The First Brew!

Yes, you heard right!  After passing our Health Department inspection last week, then scrambling around to get ingredients ordered, we managed to pull together our first brew session this past Saturday, the 14th of November.

Being our first batch on this system, we figured it would be a very long, hard day of work, and we were certainly right about that…From start to finish it took us 19 hours!  Somehow though, there seems to be just a little bit less stress knowing that we have beer in our fermenters.

Here’s a few photos of the day.  We were scrambling around so much for the first half of the day though, we didn’t manage to get any pictures of the mash-in.  Oh well, there’s always next time….

Here’s my dad setting up to do some transfers.  The pump he’s working on is receiving the mash run-off and transferring it into the kettle.  The pump in front of him is pumping the hot water into the mash tun for our sparge.

You’ll notice most of these pictures look a little hazy…We were surprised at just how humid it got in there throughout the day.  Downright tropical even.

And here’s part of the source of the humidity…our sparge arm (on the right).  For those who don’t know, sparge is a German word meaning “rinse”, so we’re basically just rinsing our mash with hot water.

Here’s a better shot of the sparge arm in place and in action.  I’m looking on, getting a nice steam bath…

Actually, I’m just watching the sparge level to make sure the grain bed isn’t getting too exposed and dry as the wort flows out of the mash tun and into the kettle…

Ah, the first wort flowing into the kettle…a beautiful sight!

Ting watches as the kettle fills…

…and then…

…the boil begins!

Here’s the spent grains in the mash tun, after all of the wort has been run-off.  I know it doesn’t look like much…but remember this is a mild, so you really don’t need a whole lot of malt…

Either way, you’ll notice there is no “grain shute” from which to eject the spent grains.  So in other words, climb in and start shovelling!

Okay, well, skip ahead a few steps (because we didn’t manage to get any pictures taken in-between) and here’s our yeast pitch, ready to add to our chilled wort as it flows into the fermenter.  Pretty cool to have a giant package of yeast with our name on it!  7.5 liters worth of yeast in fact.  The homebrewers out there will recognize the 1098 number on the yeast package too…

And finally, here’s a picture of our finished wort!  Yeast pitched and ready to begin fermenting.

And the exhausted brewteam, ready to call it a day!  Until next time…

The Long and Winding Road…

Hello out there in blog land!  You’re probably wondering what on earth is going on over at Eagle Rock Brewery that they haven’t blogged in over a month.  Or maybe you’re not wondering at all…Either way, I know that everyone is getting very very thirsty, and probably a bit impatient.

Yes, it is true that we haven’t blogged in over a month, but suffice it to say that we’ve been extremely busy getting the brewhouse completely finished and ready for brewing.  In just the last 4 weeks, I’ve discovered new levels of pain and exhaustion, and a level of stress that I never knew existed.  Insanity was only the beginning.

Well, my friends, the waiting is finally almost over.  This morning I picked up our final license from the Health Department, which means that we are now officially and legally allowed to start making beer at Eagle Rock Brewery!

Today and tomorrow will be spent purchasing ingredients and planning our first brew session, and then the first brew will take place sometime before the end of the week.

Well, that’s all the energy I can muster for now.  More updates and pictures to come soon…Hang in there friends…we’re almost there!

Plan Checks and Corrections…

A few posts back (about a month ago), I mentioned that our Building Plans had been approved by the Health Department, which was very exciting indeed.  Then, just a few days after our plans were stamped I took them over to the Dept. of Building and Safety for yet another approval process.

After they had our plans for three weeks, they finally gave them back with lots of red lines (corrections) on them, and a stack of papers detailing several “clearances” we need to get through before they will give us an approval.  Actually though, now that I’ve spent almost a week working through these corrections, I’m realizing that they aren’t really that bad.  In fact, most of the corrections deal with Accessibility Compliance (for wheelchair access, etc.), so it is just a matter of having the correct width for hallways and doorways, and the correct height for tables, etc.

As far as the “clearances” they are requesting, these have to do with other City agencies (like Fire Dept, Planning Dept, etc.).  Not a huge deal, but kind of frustrating from the perspective of process and efficiency.  It seems as though every process involving the City, has to go through LOTS of different departments that never really communicate with each other.  So if you want to accomplish anything, you need to spend lots of time running around and paying each department their own “processing” fee.

Oh well…After a year of dealing with this slow moving bureaucracy, at least I know what to expect, and how to navigate through it all with a little less frustration.  I guess the really important thing here, is that we are finally very close to starting our construction phase.  We just need to finish these corrections, re-submit to the plan checker, (get approval), and then pull the building permit.  I can actually start to see a light at the end of this long and crazy tunnel!

Success, Round Two

Yes, success!  We made it through our public hearing on Wednesday evening, and the appeal against our conditional use permit was denied.  Big, huge sigh of relief.  Thank you to everyone who showed up to support us, and especially those who spoke on our behalf.  We appreciate it so much, and wouldn’t have been as successful without you.

So glad it’s over though.  Maybe now I can stop having those stress-related stomachaches, and sleep through the night without being waken by panic attacks.  But I doubt it.  At least now we can finally move past this part of the process, and on to the next bureaucratic hurdle.

I mentioned a couple posts back that our TTB (federal) license was approved, and we received it in the mail on Thursday.  Our ABC license has already been applied for, and is currently being processed.  Our building plans were approved by the Health Department a week ago, and were subsequently submitted to Building & Safety for approval.  Once we get that approval from Building & Safety we can pull our building permits and finally start the build-out.  At long last!  We’re so close, I can almost taste the sweet wort running from the mash tun!

Public Hearing, Round Two

That’s right.  Because it was so much fun the first time, we’re having another public hearing regarding our conditional use permit.

The hearing will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 4:30 pm at:

Ramona Hall Community Center
4580 North Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90065

We would LOVE to have some supporters there to cheer us on, so please feel free to join us.  As usual, there will be other hearings on that day, so the start time for our hearing may be pushed slightly.  Just be aware of that, and maybe bring a book or magazine to read while we wait.

As many of you already know, our conditional use permit was approved earlier this year, after our original public hearing, but the decision was appealed by a nearby industrial property owner.  His concerns are that our tasting room will create parking problems on the street, and that it will become a hangout for local gangs.  Obviously, if you are reading this blog, you’re probably accuately aware of how unfounded these concerns are.  Unfortunately though we live in a giant city, run by a giant bureaucracy, and we are still subject to all of the outdated processes that the city continues to use.  Joy.

Anyway, we hope to see some of you there tomorrow, to push past this one last, big hurdle on the road to our opening day.  Cheers!

More Good News!

What a great way to start the weekend…Today I found out that our TTB application has been approved!  This means that we now have our federal license to brew beer commercially.  Of course, we still need our state brewer’s license from the ABC, and then the building permits to actually put together our facility, but hey…we’re now one big step closer!

The TTB (or Tax and Trade Bureau) is the arm of the federal government that regulates the manufacturing of alcohol and other sorts of things (it used to be called the ATF…).  The application process was a bit involved, but nowhere near as bad as the application for our Conditional Use Permit.  Basically they ask you a bunch of questions about your proposed operations, such as solid waste and waste water considerations, energy usage, type and extent of security considerations, and a general overview of the operation.  Then they do an extensive background check, including checking on the source of your financing.  I suppose the reason for this is that they want to make sure some criminal isn’t financing your brewery.  The final step is a telephone interview where they go over most of the same questions.  From what I gather, the federal government isn’t too concerned about all the specific details of your operation, but they just want to make sure that you’re paying your taxes, and that none of your beer is stolen.

Another bit of good news is that I submitted our building plans to the Department of Building & Safety today.  I wasn’t able to do this until we had our approval from the Health Department, so it felt good to finally be able to submit it.  Anyway, this will be the final step before we can start the construction phase, so it seems like we can finally see the home stretch!  They said it will take about two weeks for them to complete the plan check, but I think I’ve heard that story a few times before….I’ll keep you all posted when I actually get a response though.

(Finally) Some Good News!

After many long months, our plans were approved by the Health Department today!  Hooray!  It wasn’t just a matter of strolling in with our revised plan, and walking out with an approval though.  The entire approval process took 8 (yes, eight) hours!  I had an appointment with the plan checker at 8 am this morning, and didn’t get our plans stamped until 4 pm.

One of the trickier aspects of our project is that the Health Dept. classified the tasting-room/bar-area, as a “retail food establishment”, and the brewery-area as a “wholesale food establishment”.  This translated to double the work for us, and instead of submitting the typical 3-sets of plans, we had to submit 6-sets (3 for each “side” of the operations).

As we looked over the new plans, the plan checker kept making notes about what we needed to change.  I asked her about making those fixes, and luckily she let me just draw in the changes with a red pen, right then and there on the plans.  This was great, except that I had to make all of those changes on each of the 6-sets of plans.  Just the process of making all those changes on 6-sets of plans took three hours to complete.  And somehow at the end of that process I ended up with little flecks of White-Out all over my face…no idea.

Anyway, that part is over for now, but we’ll have to deal with the Health Department once again for the final inspection before our doors open.  Now it’s on to the Department of Building & Safety to get our building permits.  I’ve already put in the phone calls, so hopefully we’ll have an appointment with them by early next week, and building permits soon after that.

I guess the celebrating will have to be short-lived for now…time to get back to work!