Brewing with the Pros.

Ever wonder what it would be like to brew a 20 barrel batch of beer instead of a 5-10 gallon batch?  Of course you have.  Every homebrewer has thought about brewing like the big boys at one point or another.  If you’re brewing beer you’re obviously passionate about beer so it just makes sense that the thought would cross your mind sometime, “I wonder if I could do this professionally?”  Last Friday Brian and I got a chance to see how they do it in the Big Leagues.

Brewhouse at Orpheus Brewing

Brewhouse at Orpheus Brewing

One of the newest breweries in Atlanta is Orpheus Brewing, who held their grand opening on Memorial Day.  We were introduced to the founders and shared some of our homebrew with them and chatted about beer (of course) and going pro and music and such.  Jason Pellett, one of the founders and the President / Brewmaster loves to brew, drink, and talk about beer.  A couple of weeks after the grand opening Brian ran into Jason at a local pub and after some chatting had us set up to brew with them.  Last Friday we joined the head brewer, Charles “Chuck” Duffney, as he brewed a batch of their spring seasonal IPA, Transmigration of Souls.

We started off the day crushing grain, which was the first lesson that brewing on this scale was much different from homebrewing.  The beer had 2,000+ lbs of grain in a 20 barrel batch and crushing literally a ton of grain was quite a workout.  After that Chuck gave us a quick run down of how their system works.  They are using a 3-vessel system with mash tun, lauter tun and boil kettle.  They’re mash tun has a special conversion where they can seal it and purge it with CO2 for their sour mashing, one of the methods they use to make unique (and delicious) sour beers.

Heavy Metal Hewitt crushing some grains

Heavy Metal Hewitt crushing some grains

The process of brewing is the same as it would be for any other size batch of beer but with a bit more physical work at each step.  It’s a lot easier to drop 1 oz of hops in a bag than it is to carry a 5 gallon bucket of hops up the stairs to your boil kettle and dump it in.  That one extra step may not seem like much but over the course of the day you realize that brewing beer at this scale is a lot of very physical work.  I’ve got much more of an appreciation for what hard work being a head brewer is after spending just one day helping out.  From crushing the grain to filling and carting away barrels of spent grain from the lauter tun, a day in a brewery will give you a workout.

The pros also have to make sure that all of this fancy automated equipment runs smoothly… which it doesn’t.  However Jason and Chuck are two of the most laid back guys I’ve seen when dealing with issues.  When the rakes on the lauter tun didn’t want to raise and lower properly Jason stood back quietly for a minute pondering the issues then grabbed some tools and climbed on top of the vessel to fix it.  A stubborn pump had them juggling hoses and valves to get things running again but before long the sweet and hoppy wort was flowing into the fermenter.

Just a touch of hops.

Just a touch of hops.

For a person that was at least moderately physically fit a pro brew day would be a good workout, for Brian and I it was a good, old-fashioned butt whipping.  I was pretty beat at the end of the day and Brian’s text of, “Such soreness. Many pain.  Wow.“, tells me he was as well.  We learned a lot and it was a great experience.  I can’t think Jason and Chuck enough for allowing us in there and putting up with us.  Jason said anytime we want to volunteer to work again we’re welcome back. 😉  I’d love to do this again sometime, maybe not next weekend… but sometime.

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Chemistry of Beer course…. COMPLETE!

Chemistry of Beer.  Wow.

We don’t need no stinkin’ completion badges… but they’re still pretty sweet.

I posted back in January about OU’s free online course, Chemistry of Beer.  The course recently completed and I’m happy to say that Brian and I passed it with flying colors.  OK, maybe not flying colors.  The course was a 400 level Chemistry course and it was most certainly not easy for those of us with very little chemistry background.  However, the course had a a lot of excellent information and the instructor (Dr. Mark Morvant) was excellent.  He was very active in the online forums within the learning platform (called Janux) as well as on Twitter and on Reddit.  The course is going to be offered again in August and, based on feedback, will likely be an 8 week course.

The lessons started with an overview of brewing and brewing history and moved on to the health impacts of alcohol.  We also studied beer styles, malting & kilning, mashing & lautering, boiling & hopping, fermentation and finishing & packaging.  Each of the units was very deep into the chemistry of the processes and including a lot of diagrams and illustrations to help you along.

Overall the course was great, the Janux platform was awesome and Dr. Morvant was excellent – I’m sure he was running non-stop to keep up with everything.  If you want to get deep into the chemistry of beer and brewing take a look at the upcoming course, but prepared to earn every pixel of that completion badge!