Brewing equipment

Brewing For Best of the Bay


I first started homebrewing in late 2002. My first few batches of beer were less than stellar and I might have given up if not for the patient support of Robert Arzoo at North Corner Brewing Supply. When he suggested that I enter a beer in a local homebrew competition called Best of the Bay in 2003, I thought that I surely wouldn’t win anything but it would be good to get some feedback from more experienced brewers. I entered my fourth batch of beer which was an imperial stout that had erupted all over the house, I called it Mt.Vesuvius Imperial Stout and it was voted best beer in the porter/stout category.

Mt. Vesuvius aftermath

After repainting the walls and recovering from the mess, I was surprised at how good that beer turned out. This experience gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to make good beer and ultimately led me to pursue my career in brewing at Boundary Bay.

There wasn’t a club for homebrewers in Bellingham at the time in 2003, and Best of the Bay hasn’t happened since. When I saw that the Bellingham Homebrewers Guild (BHG) was being formed and that some of the members had taken the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) tests to be beer judges, I thought it was time to revive Best of the Bay.  I wanted our local brewers both old and new to have the same kind of confidence building experience I had in 2003.

entries for 2011 Best of the Bay

I started out in Feburary by contacting Jesse Nickerson who was organizing the club at the time. We met and discussed what kind of event we wanted Best of the Bay 2011 to be. We set a date and registered with the national BJCP program and with the National Homebrewers Association. Jesse and I then formed a steering committee and met every two weeks for months planning the event. Ian Harper handled all of the website/internet stuff and as he was elected President of the BHG he helped co-ordinate with the club. Justin Bajema became our judge director and spent many hours contacting, organizing, and running the judging sessions. Alex Cleanthous painted the bung awards and was always willing to handle the loose ends. Robert Arzoo was a great mentor sharing his experience with running the Best of the Bay in the past. Chris McClanahan handled our promotion and gathered prizes donated by many sponsors including Boundary Bay Brewery, Chuckanut Brewing, Lagunitas Brewing, North Corner Brewing Supply, Northern Brewer, Avenue Bread, Artisan Alloys and others.

2011 Best of the Bay judges

Our event became two separate events as we held the judging on a Friday and Saturday; then Sunday we had an awards ceremony/ homebrew rally in the Boundary Bay beer garden. It was a tremendous success all around. We had 196 beers get registered with a final 184 official entries from throughout the state and even some sent from California. Winners received prizes and a Gold/Silver/ or Bronze bung. The best of show got a $50 gift card from Northern Brewer plus a free entry into the National Homebrew Competition which will be held in Seattle in 2012.  Our event in the garden was saturated with great beer and people. We had homebrew to taste, judges on hand to taste the beer and give feedback and homebrew set-ups to look at. Robert also made a series of hop teas so that you could taste hop flavors individually.

We plan on making this an annual event and hopefully it will get bigger and better each year. For next year, in particular, we need more beer judges. So if you are interested, join the Bellingham Homebrewers Guild and take the BJCP test this year. Thank you to everyone who supported us behind the scenes. I may have forgot to mention some of you specifically and I’m sorry if I did. I especially have to give a huge thank you to Ed Bennett and Janet Lightner of Boundary Bay Brewery. We could not have pulled off this event without their generous support. I also want to thank Ilana for catering the food for the judges and Brian for grilling all our burgers. See you at Best of the Bay 2012. Cheers! Anthony Stone

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I Still Play With Toys

I’m going to expose what a geek I am with this one.

I was a science major in college, I was a band nerd in high school, and as an adult I still play with trains.

Last year I found a box at my parent’s house with me and my father’s old train cars.  I had some space in my basement so I thought I’d try to set up a train layout.  I had no idea what I was doing so I attended some meetings of the local model train club at the Bellingham Railway Museum.  Some of the guys were going to Boundary Bay Brewery after the meeting so I joined them for a pint and some serious train talk.

Atlas Golden Spike Club Car 2010

They got pretty excited of the pictures of the old train station and round house that are hanging in the men’s bathroom here at the brewery.  I learned from the group that Atlas has a Golden Spike Club that makes a special car each year that is only available to the club members and this year it was going to be a Bellingham Bay Brewery 3-B boxcar.

I had to get one of these for Boundary Bay Brewery.  With some help from our social media guru Amy and the generosity of Atlas we got some of these train cars which are based on an actual historical photo of this car in front of the Bellingham Bay Brewery.  We traded one with the railroad museum for some track, an engine, and a caboose.  Now you’ll find our mini-train above the bar in our tap room.

the Bellingham Bay Brewery with the 3B traincar in front of it

Dale the museum historian brought us some photos of the old 3-B brewery, located around current Ohio street, and some pictures of Railroad ave. where Boundary Bay is now.  I’ve been fascinated with our local history ever since my Bellingham history class in third grade at Silver Beach Elementary.  It’s really fun for me to see pictures of Railroad avenue with trains on it, now the location of Boundary Bay Brewery, with our train on the bar with a historic replica of the 3-B train car.  It will be even more exciting next time we brew 3-B and have it on tap at the bar.

Bellingham Bay Brewery

In the meantime I’ll be working on my Beer/ Zombie apocalypse themed train layout six feet from my keggerator.  I’m looking for ideas of how to build HO scale (1:87)  hop and barley farms..

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Demystifying the Octo-filler among other things…

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 Tap Room

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 first brewing system being loaded into the brewery. Copyright 1995

Automated raking system

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.”

Our ferment tanks

Our bright tanks

The Octo-filler

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.

The old fashioned way

The new, but still old fashioned way

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!

Categories: Beer, Brewing, Brewing equipment, Homebrewing, Toward Zero Waste | 1 Comment

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