I’m going to start a brewery. Soon.
That’s pretty much it.
Ok there’s more. Let’s do a quick recap. Senior year of college, some friends of mine started making beer. They were chem majors, which was a nice touch. A few batches in, I joined the fun. Over the next 18 months or so, we got better at making beer, bought more equipment, stepped it up from extract to partial-mash, and really started pumping out the beer. At one point the three of us were doing 2-4 batches a month. We generally had about 3 styles of beer, 30-50 bottles each, sitting around waiting for a friend to drink them. We started labeling the beer under “Dead Bunny Brewery”. Pulled Pin Porter was one of my favorite names.
And it was good.
Fast forward another year (of non-brewing.. sad face) and I move to Denver. This is May, 2008. I start brewing again. One of my friends had all the equipment, so I grabbed my share and did my first all-grain full-mash batch.
For the uninitiated, there are three basic levels of the home brew. There’s the extract, the partial-mash, and the full-mash / all-grain. Extract brewing is by far the easiest and most consistent, but is very limited. You essentially take some malt extract (molasses-esque stuff) in a can, boil it in some water, maybe add some hops or other flavors, add yeast, let it sit for a few weeks, bottle it, wait some more, drink it. It’s awesome, the house smells great while you’re cooking, and start to finish (before all that waiting) is at most 2 hours.
Partial mash is more like making tea. It’s a lot like extract brewing, except while the water is heating up to boil, you steep a bag of grains in the soon-to-be beer. This converts a few starches to sugars, but mainly just grabs some color and flavor. In the end, the meat of the beer is from the extract. And yes, I just said meat and beer in the same sentence. This will be a theme.
All grain brewing is another beast unto itself. This style is extremely similar to how commercial breweries do their thing. The main difference is volume. Most homebrewers brew 5 gallon batches. Commercial brewers talk about their batches in barrels (bbl). A barrel is 31 gallons. It sounds arbitrary, but that’s how the government taxes them, so all things are measured this way. I think the federal tax is $7 / barrel or something.
Anyway, back to all grain. This process is lengthy. You take some grains, between 10-20 pounds, usually, and mill it nice and fine. Then you put the grains in a bag – much like a cheesecloth material – and let the grains sit in hot water for an hour or so. This is called Mashing. You then drain the liquid (called wort), run some more water through the grains, and take what you have and boil it. So far we’re at almost 2 hours of work, and the boil hasn’t even started yet. You boil the wort, add hops, cool it down, add yeast, and then follow the usual timeline (wait, bottle, wait, drink). I’ll write a full “how-to” at some point. But trust me, it’s lengthy. Our last batch took close to 10 hours, start to finish.
Alright back from the tangent. Our beer turns out really well. Like, really really frickin’ good. All the time. Knock on wood. Some friends and I get to talking, get to drinking, get to talking and drinking, and lo and behold, we decide it’s time to open our own brewery. This had always been a plan for me, but now (let’s call it August), it was the plan.
And thus begins the epic adventure of trying to start an extremely expensive start-up during a recession. Who’s excited? I know I am.