Saturday, February 12, 2011

Brewing, on the road.

The kid and I hit the road with my business partners yesterday to make a run up to Loudoun County. Our destination was Corcoran Vineyards outside Purcellville. Besides being good friends, the Corcorans have hooked up with a friend in Purcellville to open the first farm winery and brewery in Virginia.

When Jim Corcoran and I got to talking a few weeks ago, he mentioned that Kevin (their brewer) was going to be working on a Sabco Brew-Magic. My ears pricked up, particularly since Jim and I have been talking about my own move toward the business for well over a year now. Why not have them observe one of our brew sessions and have us shadow Kevin on his first brew session, I suggested. After all we've been brewing weekly on a Brew-Magic for more than six months. We could even step Kevin past some of the initial learning curves we discovered.

See, the trick about scaling up one's brewing is that it isn't just about numbers. The difference between a five gallon batch brewed using a DIY mash tun and a kettle on a turkey fryer and running a 12 to 15 gallon batch on a system like the Brew-Magic is night and day. Because the Sabco system is absurdly efficient, a grain bill may not directly scale. More complex grain bills may need to be simplified because you get so much more out of the grain, as well. The real change comes at the level of process. Cleaning processes move to whole new levels — and you go through a lot more soap and sanitizer. But the real process change I've observed is learning to let the system do the work for you. The Brew-Magic will take care of parts of the brewing process that even some production breweries don't have automated. It's a beautiful thing, when you let it do its job.

To that end, the experience on the Brew-Magic has taught all of us — my partners and the Corcoran's new brewer — a lot. And with each brew session, there seems to be another lesson. When (and if) we actually get our plan off the ground, the experience of brewing on this system will have been invaluable. I see this more after watching Kevin work today and realizing how far we've come in the past six months.


Above and beyond, however, what about the beer? We tasted Kevin's kolsch and stout. Both were clean and solid. The stout had a nice roast with a fairly light body. The kolsch had a slightly sweeter flavor profile than I usually expect with a kolsch. His APA which we brewed today had a nice hop character and good color coming out of the boil kettle. they should all be nice, sessionable ales.