Sunday, 24 February 2013

Week 17 Progress pictures

At this point you would be expecting me to be writting about getting the fermenters of beer we brewed last time in to bottles, casks and key kegs, and what exciting beers we have brewed to refill our fermenters.Unfortunately, this is not the case.

As mentioned in last weeks blog, the chilling of the fermenters has never really worked. While writting last weeks blog we thought we had fixed the issue by swapping the chiller units. Although there was a fault with the chiller, and with the auto function of the system, that wasnt the end of it. Basically, the whole system was just didnt work, even with a working chiller, the pipe work was just not moving the chilling fluid around, and hence the beer in the fermenters was not chilling. This is a huge problem, as when beer ferments, it generates heat, which needs to be kept under control, as beer fermented at higher temperatures have certain taste characteristics. We also wanted to chill the beer down to 0 degrees C, which helps the yeast drop out, making for a clearer tastier beer.

We have managed to get the chilling sorted out, with a mix of effort from the installers and us. So Boring Brown Beer has been sat at 0C for the last few days, and will be packaged tomorrow, opening up a fermenter for a brew of Black Perle on Tuesday. The beer formally known as Hit The Lights got to 0C yesterday, and will be packaged on Wednesday, opening up our second fermenter for a batch or Mariana Trench on Thursday. Above you can see Bryan cleaning our brand new casks ready for this. We haven't managed to get a proper cask washer, so we made it up as we went along.

I say the beer formally know as Hit The Lights, as this beer will be released with a different name, as it is not the beer we were expecting. This is no big surprise, as we were still learning the kit when this was brewed, so things came out a little different. But not in a bad way. There will be a blog to follow on this i am sure.

To finish off the week we were invited along to Magpie And Crown in Brentford for a meet the brewer event. This is a great pub close to the brewery, with a great selection of guest and bottled beers. A while ago they brought our first key key of beer. This beer was the collaboration beer we made with the London Brewing Co up and the Bull in Highgate called Shark Biscuit. This has been sat in their celler while they installed the required lines to serve key kegs. The night was a lot of fun, with some great people to talk to, and the beer was on top form. It should be on for a few days now, so if you can you should get down there and try some.

To this weeks pictures. And not a lot has changed I am afraid.

The 2 front View pictures are very much the same. Although you can just see, on the top one, our bottle filler. Gregg has been setting up and calibrating this ready to get some Boring Brown Beer into some bottles. The brewery has not been used for the whole week, which is hugely disappointing.

There is a picture missing here. I totally forgot to take the rear view shot. Nothing has changed though, it would just be tidier.

The main area of the brewery looks very tidy, which is the result of no brewing, and some very clean brewery owners.

Up on the mezzanine you can see red pipe on the table. We have been making different pipes that we can found that we need.

In the fermenter room you can see that one of the chillers has moved across the room to sit beside fermenters 1 and 2. This is the one that was faulty, and swapped out to be used to chill the cold liquor tank. We have got this one working, to an extent, and don't really need the cold liquor tank chilled, as the brewery is pretty cold as it is. We have decided we don't trust one chiller working on 4 fermenters, so now have 1 on Ellenberg's and one on ours.

So not the most exciting week, and the  brewery is still not at 100%. The installers were meant to be in Saturday to tie up all the loose ends, but didn't turn up. But next week is due to be a busy one.

All views and grammatical errors are those of WeirdBeardBryan , and not the Weird Beard collective.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Week 16 Progress pictures

Wednesday, 13th February, 2013, 1pm, one year 11 months after Gregg and Bryan first started talking about opening a brewery, and 15 weeks after getting the keys to the unit that houses our brewery, Weird Beard Brew Co. doughed in their very first beer. We started off proceedings with a beer we affectionately refer to as Boring Brown beer. This beer is brown, around 7% ABV and 100+ IBU, so pretty dull. We went with this as it uses just a single hop variety with quite a simple grain bill. It will not be a regular, so the perfect beer to sacrifice to the commissioning and learning of the new brew house. This beer is currently sitting in FV3.

Boring Brown was not the first beer brewed on site. As many of you know, we share the location with another brewery, Ellenbergs Brewery. These 2 breweries are totally different entities, making vary different styles of beer, but sharing a location and equipment. This has helped keep costs down for both breweries, meaning we can bring you even more quality beer. The very first beer brewed on the new brew house was an Ellenberg beer, and was their fantastic Alt. But we have to admit, as you may expect, not everything went to plan.

First, and probably the biggest issue we had, almost resulting in the burning down of the place before a drop’s brewed, was a badly wired/label switch. We have a large hot liquor tank, which you will know has already caused us issues with leaking. Well, this has a large thermostatically controlled heating element in, which we can dial in the required temperature before leaving in the evening and return to a tank full of water waiting to make beer. Well, this is the idea anyway. Monday night we dialled in the temperature we needed for Tuesday morning, set the thing to auto and went for a beer expecting all to be good the next day. On arrival Tuesday morning, we found a cloud of steam in the air and condensation dripping on everything. It would appear the installers had wired the auto setting in such a way that left the element on, all night, boiling away. If we hadn’t set the tank to auto fill with water as the level dropped it would have no doubt boiled dry and possibly caught fire. We were not happy, as this was obviously a very close call safety wise, everything was soaking wet, and the water in the tank was useless. This delayed us, but did not stop us, and Ellenburgs Alt went into FV1 at around 01:30 in the morning.

There are countless other small issues, Mike Ellenberg's kettle cleaning skills not being one of them, which there is little point in getting into here and now. But these will hopefully all be fixed next week when the installers return to finish the job. But one other major issue is the cooling of the fermenters. Basically this didn’t work at all, and we had to swap the fermenter chiller with the cold liquor tank chiller, which is not as powerful. They have also managed to screw up the auto function on these units too, as they are either on, or off. Temperature control of fermentations is kinda important, so we are pretty annoyed about this too.

Besides all of these issues, we can brew beer, so that’s what we continued to do. Friday we brewed the first of our proposed core beers. Hit the Lights is currently sat in FV4.

So, to this week’s pictures, which were taken while we were cleaning down after brewing Hit the Lights.

In the first 2 pictures, of the main brew house, the mash tun is being dug out. The large white sack to the right of the first picture, and bottom of the 2nd,  contains the spent grain. The fermenter is about half full of Hit the Lights, as it makes its way through the cooling and into a fermenter. The floor is very wet, which is why we spent so much time and money getting the floor right in the beginning. The thing hanging off the mezzanine down to the mash tun, that looks like a drain pipe, is, a drain pipe. Well, it is our home made hopper and grain hydrator, which makes adding loading the grain into the tun a lot easier.

The view from the rear is looking pretty tidy this week. That’s because water gets everywhere, so most things have been stored sensibly now.

Looking down from the mezzanine gives the best view of the spent grain in the big white sack. This went into the mash as 378Kg of grain, but will have absorbed 0.8 of its body weight in liquid. This sack is heavy. By the door there is a grain bag holding used hops. There were around 6 of these earlier, but someone from the local allotments came and collected most of them, but couldn’t get them all in his car, so left this straddler behind.

Nothing ever really changes on the mezzanine, well nothing you can see beyond the sacks of grain. A couple of piles have gone down, but it’s hardly noticeable.Although you can see a trial jar in the second photo with a hydrometer in. Can you see the reading fro Hit the Lights?

3 out of the 4 fermenters in the fermentation room now hold beer. The 2 on the furthest wall, FV1 & FV2 are Ellenburg’s, with their Alt in FV1. While the 2 on the right, are Weird Beards. The closest one with the red hose connected was being filled with Hit the Lights. The one with the green bucket is holding a vigorously fermenting Boring Brown. It is so vigorous it is escaping out of the spray ball pipe.

I expected this to be the last of the progress blogs, as the brew house was meant to be in, and fully working. It is currently limping along waiting to be brought up to an acceptable standard though. We also need to get the bottling line working. We really need to get the bottling line working, as Boring brown will be ready next week. So this will not be the last blog. I will let you decide whether this is good news or not.

All views and grammatical errors are those of WeirdBeardBryan, and not always of the Weird Beard collective.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Week 15 Progress Pictures

It's another blog published on the Sunday, not the Friday as I originally imagined all this would happen. If this wasn't the penultimate blog I would possibly make the Sunday publishing official. But yes, this is the penultimate blog, meaning the brewery is almost complete. We are so close, I can practically smell those late hops in the kettle.

So what is my excuse for being especially late this week? Well, it has been a hugely busy weekend. I have spent 25 hours at the unit Saturday and Sunday alone, and Friday I just couldn't make it to the brewery at all.

So what has been happening this week? We have had several truck loads of deliveries. More malt & hops, cardboard boxes, thousands of glass bottles and the all important casks. Meaning our nice new pallet racking that was erected last week is now pretty much full. It also had to be moved, due to the sheer volume of stuff we had to find space for.

I am very excited to have our casks. It may not always be cool in some quarters, but I love cask beer, and look forward to putting a good selection of our beers in them. I am less excited about having to find a home for 100 of them while we get to the point of putting something in them. Look out for them around a bar near you, our colours are BLACK GREEN WHITE.

This week, and I guess I should be including this weekend now, we had the installers in finishing off. Our welder finally got his bits finished on Saturday morning, leaving Saturday afternoon for some testing. Unfortunately during this testing, after filling both liquor tanks with 2000 litres each, we found the outlets at the bottom of the tanks just weren't up to the task, pissing water all over the place. The rest of Saturday, a large part of Sunday, and now dragging on into Monday, has been spent trying to fix the problem. But we need new bits, so have to wait for the shops to open again.

We didn't let this stop things on Sunday though, and pushed on with the testing, finishing off of the little jobs, and learning what the the valves do and where the pipes lead. We are happy to say that the actual brew house and pipe work is now all in and working to a point where we can brew some beer. There are a few changes and extras that will be made over the coming weeks, but it is ready. The thing holding us up now is the liquor tanks, which unfortunately we cannot brew without. But this is due to be complete Monday!

Better get on with this weeks pictures then hadn't I.

Forward view left and right, and the place is starting to look a little smaller. Due to all the storage that is now around the walls I am having to stand a good meter or so away from the sides. You can see the pallet racking is getting populated and the installers have made their usual mess. There is also a large red hose connecting random pipes. This was because we had to dump the water from the liquor tanks into the kettle and the mash tun, as we didn't want to just stick it down the drain. At this point we were refilling the hot liquor tank after we thought we may have fixed it. We need the hose, as this is not a usual circuit, as the water would usual come from the mains supply. We hadn't fixed the leak, so all the water quickly made its way back down again.

A few of our well thought out layout plans have changed, due to having so many pallets to store. This means the rear view is looking a little different, as the labelling machine has had to move round. The whole bottling line has been altered, but I'm sure it will still work fine. If you look passed the brew house, you can see some of the pallets of bottles.

Did I mention all the stuff we have to store? i did? Oh OK then, I'll just draw your attention to the extra pipe work connected to the kettle then.

As always, there is not a lot to see up on the mezzanine. If you look carefully though, you may spot some malt. A lot has been happening up here, as this is where the hot and cold liquor tanks live. But the malt kinda gets in the way.

Fermentation room is just a mess in this picture. I have to admit this picture was taken on Saturday, and things have changed a bit. You can see that on the left wall there is a large pipe, this is where the wort will appear after it has left the kettle via the cooling ready to live in one of the four fermenters for a week or so. All four fermenters now have their cooling fully fitting and working, and all attachments, just no beer inside.

That's it for another week. hopefully we will be using it all in anger this coming week. But I don't want to count my chickens and all that, so let's just wait and see. Keep and eye out on Twitter, as I'm sure we wont be quite about the first brew.

All opinions and grammatical errors are those of @WeirdBeardBryan and not necessarily the Weird Beard collective.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Week 14 Progress Pictures

We have been in the unit 3 months now. This is a bit of a mile stone for us, as when we were signing the contract we managed to negotiate the first 3 months rent free. We are not brewing yet, so in reality we are loosing money. But we planned for this, and the first brews, fingers crossed, are just over a week away.

It has been a moderately quiet week, with a few deliveries of cleaning chemicals, water treatment and pallet racking. We have been working hard on a lot of the back ground stuff, with Gregg and Bryan making a trip Alchemy coffee in Wimbledon to select some coffee beans for our Black Perle milk coffee stout.

Our welder has been in periodically, not as much as we would have liked, but he has made progress. As you can see from the picture above, the brew house is wired up and in position and most of the pipes are in the place. I wouldn't want to be pumping any beer through these pipes yet, as the majority of them are just tacked in position.


The first two pictures look at the brew house from either side show a much tidier brewery this week. To the right of the lower picture you can see our new pallet racking in front of the cool room. This increases our storage capacity, so hopefully we don't need to be up to our eyeballs on the mezzanine.

Again, the rear picture shows a much tidier brewery. The brew house is in position with most of the pipe work in place. As far as I know the electrical side of the install here is all installed and ready. The hop freezer is in place, and the random cleaning product has been removed from the labeller.

In the above picture you can see more pallet racking at the front of the unit, and the forklift that will be used to load it. There has been some painting of the walls going on too, but this is painting white walls white, so you can't really see the difference in the pictures.

Not a lot has changed in the mezzanine area, except the addition of a very colourful blue box. This box will form part of our home made hopper, for getting the grains into the mash tun.

I am loving having a room full of fermenters, and cant wait for them to be full of beer. I'm sure for all those reading are pretty keen to have these full too. The 2 on the right have all their eternal fittings, while the far two are still waiting. If you look just right of the fermenters on the right hand side you can see a lot of the pipe work that will be carrying the coolant.

So not a lot to report this week. But in the coming week we have been told to expect the installation and all the welding to be finished, and the brew house to be commissioned over the weekend. We are not strangers to delays and disappointment, but lets all keep our fingers crossed on this.

All views and grammatical errors are that of @WeirdBeardBryan and not necessarily the Weird Beard Collective.