Mid-summer 2016 update
We’re heading into the end of Summer with a bit of spring in our step. The brewery’s long-awaited and often-requested tasting room is finally under construction. Our optimistic estimate is that it’s going to take us six months to complete the work. We will be shouting loud and clear as soon as we have something more like a real opening schedule for you all. August will also mark the return of the Whiskey Thief in collaboration with High Water Brewing. It’s the same core beer as our initial Band of Gypsies release in 2015, but with a little extra roast from an oak-smoked wheat malt. We’re very excited about getting that beer back out on shelves.
It was more of a slog than we planned for in the brewing, though. In a first for the brewery, we managed to blow up our plate heat exchanger during the knockout transfer. For a few moments before the pumps shut off we had hot wort spraying ten feet in every direction from the blown-past gaskets of our PHE.
That Whiskey Thief blowout Friday evening was a hard end to a rough day. We were already far behind schedule thanks to an awful lauter runoff that went three hours over our expectations. On a normal day the knockout represents our home stretch, when there’s a few minutes to rest and recover before starting the process of cleaning up and putting away the day’s equipment.
The heat exchanger failing at that point put the entire day’s work at risk. We had a whirlpool full of a thousand gallons of hot wort in what is nearly its most fragile state, and no way to safely cool it down. The choice was between dumping the batch, or making some kind of compromise salvage operation.
We had put too much time and effort into making that wort to give up. Fortunately we designed and built our brewhouse to do weird things. There’s a circuitous loop through the hard-piping that leads from the whirlpool backwards into the kettle. Rebuilding the heat exchanger was going to take hours, but with the wort safely held up at sanitary temperatures it could be kept clean and safe for the next day.
A lot of things came together to make that salvage possible. The base beer itself, a strong scotch ale, is often held for extended boils to concentrate and caramelize the malt sugars— leaving it up at temp wasn’t going to break the base style. We had a means in place to run backwards through our brewhouse and gently keep it hot and clean of invasive bacteria and yeast. Most importantly, we were not going to give up.
This batch of Thief should be just as delicious as the last, but for us it’ll taste like victory.
We’ll have another returning beer in August, our Framboos Blonde Ale, as well as a new beer, an India Brown Lager. The Framboos will be featuring even bolder raspberry aroma, thanks to 300lbs of raspberries in the tank. And the lager should provide an element of satisfaction to all the people who’ve been asking for us to make an IPA, without having to make just another IPA. It’ll be featuring CTZ, magnum, chinook, cascade, and summit hops for a balanced bittering to match the brown malts and lager yeast.