More Equipment (pt.4)

Last week we made one more trip to San Diego to pickup another batch of equipment, this time from Premier Stainless Systems.

Among the new stuff was a bottling tank (also called a brite beer tank), a grain mill, grist case & grain auger, a heat exchanger, a temperature controller box (for controlling fermentation temperatures), some brewers hose, and a most excellent hop back!


pict00061Here’s our brite tank, still wrapped up and strapped to it’s shipping support frame.  I think we’ll leave it on it’s side until we’re ready to install it though, since moving it around is much easier this way.  This one has a 15 BBL capacity, and is jacketed for easy temperature control.

Beer will be transferred into this tank where it will be prepared for bottling and also measured for tax purposes (tax is paid per barrel of beer produced).

pict0004Here is our heat exchanger (left) and grain mill (right).  These things are seriously heavy, so we’re also going to leave them on the pallet for now.  The heat exchanger cools the wort quickly after the boil, so that yeast can be pitched and fermentation can begin.  I know it’s obvious, but the grain mill crushes the malt and cracks the grain husks so that the starches inside can be accessible and converted to sugars during the mashing process.  Grain will enter from the top into a small hopper (not shown here), get crushed by the metal rollers inside, then exit from the bottom of the mill, and drop into the grist case…

pict0001The grist case (pictured on the left) will hold all of the crushed malt for an entire mash.  Once all the malt has been milled, it will travel from the bottom cone of the grist case, into the auger, which will then carry it into the grist hydrator, and ultimately into the mash tun.


If you’ve been on a tour of the Alesmith brewery lately, you’ve probably noticed a similar looking grist case that’s about 4 times bigger!

I didn’t take any photos of the grain auger yet, since it is disassembled and in several boxes, but the most visible parts of it look just like a bunch of PVC pipe.  Actually that’s all it is.  PVC pipe with a length of twisted metal inside (the actual auger), which is continually twisted by a motor.  The twisting action carries the grain inside the PVC pipe from one end to the other.  Not very exciting…

But here is something very exciting…our beautiful new hop back!

pict0015We’ll be able to pack loads of hops into this baby, then pump the hot wort, straight out of the boil kettle and through those loads of hops.  The hot wort will strip the aromatic oils from the hop cones, picking up some amazing aromas, then travel out the bottom of the hop back, and into the heat exchanger.  I’m actually starting to drool right now as I think about it…

Here’s a look inside at the screen that separates the hops from the wort.  Basically this thing is like a gigantic colander, which makes it a very versatile and useful tool in the brewery.pict0014 I figure we’ll use it for hops most of the time, but there’s really no limit to what we can do with this handy little piece of equipment.

pict00131Under the screen is a space for the wort to collect as it is separated from the hop solids, and then the wort exits through the port at the bottom.

I realize some of these photos are a bit fuzzy, so I apologize.  What can I say…my camera is a quitter…

Last but not least, here is a shot of our temperature controller box.  There are five individual controllers here (with a bunch of electronics inside), which connect to individual temperature probes on the fermentation, conditioning and bottling tanks.

pict0008The controller box will also connect to our glycol chiller, so that when a cooling demand is needed at a tank, it will trigger a valve to open, sending more cold glycol into the jacket of that tank.

The guys at Premier have done a fantastic job for us, and now we have just about everything we need for a complete brewery.  Now I’m more anxious than ever to hook everything up and start brewing!!

More Equipment (pt.2)

It took longer than expected, but yesterday we finally received some more deliveries of our new equipment!  Our bottling line, labeling machine, flowmeters, glycol chiller, and a big drum of glycol all arrived throughout the day on three different trucks.  It’s pretty exciting to see the shiny new equipment, and it somehow makes everything feel more real.  I can’t wait to actually get some beer moving through this stuff!!!


Just like unwrapping a giant Christmas present!

Just like unwrapping a giant Christmas present!

Ooo...Just what I wanted...a 6-head manual bottling line!  Thanks Santa!

Ooo...Just what I wanted...a 6-head manual bottling line! Thanks Santa!


Hooray for flowmeters!  These will help us measure the volume of liquids as we’re moving large amounts of water, wort and beer around the brewery.  Obviously very important for consistency in brewing, but also pretty important for Uncle Sam.  The tax man always wants to know exactly how much finished beer is being sold, and even being moved around the brewery from tank to tank.  These two look like a sturdy, trusty pair though – I’m sure they’ll do a great job.



labeller_01Our manual labeling machine.  Looks pretty basic, but also pretty cool.  A bottle lays horizontally across the rollers in the front and the roll of label-stickers sits on the rollers in the back.  Crank the handle and the label rolls smoothly onto the bottle.  Grab a new bottle and repeat (about 100,000 times).  Yep, we know…it’s a LOT of manual labor…but isn’t that the beauty of making a hand-crafted, artisanal product?  The fact that you get to participate in and enjoy every part of the process?  And doesn’t that ultimately result in a better finished product?  Yeah, we think so too!


chiller_01Our beautifully shiny, new glycol chiller unit.  This one is 5HP and should easily cool all of our tanks while still having enough cooling capacity for us to expand and add more tanks in the future.  This thing works by cooling down a tank full of glycol to a very low temperature, and then pumping that glycol to stainless steel pipes that run along the outer jacket of the fermenters and conditioning tanks.  Any heat in the beer inside those tanks is transferred to the cold glycol running through those pipes.  That warm glycol is then pumped back to this unit to be cooled down, and eventually sent on the same journey again.

chiller_02Here’s the control panel for the chiller unit.  To the right of the unit (in the background) is the 55-gallon drum of glycol, which is basically like a food-grade “antifreeze” (or a liquid with a lower freezing point than both beer & water).  The two pipes sticking out on the front left of the unit are where the glycol will ultimately flow into and out of the internal tank.

This guy will definitely keep our fermentations cool and our yeast happy!


We now have almost everything we need for a fully operational brewery.  In a few more weeks we’ll probably be receiving our heat exchanger, bottling tank, hop-back, grist case, mill, auger, and a handful of other odd & ends.  Now, if we can just get the city to move a little faster with our permits……