer (our Blonde) has made its way through the system and is fermenting away. In a few days it will be cold-crashed and fined (the drop in temperature and gelatin addition coagulate and drop out proteins and tannins, to improve clarity), then moved into kegs. That's when we find out how our first batch on the new system holds up. For what it's worth, we have reason to be optimistic. Our original gravity (OG) reading (which tells you how much sugar is in there and therefore how much potential alcohol) was almost identical to previous (smaller) test batches, which is a good sign; a lot depends on that number, and a big "miss" on OG is a serious red flag in a new brewery. Fermentation is progressing nicely at a cool 60 degrees Fahrenheit, which should make it nice and clean, as expected/hoped/desired. But there's no substitute for the kind of evaluation that comes from tasting that first testing.
And while we're waiting, it will be on to the test batches for the Coffee Stout and IPA.
I can't hardly wait - but as the stoic sage Seneca said, "patience is not the enemy of productivity." These tests will ensure that the beer that you taste when we crack open that first keg meets (and exceeds, I hope) your expectations.
Author: Josh Weikert
CONSULTING BREWER & CERTIFIED CICERONE