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Prototype Brew #1

Written by Rob Hern


Posted on May 06 2017

brew dayWhere to begin… I have been slacking on blog posts lately.

Let’s start with: it felt really good to finally knock out a brew on the prototype system. Feels like I haven’t had any time to actually brew lately and that sucks.

In terms of the first brew day as a whole, I can’t really complain. That said, it wasn’t truly a full run through. First off, I only used two of the three vessels. I ran a no sparge brew, which is a first for me. Essentially running a very soupy mash. I decided to do a split batch brew and run the system at half capacity. Total yield for the day was 105 liters (pretty small). The mash build up was 80% 2 Row, 17% Cdn. Wheat and 3% Acid malt. The batch was split in to two fermenters; half was inoculated with Escarpment Foggy London and the other with Saison 2 from White Labs.

The fun part of this brew was that I decided to play around with the Tavistock lupulin powder that Kyle dropped off.  75grams at 10min and 400g for whirlpool. The only reason I did this for the prototype brew is because we weren’t running the full system and so it isn’t quite an accurate measure of what the system will be doing on a regular brew day. It was nice to be able to play around with the powder fairly risk free. That being said the target gravity was 1.058 and I hit 1.057. To be honest, I didn’t hate the no sparge method. It seemed a little weird, but numbers and volume were all on point.  The main goal of the run was to look for any glaring issues and determine how well the false bottom performed.
Main issues for the first brew day.

  • If you have been in the back room and looked at the prototype system, you'll know that there are ports all over the place. I was short a couple clamps and caps to run the full set up so this was why I ran the 2 vessel.
  • The pump on hand is not up the job – can’t really complain as I got it for free.
  • Chilling through the Therminator took for F’in ever.
  • Mash went well, took a little while to clear but an alternate pickup manifold under the false bottom should take care of this.

This week, after the brew, I spent a lot of time spending a lot of money on new fittings, a new pump and discussing working out the design for our counter flow chiller as well as all the hard piping to run the system (still working on this). If you start a brewery, buy twice as many clamps and valves as you think you will need… this shit is not cheap. 

What I have discovered from this adventure to fully build my own system and design it with Greg is that it would have been a lot quicker and easier to buy one… but do I care? Not really, because I have enjoyed the hands-on side of setting the back room up. That being said, every time someone walks in the door and says "hey, I heard you were a brewery," I kind of laugh and say "well, sort of." I am in the process of trying to build one from scratch. If you ask me for a timeline, I am still trying to open the doors before the LRT (ION) is cruising through the Tri-cities in 2020, but I will make no promises. The other thing I have learned repeatedly with starting my own business is just how much I don’t know. That list seems to get bigger every day, and it is super enjoyable to be constantly challenged and forced to learn new things. Working in a brewery is not the same as trying to start your own from scratch, as it turns out.

fermenterWe will be hosting our final event in the back room for May’s Homebrew Hangout on the Wednesday the 31st before I start some further construction and then fill the room with fermenters and other equipment. This will be our Annual Big Bottle Share event. It was one year ago in May that we hosted our first Bottle Share Homebrew Hangout in the front room before I filled it with shit and so it seems fitting that, before I fill the back room with shit, we should do the same. Where the annual event will be in 2018, I don’t know – maybe our barrel storage facility? This Homebrew Hangout will not have a feature talk but it will feature the first beers brewed on the system: Proto1 and Proto2. Hope to see you all out, and can’t wait to share some Homebrew.

Life is Short.

- Rob



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