Friday, March 14, 2014

Bottling Beer In Mexico

I can bottle 5 or 6 kegs (12 cases of beer or 288 bottles) in one session before my mind breaks from the tedius boredom. These are fully carbonated beers and so I can't fill too quickly without creating a foamy mess resulting in a flat beer. So it takes about an hour per keg to complete the job. Anyway, since misery loves company I'd thought I'd share a short video of me filling a corney keg worth of bottles.

The beer is carbonated to 2.5 volumes is chilled down to 35f., run through 12 feet of 3/16" tubing to a cobra tap with bottling wand attached with a cork on it. You can see a close up of that system here.

See all of my YouTube brewing videos here. You may not learn a lot but it's a good way to kill some time while the boss isn't around. Cheers!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Beer On Demand

Brewing beer for the public is way different than brewing for myself. Even though as a homebrewer I brewed a lot of beer for personal consumption (over the legal 200 gallons per year, don't tell anyone) it's no where near what I'm brewing now.

Our new label design and brand logo

A typical volume per month at this time of the year is 120 gallons, with the trend and current production capacity at 160 gallons. But we still don't have a lot of history to use as a compass, and I'm still in the process of determining how much beer is needed in inventory based on the demand from month to month. Our current standard line-up is: Pale ale, Belgian tripel, Dry stout and Imperial IPA. I've tested a couple other styles over the last year and they didn't receive the high praise that our current four beers get. My plan is to brew our same seasonal beers again this Summer to be released in the late Fall which are the Barley wine and Russian imperial stout. I may brew another Belgian strong ale too.

San Miguel is a tourist destination, not only for American and Canadian visitors but also many Mexicans that want to leave the big cities of Mexico City, Queretero and Monterey for the quaint, picturesque and historic San Miguel. They all come in droves starting in the late autumn and their numbers rise and fall until late spring. Eventually, the flood of visitors tapers down to nothing during the very hot months of May and June leaving the restaurants and bars to chase after the local population desperately hoping to survive the drought.
Because of this flux in population, I have to consider how the seasons will play out, when the demand slowly climbs for craft beer, then transitions into a feeding frenzy to be followed quickly by a deserted town.

Before Mash Paddle
After Mash Paddle
This year has challenged my ability to predict how much beer to have in stock to meet the demand without overstocking a perishable food product that could quickly pass it's 'best by' date in this hot climate. The last thing I want is surplus inventory. I want beer that is as fresh as possible for the best taste. I want to turn inventory quickly, limiting the opportunity for spoiling bacteria that may have been introduced to the bottled beer to get a foot hold and showing up in the worst ways. I also have to consider the ratio of sales (money) to purchases (replacing materials for producing more beer) which is tight and requires a perfect balance to keep the brewery operating financially.

If I estimate the need for product too low I'll run out of inventory. Consequently, I won't have the sales to generate the cash for purchases. Along with this, our customer base gets pissed off because they have to tell their regular clients (now demanding Dos Aves) that they are out of stock. It can get ugly. Case in point, I didn't brew enough in December because I saw that we had plenty of inventory. In January sales were high and by the time I got production up and running we ran out of a couple of styles of beer in February. Currently, I'm killing myself, brewing back-to-back batches, twice a week and wondering if I'm going to have too much beer in April. Stop the madness.

Will I have this figured out anytime soon? I hope so, and at the same time the business is growing rapidly and this needs to be taken into account also.

In the mean time, I predict that we will max out our system and facility by the end of Summer and our search for a larger space to brew in has begun. Ideally, this new place will be about 4 times our current size allowing for a cold room and office. At the same time, we are getting quotes to fabricate a 3 barrel system. We will continue to brew without the benefit of a glycol system but that need is clearly on the horizon.

Our brewery is small and we're still working out the logistics but it's pumping out some really tasty beers. If you're in SMA in the future, contact me for the short tour and a sample of our efforts.

P.S. I'll be teaching a brewing classes on March 16th. at the brewery if you want to join us.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

New Brewery Equipment

There are a couple new pieces of equipment in the brewery worth mentioning here. As you know, I run our brewing water through a reverse osmosis filter because of the high level of hardness and collect the r.o. water in one water tank and run the brine water into another.

Water 'tree'
1/2 hp. pump

I was using a small magnetic pump for moving this water around and this small pump was just too slow and weak. So, I purchased a 1/2 hp. drive pump and a system of plumbing and valves to direct it where I want. The first valve located at the bottom of the 'tree' leads to a hose for discharging excess brine water down the drain which is located in the very back of the brewery. The second valve I use for directing filtered water to the mash tun and hot liquor tank primarily. I also run some into carboys for drinking water. The valve at the top I have for use with my pressure sprayer that is used to clean out my fermentors and other cleaning chores using the brine water. With this new pump I'm guessing I've got about 40lbs. of water pressure. This is really nice compared to the incoming water which is gravity fed from the rooftop tank and has a pressure of somewhere around 15lbs.

Transfering Dunkelweizen
A plastic conical fermentor

The second set of new equipment are the 60 gallon plastic conical fermentors and sanitary stainless steel fittings. With the needed head space for krausen, I'll be able to comfortably ferment 44 gallons of wort in these guys. Now, I can also easily salvage yeast from the bottom port and rack the beer to my corney kegs without the need to siphon. Sweet. This should reduce my fear of contamination. I've installed the racking port at the one gallon level so I will have more loss than usual but if I can get at least 42 gallons of wort in initially I should be able to fill 8 corney's with beer after each ferment. That's my goal. I've brewed a small batch (20 gals.) of Dunkelweizen to take one of the conicals on a test run. I should be ready to salvage yeast in the next couple of days and then rack the beer in a few more days after that. I'm looking to see how well the ferment went attenuatively speaking, that I didn't have any spoiling mishaps and then how well it cleans using my new sprayer. I'm going to use the old smaller pump to circulate caustic cleaner (oxyclean) followed by another pressure spray rinse and then circulate acid sanitizer with the small pump again. It all seems pretty straight forward but you never know if this will be an effective procedure and that I can trust it to give me a clean, germ free environment for the next batch of wort. I'm hoping that I don't need to take a scrub brush to the thing. The brewery is growing slowly but I'll soon need to move to a bigger space. In the mean time, with this new equipment I should be able to max-out on production with 160 gallons of bottled beer per month. Wish me luck. Cheers!

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