I’ve always enjoyed giving tours of our brewery, answering questions about our beer, and explaining what our equipment is. Over the years I’ve noticed what most people ask about so I thought I’d demystify the brewery today talk about some of our equipment. I have to point out that every brewery’s equipment is different so don’t be surprised if you tour another brewery and things don’t look the same.
The first thing that people see when they look through the glass of our tap room into the brewery is the mash tun. Our mash tun is a new upgrade from our old one and is much more efficient. Mashing is basically a process where natural enzymes that exist in the malted barley breaks down long carbohydrate chains into smaller sugars that will later be consumed by yeast to create alcohol. You’ll notice the bottom of the tank is a screen where we’ll rinse (or sparge) the sugars out of the grain and into the kettle. Our new mash tun has rakes that stir up the malt as we mash in and also help us empty the tun out when we are done. We load the used grain into trash cans and then dump it into a large grain bin out back. The spent grain goes to local dairy farmers as feed.
Our kettle is a little different than some other ones in that we have the “Power Flame” that burns natural gas and blows it through a coil to heat the wort (beer before it’s fermented), Many breweries have steam jacketed kettles that surround the kettle in steam heating it up. As the wort is boiled on our power flame coil it gets pretty baked on so we have to climb inside our kettle everyday and scrub it by hand. So if you are having a pint in the tap room and see one of us climbing into the kettle with a bucket you know that we are done brewing for the day and are getting in to scrub the coil.
Our fermentors and bright tanks have two layers of stainless steel with glycol jackets in between for temperature control. We have to clean and sanitize them between each brew, luckily we don’t have to climb inside these ones. There is a large spray ball on the ceiling which allows us to recirculate our cleaning chemicals. The door to the tank is called a “man way” and you can see inside this bright tank that there is a racking arm and a stone as well. The racking arm is curved and can swing up and down which is important during transfers. We don’t filter our beer at any point in the process to when we transfer beer from a fermentor to a bright tank we put a glass sight tube on the outside of the racking arm and we can see what is coming out of the tank. We’ll move the arm up or down to get as much beer out as possible while leaving the yeast behind in the fermentor. The stone on the bright tank allows us to adjust the carbonation level of the beer. We measure this with the Zahm. Zahm and Nagel is the brand name for a device that measures the dissolved CO2 in the beer. It probably has a more technical name but we just call it the Zahm, just like the Brits call all vacuums “Hoovers.”
I used to fill kegs one at a time by placing a custom made filler in the bung hole of the keg. Now we have the “Octo-filler” made by our own Adam Lent, that lets me fill eight kegs at a time. This is much faster than our old system but it can be a challenge to keep track of eight kegs at once. Kegs are purged and pressurized with CO2 before filling, then sealed with a wooden bung that says the beer style, batch number, and keg date. No, Beavis and Butthead did not invent the word “bung hole.”
Speaking of bung holes, our Munzinger Bung Extractor, manufactured in 1934, is the oldest piece of equipment in the brewery, but is a fairly new addition. When I started out as a keg washer at the brewery, I used to use one of Skip’s old hockey goalie gloves along with a chisel and hammer to remove bungs. We still have that glove and if you ever smelled it you would understand why we got the Munzinger, not to mention that it is much faster.
Thanks for reading. If you are interested in taking a tour of the brewery, give us a call at the brewery at 360-647-5593. Cheers!