One Bourbon, One Scotch and Too many Beers?
We just returned from a week long trip to the East Coast and as such, there were more beers than I could shake a stick at. So tonight, my musings are coming at you care of Clynelish 14 year old Scotch. Last week, I tried to start a blog on a Friday night at the brewery but alas, my wit was no match for the Knob Creek Bourbon that was tempting me from my office. And so it is, that I am sitting here now writing about beer with a Scotch in hand. Life is cruel. I know.
You ever have one of those weeks? You know the kind where no matter how hard you try, you end up leaving four hours of work on the table each day knowing full well that the weekend won’t offer a respite? Life has kind of been this way for me since the start of the new year. Those of you who have visited our brewery may have noticed that we have ramped up production big time and are now seemingly bottling beer no less than twice a week. This is fantastic as it allows for more beer to head out the door. However, this is not so good as bottling days usually require about 11 hours of my time each day that we bottle.
Typically, I arrive at the brewery around 7 AM (depends on how well Syd Vicious slept the night before). My day then starts with calculations for the bottling. The first step required is to test the beer we are bottling for the CO2 content in solution. This is an indicator of how much CO2 is in the beer relative to the target volumes we are looking to get in the finished beer. On our Port Brewing beers like Old Viscosity and Wipeout IPA, we are shooting for 2.8 volumes of CO2.
Our starting point on these beers is typically 2.0 volumes of CO2 and therefore we need to gain .8 volumes of CO2 per bottle. We take this starting number and crunch the numbers in the computer along with the total volume of beer to be bottled. With this information in hand, we then work on a “priming solution” which is Dextrose mixed in hot water to dissolve the sugar. This mixture is then racked into a keg.
The sugar needs to be blended into the beer along with fresh yeast which will consume these sugars thereby finishing our secondary fermentation in the bottle and giving us the necessary CO2 levels that we need in each bottle. In order to mix the sugars, yeast and beer, we must first create a recirculation loop with a pump in order to homogenize the mixture of the three. This has to be done before we can start bottling so more often than not, I am the first one to arrive to get this part of the day rolling.
Around 8:30- 9:00 the reinforcements arrive. At this time, Josh , Vince myself and Bo begin the arduous task of bottling. It isn’t all that much fun standing in one place for at least 7 hours watching the bottler go up and down or the capper doing the same. On the days when we bottle our 22 oz bottles we only need three people to bottle- although four means we can go faster. At best when we do this style bottle, we can rip off 50 cases an hour. However, when we bottle the 750 ml bottles with cork finish, it takes at least 4 people and the best we can do is 40 cases per hour.
What does all this mean? Lately, we have been brewing larger batches of beer. Many of these larger batches will enable us to get “ahead” as these beer age well and can handle being produced in larger quantities. We are currently up to speed on all of our bottled beers that we have been making. This will allow us to get the new beers online that we have been chasing for the past 6 months. This week, we will be bottling Judgment Day our Belgian style QUAD. We also will be working on a new batch of Hop 15 for bottling.
Both of these are incredibly exciting for me as we have been talking about them for almost one year now. I am sure that our friends and patrons feel the same way as well. However, I think that I am most excited about the batch of beer that is rolling away in Fermenter # 5. This is our anniversary beer which will be called 10 Commandments. It is a recreation of our SPF 8 recipe from Solana Beach that features caramelized raisins, honey and fresh Rosemary. If you have spent any amount of time listening to me speak over the years, you would have realized this to be one of my favorite beers and perhaps the one that I feel ages the best.
As such, we are going to make this our annual release. It will be timed to coincide with our anniversary party and the beer will be made once a year to celebrate another year gone. It appears that this party will take place each May. We have had numerous inquiries about the party (and it’s only February)! The hardest part to imagine is that we have been in this space for over 9 months now. That is some seriously fast flying time. As I said earlier, we have many more great things in store this year and this is merely but one of them.
But I suppose I should get back to the meat of this post. If you have been anxiously awaiting my post with every breath, you can breathe now. The thing about bottling is that it is all encompassing and it requires undivided attention. This means that while I used to have some spare time to blog during the brewing days, I no longer have this luxury when we are bottling. A four man crew equals Tomme bottling beer as well. So, it’s not that I have been lazy or neglecting my writing. On the contrary, I have been bummed that I haven’t been able to write. I think this will hopefully be the last 5 week hiatus that I have to embark on without being able to blog.
Until next time then.