Last week I went to Northern California to check out my brewing equipment before I pay for it in full next week. I left at 4 AM, and my first stop was at Beer, Beer and More Beer in Concord. I frequently mail order from More Beer, but I haven't been there to check out their showroom. I highly recommend checking it out if you're ever in the area-- they have a lot of their high end equipment on display, and stock just about anything you would want. I spoke with Jon Plise for awhile about what I was up to, and I'm looking into ordering a wine bottle filler / mushroom corker through them. I'm still waiting to see whether they can build a semi-automated mushroom corker.
Next stop was at Quality Stainless Tanks in Windsor, CA. The equipment I plan to purchase is on their site, and they happen to fabricate stainless steel vessels for the wine and brewing industries, so they may also be making some modifications to the equipment. Thankfully, all the equipment was still there and just as I remember it. It is a funky system-- an oversized mash tun (approx. 25 bbl), a fairly small boil kettle (17 bbl), and a 22 bbl whirlpool. Apparently it was on a three tier platform and I'm trying to find out if that's still around. The mash tun doesn't have any legs, so it's either the platform or I'll need to have legs installed.
Next I went to Russian River Brewing for a beer. They had on Compunction, a barrel aged sour beer with pluots added. It was almost as tart as a Cantillon lambic, but not too funky. I was told that they are currently working on building a production brewery, and have purchased Dogfish Head's old 50 bbl system. They will be keeping their pub brewery open and just using that brewery to supply beer to the restaurant, and the production brewery will make beer for the rest of us. I'm looking forward to more Pliny and Blind Pig in SoCal!
I then went on to Lagunitas Brewing for a tour. Their brewery is just 10 miles or so from Santa Rosa in Petaluma. I was greeted by Stephanie, the tour guide, and was told I'd be the only person on the tour. We started out on the 2nd floor of their brewery, which is their tasting room / hangout area. I wish I took a picture of this room-- lots of retro couches, cool artwork, lava lamps and the like. They have four beers on tap, and the rest of the beers they have to sample are in bottles. Stephanie opened up three or four 22 oz. bottles for me to try. They are very generous over there! She then took me around to check out their new bottling line, their new centrifuge, the actual brewhouse, and their outside fermenters. I was interested in seeing their outside fermenters, I hadn't seen that besides in macro breweries. Apparently they are brewing 24 hours a day, 6 days a week there and are looking to expand. Their brewhouse is probably the smallest piece of equipment they have-- it fits into a small area tucked into the back of their building. The rest of their approx. 15,000 s.f. building is taken up by the fermentation equipment, storage of empty cases and kegs, and bottling line. They really do a lot with what they have. They are producing approx. 40,000 bbl per year there. I hung out there for a while chatting with some employees about the brewery, and seeing if they had any equipment they would part with. Unfortunately for me they are hanging on to most of their equipment, just in case they need it at a later point.
I checked in to Travelodge in downtown Santa Rosa, which should probably be condemned, and then went off to Flavor Bistro for dinner and some Moonlight beers. Moonlight is a very small, farmhouse style brewery in the wine region in Santa Rosa at the residence of its owner, Brian Hunt. Brian makes some outstanding beers in his very small brewery and sells it to restaurants and bars lucky enough to buy it from him. For a prospective brewery owner, Brian is a great guy to talk to. He has more experience than most brewers I know, previously a brewer for Pabst and his brewing reflects it. A few months ago Rachel and I went to visit his brewery, he gave me some great advice, some of it I didn't want to hear, and wasn't shy about giving it.
At Flavor Bistro, I had a Toasted Rye and Wheat and Reality Czeck with an asian noodle dish. Flavor has the largest assortment of Moonlight beers, with something like 6 or 7 Moonlight beers on tap. They don't have anything else on tap besides Moonlight, which is pretty great I think. The beers were wonderful as always.
The next morning at 6:30 I left for Orange County. I got back on Wednesday and I'm still recovering.