Back last summer the plan was to continue to cuckoo brew at facilities for our bigger batches but build a small pilot brewery that would have all the bells and whistles we wanted to really experiment with process and allow us to perform some serious testing on some process theory that’s knocking around there at the moment. We knew we wanted to keep Rollover, Body Riddle and Bone Machine (Northern Lights wasn’t a full time beer right then) on all the time in batches that would be fully disappeared by thirsty folk every 14 days. The plan was to build a small kit that could put out a few small brews of around 20-30 cases and a couple of kegs every week to compliment this and allow us to keep things fresh and finally start making a dent at the 100 odd recipes I’m sitting on and waiting to put into a can. Tap takeover? Great, let’s do a couple of beers just for the night! Festival? We’ll make something just for the party no probs. A weekend can release with everyone queuing in deck chairs on a Saturday morning in an industrial estate? No. Go to the pub mate.
I decided having built some previous experience that 500L of a test brew would be perfect. It’s a perfect volume to take proper risks with and experiment with flavours you mightn’t even associate with beer. If it works there’s just enough to sell cases and not piss too many people off, and if it’s rubbish then it’s down the drain. It’s R&D and that’s going to be expected. What I hadn’t planned for, but Alan could apparently see a mile off, was I’d get over-excited by the possibilities, over-engineer the entire thing and land this thing into being the main project pretty quickly. We’re here now.
The target we’d agreed was we’d have 500L of a Double IPA to package if we were happy with it. For us hops are such a big thing of what we love and consumers expect from us so we had to plan that in from day 1. That means you’ve got to focus on how you’re mashing, boiling, optimum dimensions on your whirlpool as well as having the fermenters set up to deal with being repeatedly assaulted with dry hopping on a near daily basis. So plan for hops. Outside of this we wanted the kit to be able to do any style perfectly for us without any compromises. We love making Lagers, Brown Ales, Kettle Sours and Stouts and we needed something that would tick all those boxes too. If you’re doing Lager you’ll need good boil off, decoction ready a plus too. Stouts? Be ready for big tough mashes. Sours? Kettle cooling, purging and low oxygen pickup. Check, check, check.
Chatting to brewery manufacturers I know and respect, it was quickly apparent that, yeah, you can do all of that but mate, that’ll cost you more than you’ll ever be able to make back from a 500L system. They were right. We had to park the hope of working with turn-key operators partly from us having a serious deficit in our budget for it and partly the level of work we’d still need to put in to making something this custom. The solution: DIY – Design It Yourself. A truly terrifying prospect for any brewer – nobody to blame if it doesn’t work. So what are we building? It’s the most over-engineered pilot kit ever imagined. Here’s V001.
Now you may be asking, what the hell are all those for? And what’s that yoke in the front? We’re building a 5 vessel & mash filter custom brewhouse. Having been brewing on so many kits over the past few years we had a very clear idea of what we want a kit to do, and for the level of what we want to do, you’re gonna need 5 vessels… and a mash filter. Tune in next week and I’ll take you through the process.
To celebrate us finally opening a brewery we’re throwing a party called Fidelity in the Mansion House with lots of Irish and International Breweries. Head over to www.Fidelity.Beer for the lineup or pickup your ticket here at eventbrite. It’s gonna be amazing.