Thursday, December 19, 2013

Brew Day

North Texas Beer week was last month.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to participate in any of the events, I just had too much going on, including having drill on one of the weekends.  That didn't stop me from keeping up with the goings-on via Facebook.  Apparently, I "liked" something or signed up somewhere, because a couple of weeks ago, I get an email from The Ticket saying that I had been selected as the Brewer for a Day winner at Franconia Brewery in McKinney.  I got in contact with Dennis at Franconia and we worked out a day for me to come in and be a brewer.  That day was yesterday.

Their brew days usually start at 5:30am, so I got up really early to make the 45 minute drive up to South Oklahoma McKinney.  Apparently there was a miscommunication somewhere, because the head brewer didn't know I was coming that day (I had originally scheduled for Monday, but had to reschedule) and didn't get there until 6:30.  No worries, though.  He got there, and we got right to work.

The brew schedule called for a Kolsch to be brewed in the morning, and an Amber in the afternoon.  The grain was already ready for us, so we got the mash-in process started.  Up to this point in my homebrewing, I've been doing all extract brewing, and haven't gotten into all-grain at all, so this was a good learning experience for me.  Their setup is basically a very large-scale homebrew operation, at least on the brewing end.  Once all the grain was in the mashtun and the mash started, we started prepping the grain for the afternoon brew.  They use alot of grain!  We got it all milled and into the chute ready to go. 

Once the mash was complete, we started moving the wort to the brew kettle while fly-sparging to get as much of the sugars out of the grain as possible.  Once the brew kettle was full, the water was just about at boiling.  Added hops throughout the boil, and once it was all done, let it whirlpool for 5 minutes to get all the trub to the center, then started moving it to the fermenter.  Or course, during the boil process, we had to clean out the mashtun.  The fun side of brewing! :-)

Once the boil was done, but before moving the wort to the fermenter, the other two brewers started their mash-in process for the Amber.  Once it was done, we started moving the Kolsch wort.  We also moved 4 finished batches from the fermenters to the cooler to prep for kegging/bottling.  They naturally carbonate their beers in the fermenters, so everything is moved under pressure.

While waiting for the wort to transfer into the fermenter, we tasted some samples of the beer we had just moved into the cooler.  They also had a handful of kegs in the cooler that weren't labelled, so they weren't sure what was in them.  Of course, we had to hook them up so they could get them properly labelled, so I got to sample a few more beers!

We finished up the transfer of the Kolsch wort to the fermenter and cleaned out the brew kettle.  By this time, the mash on the Amber was done, so they were ready to mash out.  I hung around for a bit longer to help with that before heading home for the day.

All in all, it was a great day as a brewer.  I got to see firsthand how a commercial brewery works, and to talk to some experienced brewers.  I got a lot of good tips for my homebrew setup, and will hopefully put some to use on my next batch!

Merry Christmas to all my readers (all 4 of you!)