The Craft Of Brewing

December 12, 2019 (newer posts below)

Tomorrow I start as a brewer at the Craft of Brewing in Ashburn Virginia.

TCOB is a brewery, a brew on premises and a pub. It is not a brewery that follows the rules of breweries in my area. It is a bit of a renegade. I’ll expand on this more later.

For the brew on premises (BOP), they have SPEIDEL equipment. (I would also like to point out that this is all grain brewing, not extract brewing). Speidel is the company that created the brew in a bag, automated home brew equipment market, (except the bag is a stainless steel cylinder). It is computer controlled. You mash and boil in the same kettle. THIS is what started the Grainfather,(click to enlarge these photos). RoboBrew class of homebrew equipment. It is the highest quality in this class, period. The BOP version is the 20L and they have a number of 50L size. For their larger systems, they have one Speidel 500L size and a Blichmann 1 BBL brewing system that the owner built. They have a glycol system, a keg cleaner, and hit pretty much everything on my checklist that I’d want in a brewing environment.

I had visited this place when it first opened. The beer was horrible. I wrote it off as a place I didn’t need to come back to, ever.

Then I see they are posting that they are looking for a brewer. It is close to my house (3.5 miles) so I call and set up a visit. I was quite surprised. They changed. The beers I had sips of were better than my last visit. The owner, who is a hands on owner, has a home brewing attitude that I wholeheartedly respect. It’s the over the top attitude which is what I love about the home brewing culture. I am embarrassed that I didn’t pay attention to this brewery. He has done a great job improving his business and making the brewing world better.

December 24, 2019

I’ve got a few days of work in. I was a little concerned after I hung out one night and drank a number of beers. I wasn’t impressed. I went back a few days later and took some time and tried the beer styles that I like and I found that I was wrong about some of the beers. I can now consider that they make OK beer.

I have been slowly learning the ropes at this place and there are lots of them. I have to say that the owner/brewer has gained a good bit in my mind as someone I can respect and work with, the variety of equipment has intrigued my interest from the get to. This looks to be a fun and learning place to work.

May 30, 2020

Long time, no type. Still at TCOB, I did take a few week layoff at the beginning of the Chinese virus pandemic. I went on unemployment for a bit. TCOB got their PPP loan and I got hired back, but I went back at 5 days a week and not the three days I was doing.

I’ve made some good inroads on the beer. I’ve been happy with the results and the customers seem to be happy as well. Good for now. More to come.

At one point I did have a desire to purchase one of the Braumeister 50L kits that we have at the brewery after having brewed on them a bit, I found that when you get close to their limit of grain, the efficiency drops. Or so it seems to drop when going through the motions of normalcy. I am going to try to do longer mashes and see if this improves the efficiency. Then there is also the idea of doing a double Mash. Seems messy, but since we have a number of these units, it would be easy for me to pull the mash pipe and insert another one in and start right away on the second round. I’ve also realized that I don’t need a 50L size. I could do just fine with a 20L. 20L makes a 5 gallon keg. With the 50L, I can’t drink that much of the same beer.

I have to admit that I haven’t done any real ale since I was at Smoketown. The owner of TCOB wants to do some, but he doesn’t get that whatever doesn’t sell in a few days gets dumped out and considering that we have over 30 beers available on draught, the competition for the cask would be horrible. I am yearning to do some though. I’m gonna have to.

I have not done any of my own recipes here except one, my patersbier, which I am calling ‘The Angry Pony”. This was what it was named when I did it at the MadHorse Brewpub. They are long gone so the name seems the right thing to do. It should be on in a week or so.

I have been having fun brewing TCOBs recipes, but I brew them my way which isn’t anything special other than using standard brewing techniques. The first thing that I noticed was that hot water from the hot water tank was being used in the mash. Seems like a good way to start to get the water hot, but this is not a hot liquor tank, it’s a hot water heater. It has an anode rod in it which is there to take the hit of corrosion off the tank and onto the rod. If you’ve ever replace one of these rods, they are disgusting. I only use cold water to start the mash.

The second thing I did was take a look at the mash step temperatures. It seems they were derived from folk lore. I got them straight and the beer went in the right direction.

Just have to get the quality thought process into the staff’s head. As long as I’m the only one brewing, not a problem, but at some point we’re going to need to hire another brewer and I need to instill the quality thought process into them.

Training

I have been doing some online training at a place called Rockstar Brewing AcademyI can’t say enough about this place. It’s not a place for the new brewer to attend, but if you are in the industry and already working in a brewery, it just the right place to be. Just about every lecture I find myself surprised that there is one or more tidbits of amazingly intelligent ideas. It doesn’t get old training and being surprised just about every lecture. Good stuff.

July 14, 2020

Wow. I am really seeing the benefits of the Rockstar Brewing training. Since I finally am brewing some of the same beers more than once, what I’ve learned has really shown me how far I’ve come. I’ve added notes to my past brews so that when I brew them next, I’ve got the benefit of knowing what I did right and what I’d change for the next brew. I can’t say enough how much this training has paid off. I spent a good bit of money going to Brew Lab in England and I wouldn’t change a thing about my time there, but I didn’t learn much new stuff there. Rockstar has given me what I want right as I needed it.

August 5, 2020

Today I brewed a Hefeweizen. It was a beer style we needed on the tap wall. This style of beer is a unique German variety. It is wheat and barley. I kinda did it as a tribute to my uncle Boyd, who just passed on. Well, that’s not where I started at, but that’s what it turned into.

In my youth, I would visit my grandfather and uncle Boyd’s farm in Imperial, Nebraska. This is where I learned about farming (to the extent I learned, which wasn’t much). Let’s say I was exposed to farming here. As a child coming from a non-farming area, I was unaware of what grains were grown and what their uses were. On this farm, they grew corn (feed corn) wheat, at times, sugar beets and I believe barley. I was aware of what wheat was since it was used in making flour based stuff. Barley, didn’t have a clue what it was used for. The farming of wheat stayed with me. I remember hanging around a storage bin and watching the wheat kernels lifted up through an auger into a truck bed to be taken into town and sold. Wheat was also a kernel that I could eat. Which I did. My cousin Tammi showed me how to keep chewing on the wheat until it became a gum like blob. I could never get to that point because I would eat it.

Years later, I find myself brewing beer and on this batch, how pertinent to my uncle’s life. The recipe called for a little over 50% malted wheat and a little less than 50% malted barley. The wheat was from England and the barley was from Germany. Which I found interesting because from the little genealogy that I did, my uncle’s family is of German and English decent.

I can say that I never saw my uncle drink a beer, none the less, this beer is dedicated to my uncle Boyd.

January 20, 2021

I’ve been at TCOB for more than a year. Such a odd situation to be in. I do whatever I can to make the beer better. I always look out for my beer. My boss doesn’t. He has no clue that beer has a definite quality time frame in its’ existence. It’s made, it is what is called green until it comes into its’ own in flavor and enjoyment. On a graph, that is an up trend. It hits its’ peak in flavor and aroma and then it starts a downtrend all on a timeline. Different beers have different graphs in their quality or enjoyment level. At some point, they have to get dumped. Even Coke has a date to tell you when to quit selling it.

There is no “checking the graph” on our beers here and my boss is a hoarder of all things including beer.

I hope to someday work in a brewery that really gets it.

Jan 28, 2021

Again, I have to give a shout out to Rockstar Brewer, Hendo is just Very F’N good at what he does. If you are working in a brewery, and want to get smart, go there and get smart.