Day 15

Back into the Teaching Brewery today. Last week our team was on the first shift, and got to see how everything got started. Today we were on the third shift, so we got to see how everything gets finished up. The sub-team of four that I’m on was assigned to the large system, where the wort was in the boil kettle. The previous shift had just finished boiling the wort and whirlpooling it. (Whirlpooling the wort gathers up all the hop detritus and denatured proteins–called “trub”–and deposits them on the bottom of the boil kettle in a neat tidy cone of gunk.)

Our first job was to move the hot wort from the boil kettle through a heat exchanger and oxygenate it on the way over to “Larry”. (The three fermenting tanks in the brewery are nicknamed “Larry”, Moe” and “Curly”. The bright tank is “Shemp”.) This involved hoses, pumps and valves, and lots of sanitizer sprayed on various parts as we used them. Keeping evil germs out of the wort is very important from this point on, since its sugary sweetness is a perfect growth medium. I was very impressed with the heat exchanger–a single pass through it on the way to Larry reduced the temperature of the near-boiling wort to 22C (71F). What was also impressive was that the heat exchanger water–now hot from all that energy that had been drawn from the wort–was pumped into a tank, where it will be held overnight and then pumped into the mash tun to make beer tomorrow. That is a very clever way to reduce the cost of heating hundreds of litres of water every day.

After the now room-temperature wort was safely inside “Larry”, it was time to pitch the yeast and get the fermentation show on the road. Jon Downing cautioned us never to look down into the fermenting tank while wearing a hat. Apparently there had been several incidents of hats falling in, and hats are not known for being sterile. One of our team–hatless–climbed a ladder to the top of Larry, carefully opened Larry’s top hatch and poured the yeast solution in.

After that, it was time to clean up. The wet, spent grain had to be shovelled from the mash tun into empty grain bags and moved outside, where a local farmer would pick it up later–he uses the protein-rich grain as cattle feed. The lautering screen had to be taken apart and rinsed, while the mash tun was scrubbed down and rinsed. The leftover cone of trub had to be rinsed out of the boil kettle, and then the interior of the boil kettle had to be scrubbed and rinsed until it shone.

And then it was time for a cold beer, if only to remind us that this is what the job was all about.

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2 Comments on “Day 15”

  1. The cleanup is the worst part of the brewing process. It sucks doing homebrew, can’t imagine the work for a microbrewery.

    been reading, fascinated by your progress, I’m thinking about doing the same, selling my business and going to brewmaster school somewhere. I’m tired of helping other, want something for myself and I absolutely love beer and the process that it goes through. Thanks and I’ve been loving reading the blog!

  2. Alan Brown Says:

    Yeah, if you can’t stand loading the dishwasher, do not become a brewer. A brewer spends a fair amount of time cleaning, scrubbing, washing, rewashing, sanitizing, etc. — and then doing it all over again the next day.

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