You, Elon Musk, and Me: The Galactic Fermentation Specialist
It has been an interesting journey building Short Finger. A journey that has been harder than I thought it would be, particularly when it comes to explaining to people why they should care about our brewery and what makes it so unique. This is mostly due to my own failings as an efficient communicator. SFBC is five years old, with the brewery itself coming up on three years. In those three years, I have not stopped building and improving the operation. In the past few months, I have been slowly installing a glycol (chilling) system into the brewery which is technically the last of the large projects/construction that I had listed in the original business plan. So… I guess I’m done?
Why should you care about this? Well, if you are a brewer and I tell you that I’ve been operating a commercial brewery for three years without a glycol system, you would probably laugh, maybe think I was lying... but definitely believe that I was crazy. If you are a homebrewer, you likely have at least a rough idea of why this is a terrible idea but you may not have much sympathy because you know you make better beer than I do. If you are just someone who enjoys beer and likes a little backstory, you are in luck: this next bit is for you.
Quick breakdown: A huge part of quality fermentation is based on the temperature at which you ferment the beer. If you ferment too hot, you often end up with unpleasant off-flavours and end up with mediocre beer (at best). If your fermentation temp fluctuates too much, the same thing can happen but you might make it worse or even stall out your yeast (incomplete fermentation) depending on how big the swings are. Understanding and trying to control how yeast behaves is the main trick to brewing and temperature is a key part of this. Not having temperature control also means I have been operating without a working brite tank, which is the vessel that you use for final conditioning and carbonation. This is the point where most brewers think I’m crazy. Lastly, not having fermentation control limits the types of beer you can produce. No lagers... well, I have still made lagers BUT I do so only at certain times of year when I turn off heat to the whole warehouse so the tanks will sit at 10-12C. Not super convenient (and not to mention employees and coworkers getting cold and annoyed).
With that little bit of knowledge, you hopefully can see why this upgrade is so important to improving the overall consistency and quality of the beer we produce. As SFBC starts to make more Pale Ales for me to drink at lunchtime, this becomes crucial. Our Pale Ales prefer to ferment between 18-21C. That I have managed to pull this off repeatedly over the past five months with our little R2 Unit (a mini mobile glycol unit with no set temperature control - just cold) is pretty impressive. Everyone can pat me on the back later and buy me a beer.
How will this change the brewery, you might ask? To be honest, it won’t. I plan to keep creating mixed fermentation bizarre beers that don’t fall into proper style parameters so that 85% of Untappd users can say with disdain… “sour, I don’t like sour, 1 out 5, I would give it a lower score but it was pink” 😉. One thing I do plan to work on, courtesy of this upgrade, is a farmhouse Lagerbier. Won’t be happening anytime soon, but it’s something that I plan to tackle with the eventual goal of getting closer to a Biere de Garde style (which, if you have experience with this style, you know gives you no clear direction as to where I am going).
So, why should Elon Musk care? He shouldn’t. Unless he is an avid craft beer enthusiast that appreciates ingenuity and creativity. I have never met him, so I don’t know. What I do know is that I am the only person in the world (to the best of my knowledge) with the job title of Galactic Fermentation Specialist. I believe this makes me a prime candidate for the brewing position on Mars. To be clear I said prime candidate, not the best candidate. Off the top of my head, I can think of over 100 people that would be better candidates than me... but who cares? I made the job title up so I reap the benefits.