Just another Friday, up to face the day roundabout 5:30am. Giddy with the usual excitement that erects me from my bed in the morning hours, eager for what a full day at the brewery will bring. This was a special day indeed as we were scheduled to receive 5 new fermentation tanks, at 8am, on the dot. When you receive items of this size that occupy an entire truckload you are generally given a timeframe to unload everything. If you take longer than the aforementioned timeframe you are charged an overage fee somewhere on the order of $85 per hour. So, best to be prepared for these types of unloading activities.
This is the 5th delivery of this kind that we have received at Hops & Grain since we started buying equipment back in October of 2010 and I can say with absolute certainty that none of these occurrences has been easy. We seem to be just a shade away from full on preparedness and it generally ends with a few months of my life taken away due to the sheer mental stress of unloading brand new tanks that cost thousands of dollars. Someone once told me that there are companies out there that specialize in this type of unloading and I’m sure they would have managed this task with a grace and elegance that even the craftiest of riggers could appreciate. But, those folks cost money and as a fledgling start up brewery that isn’t quite a year old we decided, with a bit of hesitation, to do it ourselves, again.
It started with the truck driver arriving a full 6 hours later than promised. Nice. Next event involved us opening the first container door to find that one of our brand new 3.5 bbl Greenhouse fermenters had dislodged itself from its sturdy metal frame and was resting, very uneasily, on the door that we just opened. Somehow it didn’t come crashing down onto the loading dock and the tank ended up having only minor surface damage from the jostle. So, we got the truck backed up to the loading dock and set about our business, 2 hours worth, of unloading our brand new tanks. 3 hours and 10 ratchet straps later our tanks were safely unloaded. We were dirty, covered in sweat, mildly agitated and in standard Hops & Grain fashion, we poured a beer and shared a toast. You know, just to welcome our new stainless steel friends to our humble abode.
This specific delivery has been very long anticipated. As most of you know we have been at max capacity in our small facility in east Austin since May. These 5 tanks, in addition to the 2 tanks that we picked up from another brewery in Michigan a few weeks ago, will effectively triple our production capacity. We are extremely excited, and very cautious, about this type of growth. We couldn’t be happier that the demand for our product has grown to a point that we need to expand and we are very excited about the prospect of sending more 6 packs of our canned beers to the good folks of the hill country. The last piece to this expansion puzzle should be arriving the first week of Sept. Our new automated canning line will allow us to actually utilize these new tanks to their full capacity. You see, currently it would take us close to 5 days to completely empty one of our packaging tanks with cans. With this new delivery we now have 3 packaging tanks. Since there are 7 days in a week and 4 other fermenters that will have a batch ready to send to our serving tanks about every 14 days the math just doesn’t add up, financially or mentally. Our new canning line will allow us to empty a 30 bbl tank in one day and leave us a little room to stretch and decompress at the end of the day and that math is much more desirable for our pace of life.
For those of you that’ve made your way to our tap room at the dead end of east 6th St you are familiar with the Greenhouse series of beers. Each one of them brewed on our 3 bbl pilot system and each one with exploration and creativity as their drivers. We’ve brewed 22 different styles of beer since we opened in October and we’ve filled close to 28 various oak barrels, destined for Volumes of Oak greatness. The Greenhouse has been our playground. And this week we also expanded our playground with 2 new tanks. Currently we ferment all of our Greenhouse beers in one of the two 3bbl fermenters that we own. After fermentation and conditioning we have to transfer this beer into kegs and force carbonate each one. If you’ve ever ventured into the wonderful world of homebrewing you’ve likely heard of the concept of force-carbonating a beer. This is all good and fun when you are brewing 5 or 10 gallons at a time but when your production volume approaches 90 gallons the game changes a little bit. You see our 3 bbl fermenters don’t hold pressure and therefore do not afford us the option of carbonating in the tank. So, we proceed to carbonate 4 kegs at a time by means of head pressure, and time. It takes us close to 3 days to carbonate 3 bbls of beer brewed in the Greenhosue as compared to the 3 hours that it takes us to carbonate our 30 bbl packaging tank. But, this fancy little delivery that we received yesterday included not only another 3 bbl fermenter to add to our Greenhouse arsenal but we also received a 3 bbl packaging tank! I know, I know, what does it all mean? It means that we’ll be able to increase our Greenhouse production by 150%! This means more experiments, more barrel aged beers, more IPA’s, more lagers and most importantly, more variety! Hell, we might even brew something with cardamom, lemongrass, dandelion roots, rose hips, turmeric, cinnamon, Jagermeister and just a hint of orange zest. You know, just for shits and giggles.
So that’s our 2 part story, for now at least.
Come by the brewery and join us every Friday and Saturday. You can try some of our beer, check out our bright and shiny new tanks, wonder through the barrel and cellar and maybe even meet a new friend. Cause we’re all friends when you venture to the dead end of east 6th St!
Where 6th St end and life begins…