Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday Update on The Bruery (4/30)

Crap, May is almost upon us and I don't have a location! In my timeline, I was to lease a spot by May, so the pressure is on today and tomorrow.

Location: The landlord in Huntington Beach is still taking their sweet time, I'm supposed to hear back today. I've heard that before. I looked at a location in Costa Mesa that I like, but it's a bit smaller than the Huntington Beach spot (2800 sf vs. 4300 sf). The ceilings are also 14 ft, not quite high enough for 60 bbl fermenters, but I am rethinking scaling to that size right now.

Equipment: I did have some great luck last week. I met Don Barkley, brewmaster for Mendocino Brewing Co. at the Craft Brewers Conference and asked him if the platform used for the brewhouse I bought is still at the brewery. He didn't think so, but he got back to me last week and they still have it. This helps me a bunch as the mash/lauter tun sits on this custom platform-- it doesn't have any legs, and the grain-out is on the bottom of the vessel. He also has a mill and a spent grain discharge setup for me to take as well. Thanks Don!

As for fermenters, I've been talking with Rob Soltys at Premier Stainless about ordering fermenters through him. I've heard a lot of positive reviews of the equipment he imports, and his company, located in San Marcos, could modify my brewhouse on-site. I may just start with used 15 bbl fermenters, as my budget for fermenters will be extended about 35% if I get new ones right now. Stainless steel has seen some huge price increases lately. The used fermenters I have in mind are problematic to say the least, but with a yeast brink, a brite beer tank or two, and a Gamajet cleaning system, I think I can make it work.

Other stuff: The Southern California Homebrewers Festival is this Friday and Saturday. If you'll be going, make sure to stop by the BrewCommune tent and try some of our beers.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Monday Update on The Bruery (Tuesday, 4/24))

Location: Not much to report here. I'm beginning to grow frustrated with real estate brokers as many of them haven't been timely with their communications. Maybe I'll tie something up this week, probably not.

Equipment: The brewhouse has been purchased, and I'm looking around for suppliers of fermenters. Stainless steel keeps going up in price, so what I budgeted for fermenters in January is now 20% higher.

Regulations: I started researching the requirements of Orange County Environmental Health. A brewery would be considered a food processing facility, and after reading through the requirements, I understand why this is a major process for new businesses. It appears that floors need to be sloped 1:50 toward floor drains, so I'll likely have to repour all of the concrete in the building I lease. There may be some problem with the cargo doors being near the brewing equipment also, which would be a significant impediment as my needs require this kind of access. I can't imagine this would apply to a brewery, but if it does, I may have to do business in another county.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Craft Brewers Conference Recap

It was an exciting and tiring few days at the Craft Brewers Conference. I kept busy talking with other brewers and vendors, as well as drinking some amazing beers all day long. I managed to behave myself, and was able to wake up in time for the 8:15 seminars.

Speaking of seminars, all of the ones I went to were worthwhile and I'm glad I made the trip. Dr. Michael Lewis touched on how to deal with multiple batches going into one fermenter, and brought up many issues I wouldn't have thought about myself until it's too late. The talk was primarily on yeast pitching practices and the effect of stratification of wort during fermentation. I spoke to him after the talk on the effects of 1 or 2 batches in the 3 batch-size fermenter (17 to 34 bbl in a 60 bbl tank). He didn't think the differences in tank geometry would have a significant effect on ester development, but he cautioned me about oxidation with such a large headspace.

The non-traditional ingredients panel was a good discussion of the different and exotic sugars that are suitable for brewing, as well as many interesting herbs and spices. Speaking with Randy Mosher in person was a great opportunity also.

The media training and branding panel gave me a lot of good information on how to sell my beers. These were probably the most helpful seminars in telling me what I didn't already know.

Another great seminar was Total Oxidative Exposure and Increased Flavor Stability. New Belgium uses a lot of interesting methods to increase shelf life, and while I won't have the sophisticated equipment to mirror what they do, I can take a few tips away.

I went to the Brewers Association members meeting, which is held once a year at the CBC. The primary issue at the meeting was the definition of "craft brewer" according to the BA's standards. This was a heated conversation among the 300 or so members present. I won't repeat the details, but many brewers are not pleased with the definition that the Board of Directors came up with.

Part of the conference is BrewExpo America, which is a trade show where vendors set up and demonstrate their products. This gave me the opportunity to pay for my brewhouse, talk with brewers and different vendors, and try a lot of great beers. During each day there were 20-25 different beers being served.

Being far away in Texas doesn't feel so far away when there are many familiar faces. I enjoyed talking with Lee Chase (consultant to The Bruery), Noah Regnery (Pizza Port San Clemente), Jeff Bagby (Pizza Port Carlsbad), Greg Peters (Pizza Port Solana Beach), Tomme Arthur (Port Brewing / Lost Abbey), Gina and Vince Marsaglia (Pizza Port / Port Brewing / Lost Abbey), Mitch Steele (Stone Brewing), Greg Koch (Stone Brewing), Dave Keene (Toronado), Don Barkley (Mendocino Brewing), Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo (Russian River), Mike White (White Labs), Chris Graham (More Beer Pro), Karl Wichmann (More Beer Pro), Justin Crossley (Brewing Network) and many others I'm failing to mention. Might as well have been at a festival in San Diego or San Francisco! I did have the chance to talk with many other not so familiar faces, especially guys from New Belgium, Ommegang, Surly Brewing, Buckbean Brewing, Unibroue and Wyeast. All were generous in sharing tips with me.

I brought my toothbrush, underwear, deodorant, and everything else that I needed besides my camera. Sorry, no pictures!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Monday Update on The Bruery (4/16)

Location: I didn't know how difficult it would be to find a location to brew from, but I'm beginning to realize how picky I was being when I started my search on finding a place. Anyway, there are two possibilities in Huntington Beach that I'm working on. Hopefully next week I'll have a lease to look at.

Equipment: I'm now committed to the 17 bbl brewhouse after visiting it in Santa Rosa. I'll be paying in full later this week. Once I commit to a location, I'll put in the order for the fermenters.

Miscellaneous: I'll be at the Craft Brewers Conference in Austin this week. Here's the seminars I'll be attending:
• When Batch Size Doesn't Meet Fermenter Size, Dr. Michael Lewis, UC Davis
• Non-traditional Ingredients Panel, Randy Mosher (moderator), Randy Mosher Design; Todd Ashman, FiftyFifty Brewing Co.; Nick Funnell, Great American Restaurants; Bryan Selders, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
• Planning and setting up new breweries and brewery expansions, Fal Allen (moderator), Archipelago Brewery; Dick Cantwell, Elysian Brewing Co.; John Mallett, Bell’s Brewery Inc.; Mike Utz, Boulevard Brewing Co.
• Maintenance Needs and Resources, James Ottolini, Schlafly Beer
• Branding and Rebranding, Tomme Arthur (moderator), Port Brewing Co. and the Lost Abbey; Fred Bueltmann, New Holland Brewing Company; John Bryant, Odell Brewing Co.; Bump Williams, IRI
• Wholesaling Panel, Greg Koch (moderator), Stone Brewing Co.; Steve Hindy, Brooklyn Brewery; Jim Schembre, World Class Beverages/Monarch Distributing; Henry Monsees, Savannah Distributing
• Media Training, Julia Herz, Brewers Association
• Total Oxidative Exposure, Matt Gilliland, New Belgium Brewing Co.

There will be beer too! I'm looking forward to meeting the best of the brewing industry, and hopefully taking away invaluable tips as well.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Visit to Santa Rosa

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.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Monday Update on The Bruery (4/9)

Location: I'm still on the hunt. I checked out a place on Friday in Anaheim in a pretty crappy neighborhood, so I'll be passing on that one for the time being. I just came back from looking at a place in Huntington Beach and it's promising.

Equipment: I'm driving up to Santa Rosa tomorrow to take a last look at the equipment I have under contract, and to have Quality Stainless Tanks make some modifications to it. I'll be visiting Russian River Brewing while I'm in the area-- should be fun. I'll post some photos of my equipment and the modifications I plan to make to it on Thursday.

Next week I'll be in Austin at the Craft Brewers Conference. I'll be meeting with some suppliers, drinking great beer, and meeting the brewing industry's finest!

Friday, April 6, 2007

AHA Governing Committee Election Update

The election is over, and I've been informed I wasn't elected to the Governing Committee. Most of the incumbents were re-elected, with the exception of one. I won't say who was elected (it should be announced soon), but I think the AHA members made a good choice.

Perhaps not being elected is a good thing, as I can focus more of my attention on starting up the brewery. I'll admit, it does suck to lose.

4/16/07 Edit: Congrats to Drew Beechum, Chris Frey, Dave Houseman, and Susan Ruud.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Monday Update on The Bruery (4/2)

Reading through my previous posts, it's not very clear what I'm working on right now to get the brewery up and running. I'll try to do better on this and give an update every Monday, unless something great comes up, which I'll post sooner.

Most of my time is spent looking for a location to lease. Once I find a place to lease, then I can get the ball rolling on getting Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) approval, city approval, put in whatever fixtures the building will need to accommodate my equipment, and many other things that I can't do until I find a place.

I have given up hope on finding a location with floor drains already installed. I thought it wouldn't be too difficult to find this, but boy was I wrong! I'm now focusing on places that have everything else I need, such as a sewer line running in or around the warehouse portion of the building, 3-phase power, at least 200 amps, 3000-4000 s.f., appropriate sized gas line, and so on. I'll just have to bite the bullet and add my own floor drains, unless something great comes up!

I had found location I liked a lot in Santa Ana at the 55 fwy. and Edinger, but that fell through as the landlord was not willing to allow me to run a tasting room, public sales, or tours. One of the things about running a brewery that especially appeals to me is catering to those who enjoy my beers and want to check out where they are made, so it's back to the drawing board. There are a few promising locations in Huntington Beach and I'll know if those will work later on this week.

Also, this last Friday I assisted Dave Moody from Back Street Brewing in Irvine in brewing a batch of his amazing Jagged Little Pils. Dave has been a great mentor and advisor, always welcoming my questions and supporting what I'm doing. I've brewed with him a few times, and he's always shared a lot of great info with me. Dave is a very talented-- I stop by Back Street once or twice a week and am thankful I have such a great beer destination a few miles from my house. Try some of his Baltic Porter or IPA next time you're around-- you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Every Brewery Needs A Dog

Meet Barley, our 8 week old Yellow Lab! Barley will be the brewery dog, eating spent grain and welcoming you when you visit. He helped me brew yesterday and appears to be amenable to being the brewery dog.