This post is for Dan, he’s been asking for an update and honestly, it has been awhile.
“So where are you at Ron?”
Yesterday I stopped down at the Summit County Building Department and got some long-awaited news. Good news. Very good news. It was a successful mission capping off the last three months of back-and-forth between me, my architect, plumbers, electricians and the building department on a few remaining items.
There is now a clear path on finishing. A few things need to be completed on their part, and several miscellaneous things on my part.
This will be the last post regarding the buildout as we have now ‘made our final descent and are now approaching the runway’. WHEW! Plus, I don’t want to give away too much more on the interior, I still want to ‘WOW’ you with some interior design elements on your first day in.
“So when is the big day?”
Now, it’s not going to be tomorrow or the next week or two or July…but soon. When we are open, I will not make a big announcement…the window coverings will just come down – more of a soft launch the first month. After that, there will be a grand opening…if that’s even needed…
“What’s been going on the last few months?”
The big thing I have been doing is working out scaleup and processing issues. I hate to admit it but I have dumped several batches due to an off flavor that I have never encountered before on the homebrew level – in my 50 or so batches the last several years. I even had Mike, Larry and Brian from the local homebrew club, SAAZ, come down to investigate. They are highly qualified judges and brewers – if anyone could help with this off flavor, it would be them. They brought down meters and test equipment. We went through everything, smelled and tasted the bad beer and compared it against the beers that were coming out good. It’s not a sanitation issue, which is one of the most frequent cause of bad beers – an infection from another microorganism. My sanitation program is rigorous and most likely, over-the-top. This off flavor had to do with chemistry – water chemistry.
We isolated the problem to a few main ideas to work on – though nothing definitive. I would have loved a ‘smoking gun’ but it’s never that easy. I repeated another batch with some recommendations and it failed. Hmmm. I then also started taking detailed pH and sugar readings all throughout the brew cycle – a habit I should be doing now anyway.
It’s kinda ironic though, brewing beer on a homebrew level seems to be a lot more forgiving. I have made significant improvements in yeast pitching rate, wort pumpout aeration and pH level regulation in the mash on this large system – something I didn’t need to worry about on the homebrew level, YET I was still getting this very particular off flavor, but only in certain styles. My process has never been better yet I’m dumping half of my beer – and it was costing me time and money!
So what am I doing differently from homebrewing at home to my location, 10 minutes down the street? This problem was getting more vexing by the batch. Is the water chemistry different? It was. That in combination with having to make yeast starters for much larger batches – something that I never had to do. You see, even though the pre-fermented beer (wort) that I brewed was technically perfect, the yeast starters already had this off flavor – or it was where it started from. I come to find out that my chlorine levels at home, where the water came from for these starters, were too high – which was different from the brewery. I wasn’t using good water for the yeast starters. Sure, they fermented out quick and made lot’s of yeast to then pitch into the big batch, but this particular off flavor has a parts-per-trillion flavor threshold that was coming through to the final beer – but only in my lighter beers.
I started making yeast starters with spring water as a test. I haven’t had to dump another bad batch since. Armed with this knowledge, I just began making scaleup versions of our IPA’s.
“Why are you telling us all of this Ron? You’re admitting to bad batches?”
Of course! Brewers make bad beer all the time, it happens – and hopefully you aren’t being served it and it goes down the drain never to be whispered about again. There are a lot of variables to beer making that become more important the bigger you go. I have vowed not to put out bad beer – you may not like the style or my interpretation of it, but it won’t be infected (sour, vinegary) and it won’t have any astringent/medicinally/cleaner tones to it.
What I’m getting at is even if I could have stuck with my initial timelines to open months ago, I really couldn’t. I didn’t have the beer for it, it just wasn’t up to the quality that it needed to be. And I wasn’t going to open with only four out of twelve beers on tap. And for that I am sorry for the multi-month delay.
Now that this off flavor problem is solved, I am now scaling up everything to fill the coolers for the opening…I will be brewing the Oktoberfest soon so I can lager it, I’m working on the harvest ale. I’m thinking about pumpkins. I’m getting the IPA’s ready. I’m making more batches to replace what the Mustard Seed is using.
Now that the fermentation issue has been solved, it’s time to focus on the IPA’s I want to scaleup. For this I invested in a hop cannon vs dry hopping. I’ve used Blichman’s Hop Rocket on the homebrew side and it worked great, I now needed something to hold a few pounds of whole hops.
Here’s what else has been going on:
I finally fixed my leaky plate filter!
More interior signage
Dad is making tables
A big thanks to Akron’s Homebrew Club, SAAZ, for coming out on such short notice and helping to figure this out. Their insight was invaluable and I hope to never have to call them out again, at least for problems like this!
To my kids, they have been doing lot’s of cleaning and putting table pedestals together. Even learning and working on inventory.
To my wife…she is still hanging on! She is continuing to fine-tune our food recipes. She helps me stay focused in these times. We’re getting excited.
To my Dad, he is having fun with table making (a little sarcasm).
To Jesse on helping brewing and putting chairs together.