Brewing


Previous Brewing Posts




Christening Lagertha & Our First Brew

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

Like all our tanks, the mighty 15 bbl brewery Lagertha needed to be christened before she was used for brewing.

Brie’s voice rang clear across the brewery on the chilly December morning as we christened Lagertha moments before our first mash-in.

After a tiring 27-hour brew day for the first brew on our 3-BBL system, we prepared ourselves for the worst as grain and water filled our new mash tun. However, much to our surprise, things went incredibly smoothly during our first brew-day and a 15 BBL batch of Contradiction Black IPA is now fermenting away happily in our brewery!

We all agreed that a victory cigar at 10pm after a finished brew was way better than a “victory” cigar at 5am while the brew was still boiling after 20 hours of brewing.

ebc-crew-with-cigars

And so began brewing on our new brewery. Named after a fierce Viking shieldmaiden, she is well equipped to take us forward to share the glory and power of beer to all the land.

Guest Brewer – Dean Hickman

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Last weekend we brewed our Fall Seasonal, Foliage Pale Ale, for the first time since last Autumn. To commemorate this brew, we invited Dean Hickman, brewery fan and founder of The Campaign for Full Time Foliage, to brew with us.

Dean Hickman has been a strong advocate for Foliage rights. He claims that Foliage should have the same rights to be brewed year-round like its fellow brews Protector and Valkyrie. He has tried everything to convince us to correct this injustice from asking us nicely to brew it again to creating his Full Time Foliage Campaign, which included a Lego pitchfork mob demanding the beer.

And while we’re not yet completely convinced of full-time brew rights for Foliage since it is our Fall Seasonal, we were able to get Dean to brew the beer with us to help ensure we created a quality brew for him to enjoy when it’s released on September 21st.

So if you support Dean and his cause for Full Time Foliage, please visit his Facebook page and “Like” the group. We’ve told him that we’ll make a batch for him outside of the fall season if he can get an actual pitchfork mob at the brewery chanting “Full Time Foliage!” instead of just a Lego one.

Guest Brewer – Brian Avery

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

This past weekend we had a guest brewer join us for the first part of the brew day – Brian Avery from Bravery Brewing Company. They are opening a 3bbl brewery (also built by Premier Stainless) over in Lancaster and wanted to come check out our system.

We gave Brian a brewniform and all the fun jobs like crushing grain, helping clean, scraping out the spent grain and stirring the mash.

brain helping clean brewery

brian stirring mash

He even got an official name tag:

So check out our sister 3bbl brewery – we wish them the best of luck!

Deviation Oatmeal Stout

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Some brews go according to plan. Some don’t. Re-brewing our winter seasonal – Daniel Irons Oatmeal Stout – did not go according to plan.

Everyone seemed to love the oatmeal stout; a fact confirmed by the fact we sold out in 4 weeks. Excited to brew it again, we pushed back our IPA brew one week to squeeze a second brew in before spring. It was a tricky decision, because we projected to run out of IPA a week before our next batch was ready. So, we had to limit IPA keg sales in the tasting room, and as of writing this (a few days before our next batch of IPA comes out) we have 1 keg left.

Now, our normal Friday night pre-brew procedure includes weighing out and crushing grain for the brew, sanitizing the heat exchanger, and going to bed as early as possible.

Matt’s in charge of counting and measuring out the grain because he’s an accountant – a logical decision. Chris sanitizes the heat exchanger. Joe is basically useless because he sits in Friday night traffic on the drive up from LA. Once we finished, we went home and enjoyed a growler of El Segundo Brewing White Dog IPA before hitting the hay.

The brew the next day went amazingly smooth. That is, up until we took the final gravity reading on our first batch and it was 3 degrees Plato (1.012 SG) lower than our target. Panic ensued.

Chris, overreacting as per usual, wanted to throw out the beer and re-brew both batches (second batch was off too). Joe tried to calculate various ways to fix the brew (adding malt extract, brewing another small batch and adding it, etc.) – all of which wouldn’t work. And Matt, well, he was just upset with himself. Partially upset that he miscounted and the beer didn’t turn out correctly, and partially upset because he knew he would never live this down.

Turns out we (Matt) left out an entire bag of Munich Malt in our brew. 55 lbs out of about 280 were missing.

Despite the missing grain, we continued on with the brew hoping this accounting error – like a bank error in Monopoly – worked in our favor.

And so now we bring to you Deviation Oatmeal Stout. It tastes a lot like Daniel Irons Oatmeal Stout, but has accentuated roasted flavor, less alcohol and a little thinner body. It’s delicious.

We have since taken preventive measures to keep this miscounting from happening in the future – our brew log now displays the number of bags to use (no math required!).

Joe and Chris both later admitted that one of the first thoughts through their head was “Phew, glad it wasn’t me who miscounted the grain.” And with all said and done, Chris and Joe still trust Matt to count the grain better than themselves.

We Need Pretzels, Repeat Pretzels

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

If you happened to be at the brewery the night of August 26th around 7pm, you might have seen something like this:

Afraid that our beer might be ruined, we have kept this story under wraps for the past few weeks. But as of Sunday 9/18 we declassified it. The story is as follows:

As stated above, it all started on the night of August 26th. Commander Matthew was working his side job as an accountant so Captain Chris and Chief Joe were left alone to tend the brewery by themselves. Our third batch of Protector Imperial IPA was at the end of primary fermentation and we started to cold crash it.

Our normal procedure for fermentation is: Primary fermentation, cold crash, pull off yeast, add dry hops, condition and keg.

For some reason, Chris and Joe thought “why not add the dryhops while it’s starting to cold crash?” It wasn’t our normal procedure, but we began adding the hops regardless. To this date we are not sure why.

We moved our ladder to the fermentor and climbed up top to add the hops. As the first pound was added, Commander Matt arrived, eager to help the brewery.

Matt joined Chris climbing half up on the ladder while Joe stood guard on ground in case beer stealing zombies attacked.

Second pound of hops added – no issues.

Chris, on the ladder, began to add the third pound of hops.

Chris: “Whoa! What the?”
Joe and Matt: “What?”
Chris: “Whoa Crap!”
Joe and Matt: “…..”
Chris: “Crap crap crap crap!”

The brewery crew quickly realized that beer began foaming out the top of the fermentor where we added the hops. Chris quickly covered the hole.

Beer instantly started shooting out of the vent tube near Joe’s feet while Chris clamped down the hole up top.

Now normally when something bad happens in the brewery (valve accidentally left open, hose breaks and shoots 180 degree water into the air, etc.) we quickly diagnose the problem and solve it. In this instance, we all stood there for what seemed like 30 seconds watching beer shoot out the vent tube not understanding what was going on. Then,

Chris: “JOE! DO SOMETHING”
Joe: “WHAT?!”
Chris: “COVER THE HOLE!”

Joe quickly covered the hole and the beer stopped foaming out the vent tube. Seconds later,

Chris: “Gah! Don’t cover the hole. Don’t cover the hole!!”

When Joe covered the hole, pressure in the fermentor built up and started spraying beer out the top hole all over Chris’ face and the brewery.

Joe let go.

The three brewers stood there for what seemed like nearly a minute, watching the beer shoot across the brewery not knowing what to do.

Eventually Matt had the good sense to grab one of our grain buckets and put it underneath the vent tube to catch all the beer.

We stood there, beer/foam flowing freely into the bucket until the foaming subsided. Not fully understanding what just happened, covered in yeast and beer, worried that we had just ruined our batch of Protector, we began to clean up the mess.

Luckily the beer turned out fine – though a bit hoppier than batches past. We learned valuable lessons… like never add dryhops to a fermentor without cold crashing the fermentation unless you want a mess of beer over the brewery.

And if you are lucky enough to try this batch of Protector over the next couple weeks, you can really taste the explosion in it.

Matt’s Addicted to Meth

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Methylene Blue!

That’s right, Matt is addicted to cell counting. Yeast cells to be exact.

Before we repitch our yeast into the fermentors, we need to get a yeast cell count and determine how viable our yeast is.

Each batch of beer requires a different yeast pitching rate. For example, our Imperial IPA we pitch fewer yeast cells for a slower and warmer fermentation that produces more flavor compounds. Our CA Altbier we pitch more yeast cells for a quicker and colder fermentation to generate fewer flavor compounds to give it a cleaner finish.

In order to know exactly how much yeast slurry to pitch, Commander Matthew Enegren – first string cell counter – mixes 1ml of yeast slurry with 100ml of distilled water. The mixture is stained with Methylene Blue. Dead cells turn blue when stained, but live cells metabolize the Methylene Blue and do not change color. As long as 95% or more of the cells are living, we re-pitch the yeast.

This is one of the most crucial steps of the brewing process. Under-pitching or over-pitching the number of yeast cells for each brew can greatly influence the flavor of each batch.

Matt is most qualified for this job since it involves a lot of counting and Matt is an accountant – he is therefore able to account for living cells much better than Captain Chris or Chief Joe.

matt cell counting with methylene blue

Adventures in Fermentation: Glycol Chiller Blues

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Now that our first beer is out on tap, let us tell you a tale about the brew.

The only thing that kept us going through our 27 hour brew day was the awesome thought of creating a good tasting beer for people to enjoy. It’s the reason we we brew – to provide good beer to others.

But brewing doesn’t stop at the end of the brew day. There is the fermentation period where 1-2 degrees difference in temperature can change how the beer tastes. This is an important step that we were watching closely – hoping, praying nothing went wrong.

Now that the exposition is out of the way, let me tell you the tale. It is a tale of perseverance, bad fortune, witchcraft, love, revenge and awesomeness.

It all started on the Tuesday evening following our first brew. Captain Chris Enegren arrived at the brewery to find a large puddle of liquid on the floor. Having never fermented beer in a 6bbl fermentor, and seeing no beer on the floor, Chris thought to himself “Hmmmm, there is a lot more condensation on the floor than I would have thought. Oh well, everything looks good here, off to the hardware store.”

Chris, like anyone starting a small craft brewery, had to go to the hardware store yet again. (A recurring theme in this blog.) So off he went thinking sweet things about the brewery and the beer, unaware of the demons he’d be fighting later that night.

While at the hardware store, Commander Matt arrived at the brewery. Like the Captain, he saw a puddle of liquid on the floor. But he wasn’t as quick to rationalize it to condensation.

He walked up to it and touched it. “Slimy” he thought. The word mulled over in his head for a bit.

Slimy.

His mind raced as he traced back through all the different liquids in the brewery. Water, not slimy. Beer, not slimy. Yeast…

And then mid-thought it hit him like a ton of malt. He distinctly remembered Chief Joe slipping and nearly falling on some glycol he spilt while filling up the chiller.

Panic set in on his face as he immediately reached for his phone and dialed Chris while simultaneously running toward the glycol chiller.

“Hello Matthew” Chris answered.
“Uh Chris, I think the glycol chiller is leaking.”
“No, it’s just condensation.”
“No, it’s slippery,” Matt said. “I’m looking at the pump right now and glycol is spilling out of it”

Chris’ response can not be shared on this blog.

Chris hastily paid and left the hardware store, thinking only of beer. He’d later admit that after the teller checked him out and said “thank you” he muttered “beer” instead of “you’re welcome” as he ran toward the car.

glycol pump downMeanwhile Matt was furiously removing the 12 screws that held the panel over the pump. He finished just as Chis got home.

What ensued was a healthy mix of panic and chaos. Panic and chaos only one would understand if they had just spent the last year of their life building a brewery, then brewing for 27 straight hours, then realizing that your first batch might fail because of a busted pump.

But out of the disarray, out of the madness, one thought remained clear. We would not let this beer down.

Taking a step back, Chris remembered that he had the cell phone number for Jim, President and CEO of Pro Refrigeration, makers of our glycol chiller.

He called it.

“Jim, our glycol chiller pump is leaking all over the brewery. We have our first batch of beer in the fermentor. What do we do?”

“Calm down son” Jim replied “It’s probably a pump seal that needs replacing. We can fix you up first thing in the morning”

“Awesome” said Chris in response to this excellent customer service. “However, if we wanted to take apart the pump and try to fix it tonight by ourselves, would we void any warranty or anything?”

“Nope, go right ahead and try.”

They barely had said their goodbyes when Chris hung up the phone determined to take apart and rebuild the pump.

This turned out to be a mistake. They had to take off the impeller. The Impeller was glued tot he pump shaft. Removing it cut up both Chris and Matt’s hands. They spilled glycol everywhere and, though not toxic, it stung their cuts like rubbing alcohol. And despite taking apart and putting the pump back together several times, it continued to leak.

They went to bed at 1am defeated, frustrated. They were covered in glycol and worried something horrible would befoul the beer.

However, as promised, Chris got a call first thing in the morning from Pro Refrigeration. They called just about every pump repair service station in the area and found a place in Ventura able to fix the pump. Chris took a day off from work and drove there to get the pump repaired. pump repair storeThe place took it apart, commented that everything looked fine, replaced the mechanical seal and put it back together.

Chris hurried back to the brewery wishing he was an ambulance, police car or something with a siren.

It was a hot day in Ventura with temperatures pushing 95 degrees. The longer it took to get the pump back online, the warmer the beer would get. Time was of the essence.

Chris got to the brewery and literally sprinted from his car to the brewery. Had he not been driving, he probably would have attempted one of those tuck-and-roll stunts out of moving cars you see in the movies.

It was a good thing he was driving. Such antics could have damaged the pump.

Chris mounted the pump with great speed, wired it back in, connected the pipes and took a deep breath as he turned it on.

Leak. One big fat leak. Glycol spilling everywhere.

Once again, some things were said that can’t be repeated here.

Chris called Pro Refrigeration again and explained the issue. They made some phone calls and found that the same store Chris was just at could build a brand new pump right quick.

Chris ran back to his car and drove to Ventura, this time wishing he had some sort of rocket jet.

He got the pump, drove back to the brewery, wired the pump in, connected the pipes, took a deep breath and turned it on.

Leak. One big, huge, fat, gigantic glycol everywhere leak.

But wait a minute. WAIT A MINUTE. The leak was coming from a different area. The leak looked like it was coming from one of the drain nuts on the pump head.

Frantically Chris removed the nut. No gasket.

Luckily, thanks to our homebrew days we had extra corny keg gaskets. Chris found one, put it in, sealed the pump back together and turned her on.

Chris swears he watched it for 30 straight minutes to make sure, but there was no leak. The chiller was fixed.

When all was said and done, the beer temperature only increased 2 degrees. And now our beer is on tap and tastes pretty good if we do say so ourselves. We just hope we don’t have to repeat this process our next brew to get the same flavor.

First Brew

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Last weekend we brewed our first batch of beer – Protector, our Imperial IPA. Wouldn’t say that it went smoothly, but it did create a batch of beer that after week 1 tastes pretty good. We started on Saturday at 7:30am and finished up around 11am Sunday. It was a long brew.

Things went slowly because we were getting used to our new system and some things did not go according to plan. But we learned a few lessons and can’t wait to do it again. Here’s what we learned:

  1. When pumping the mash from the mash-kettle to the lauter tun, a lot of the wort pulls out first and leaves a very thick mash solution – it doesn’t move through pipes too well. Taking the hose and, using filtered water, spraying the mash into the drain to the pump speeds up the process and prevents clogging.
  2. Adding a small mesh filter on our lauter grant (aka Ulysses S Lautering Grant) would greatly improve vorlauf time.
  3. Unless you want hot wort shooting several feet up into the air, always close the sight-tube valve before initiating the whirlpool.
  4. One gets a lot dirtier when brewing in a 3 bbl system than a homebrew system.
  5. Shortage of buckets on brew day is not fun.
  6. When vorlaufing, start pulling directly from the base of the mash tun before going through Ulysses S Lautering Grant. This gets a lot of the small particles out quicker.
  7. Our kettle evaporation rate is half as much as we estimated (aka, we brewed more beer than we wanted to)
  8. If one plans on a long brew, be sure to put insoles in your rubber brewboots unless you want numb toes for a few days.
  9. Pump #1 sounds exactly like a goat when you turn it off. It is now lovingly called Goat Pump. Coincidentally, goats also eat our spent grain.

Pics from the brew day: