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.
I have been doing some online training at a place called Rockstar Brewing Academy. I 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.
The world has opened up a good bit from the CCP virus and we are getting customers again. Money is being made. Yeah!
Over the past time here, I have been ready to quit 6 or 7 times. Quietly looking at possible brewing jobs. then Chad happened. He has been working at the bar and was made manager of the bar. This guy is good. He is doing amazing things at the bar that makes people want to be there. He has made me happy to work here. I think that we have hit critical mass. The beers are tasting good, we can always get better,
On another point, here is a link to a video I made brewing on the Braumeister 500L system:
I have to say that my boss has come around a bit on allowing the beer quality to be kept up. He’s less of a hoarder. I find that beer that are over their freshness hump are being removed and he’s not being an ass about it.
I’m really happy with the beers moving through the serving wall. I am running on all cylinders. Have to keep committed to the quality of the beer, mostly age problems. I really think that the majority of beers we serve are ones I’m happy with. I still have a few to either get rid of or rework the recipe.
Lately, I have been impressed with the owner. He has really started to get in step with what TCOB should be. He has even told me that certain beers on our tap wall may have a problem. He’s actually paying attention to beer quality! I’m digging it.
Our distributor has a customer that is a English Pub in our area. They have two hand pulls. One beer is from our neighbor brewery Dynasty, the other was a beer from someone else. This pub was having trouble getting this other beer and I was asked to put my brown ale into a firkin so we could sell it to them. I ended up doing this five times(two firkins each time) (I wasn’t happy with this idea since just moving a beer from a US keg into a firkin is not how it is supposed to be, but it got us in the door!). When I stopped by this pub, one of the owners said he wanted me to make him an ESB. Game on. Our TCOB owner said it would be good to start making real ale. I thought it out and told him what I would need as far as firkins go. I also said that spending the money on what we’d need to move forward on this was a bit precarious because if we lost our only real ale customer, he’d be stuck with a lot of equipment he’d have trouble selling. Ok, my conscious is off the hook. I had to say that to him to be honest with myself. He said that he always wanted to have real ale and he purchased 2o firkins, a dual Angram hand pull (photo below) and all the bits and pieces that I’d need to move forward.
And, I couldn’t be happier. I finally get to do real ale. I casked two pins and one firkin tonight.
Well, I did my brown and an ESB on our large system (well large for us). I casked 6 firkins (the brown) yesterday and will do six more tomorrow (the ESB).
We purchased 20 firkins from a well known brewery in Baltimore. Lots of cleaning to get them up to use. Here’s a photo of our beer engines.
And now we are rolling. We can showcase our real ales at TCOB. As I said above, we have one pub already purchasing firkins and there is rumor of another one asking questions of our distributor. It seems our beer area is offering less and less real ale and we are kicking it up. Stay tuned.
I am poised to leave employment at TCOB mid December 2021. It is bitter sweet. I love brewing here. I have had good freedom to brew what I wanted, I’ve had success furthering my brewing techniques. I finally got to make some Real Ale although I have not perfected it as of now.
I feel I am working against the owner (or he’s working against me). The fact that he has little understanding of brewing beer theory and it is causing conflict with my brewing beer.
His lack of understanding about O2 in beer (and how to prevent it) has caused problems. I aim to make the best beer I can. I don’t need him to work against me on this and he does. He is his own worst enemy and it seems he’s mine as well.
Last day at TCOB.