A Day In The Life: Brew Days

I haven’t actually written much lately about what I’m DOING in the brewery, so I figured that needs to be rectified with a Day In The Life entry.

This will be a series of entries, starting with a brew day!

Most days, I get to work at 10AM (unless I’m cleaning tap lines, then I usually pop in no later than 9:30). By this time, Tony’s either just beginning to mash in, or about to finish that process.

I usually begin with rinsing any gear that’s been soaking overnight in detergent. Once that’s done, and the gear not specifically needed to rebuild one of the fermentation vessels (FV) has been put away, I move over to sanitizing the FV we’ll be knocking out into.

Sanitizing an FV takes approximately 18 minutes, not including the time it takes to attach equipment. When that process is started, I hop over to the mill room to vacuum it thoroughly. We don’t want any leftover grain enticing anything to come in for dinner!

With that finished, I hop back over to the FV and crack open valves to sanitize the blow-off hose and racking arm. After that, I remind myself to crack open the door during the last 2 minutes of the cycle to ensure that gets nicely sanitized (sometimes I forget, stop the pump, and then turn it right back on and crack the door).

We then pump that sanitizer into several buckets (blow off buckets, extras, and at least one Lexan if we need to harvest yeast) for later.

If we harvest yeast to use in that day’s brew, this is when that typically happens. We simply use yeast from a previous brew (that’s finished fermenting, of course), and pitch it into the sanitized FV for the wort being made.

There’s not much to do when the wort gets pumped into the brew kettle except keep an eye on things and flip a couple switches at the appropriate times – until it’s Mash Out time! If I’m not doing something else, like a rack, I’ll step in and pull the spent grain out of the lauter tun into our 400lb steel dumper. It’s a team effort most times, with Tony hosing down the rakes and plow when the grain gets low while I scrape as much out as possible.

The dumper then gets fork-lifted into the parking lot where it waits for the farmer to come take it. The lauter tun is thoroughly hosed down, and the loose grain removed, before it’s rinsed with the remaining hot liquor (really hot water, but not boiling hot). I’m still learning the precise process of opening and closing valves at the appropriate times to rinse the lauter tun (there’s, like, a dozen of them and they all go different places, so it’s important to remember which does what).

The rest of the brew is spent adding the needed hops at the right times, keeping the wort at a consistent boil, and then knocking out (transferring oxygenated wort into the FV where we pitched the yeast in order for it to ferment and turn into beer).

After knock-out is complete, it’s time to clean the brewhouse equipment! It’s a mostly automated process that takes about 30 minutes. If there’s nothing else going on that day, this is when I usually spray down the emptied dumper, then hose down the floors. When we’re done, if we have beers from other breweries that people have brought us, we’ll crack open one or two and share our thoughts on it. Or we’ll taste our own brews, just to see how they’re coming along.

And then it’s about time to head home! Brew days usually last 6-7 hours (again, if nothing else is going on simultaneously), so it’s a good days’ work making beer for all of you to enjoy.

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