Will you be in NYC today? I am unable to be there, but my friends at the Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts will be pouring my Hellsmoke Porter today at the Long Island City Beer Festival along side some excellent beer brewed by other members of the group.
I haven't been so good about keeping up with the old Brewhouse Blog these last few months. The learning curve continues on the new equipment, particularly with what have proven to be some finicky glycol units on the new fermenters. Some of the beer (Hellsmoke Porter, Beached Blonde, Vlad the Inhaler) made a good appearance at the North Fork Craft Beer Festival in August, but some of it hasn't turned out as good as I'd like (temperature control issues with the new fermenters). So, some of what was to be put out on shelves is being shelved. Beer will be flowing this month, however -- today I'll be bottling and kegging the batch of Old Walt Smoked Wit.
I haven't made any blog entries in a while (since June 7th), but during that time I finally got my 3-BBL system running after some continued bumps, delays, trial, and error. Two batches are now fermenting, the Beached Blonde and the Hellsmoke Porter. They'll be available in August.
Fermenters, Hellsmoke on the left, Beached Blonde on the right.
Hellsmoke Porter fermenting, Day 1
Beached Blonde fermenting, Day 8
Also fermenting is another small (ten-gallon) batch of Vlad the Inhaler -- I'm still working on perfecting that old Polish-style oak-smoked Wheat.
I finalized the purchase of my new 3-barrel system back in January, but I still do not have everything I need to it fire up and start brewing. With apologies, it is looking more like my beer won't be available until late June at the earliest, but more likely July. My frustration levels are high.
Some things may be happening this coming week to get the new system finally in working order, however. Once it is, I'll be getting out some of the Beached Blonde as well as the Hellsmoke Porter.
In the meantime, I have been testing and refining some new recipes on my old ten-gallon system, but 2009 proved to me that the ten-gallon system is not sustainably practical for regular production.
Continuing to work on the brewery this weekend, got a lot done yesterday. And, that's working "on" the brewery, not working "in" the brewery -- in that I'm not brewing but putting the new equipment together in the brew house and fermentation room.
Delivery of the new 3-bbl system was delayed a few months. Originally thought to be here in January, four big crates were finally delivered on Tuesday, March 30th. Since I still have that regular job during the week, and we were hosting Easter at our house, nothing happened with those crates that first week.
Nothing happened with those crates the following week, either, as I flew out to Chicago early the Monday morning after Easter for the 2010 Craft Brewers Conference (flew back home the following Sunday).
SO, the crated finally got unpacked and the fermenters, mash tun, and boil kettle got moved into the brewery yesterday, thanks to the great help of my brother Pete, brother-in-law Sal, and old friend Bob.
A few extra key components to the brewery are still pending delivery, so I still can't start brewing just yet. In the mean time, I'm working on opening things up a bit in the little brew house to make for a more efficient work space. It's pretty tight in there now, workable, but not ideal. (I was going to fire up the old ten-gallon batch Sabco unit today, but it now needs a repair -- one more thing to add to the to-do list.)
I can say this, even though I haven't yet fired things up, this new system looks real solid.
- The new 3 BBL Brew Kettle and the old 10 gallon Brew Kettle. -
Today was supposed to finally be the day for delivery of my new 3 BBL system, but the truck that took it from California only made it as far as New Jersey today. Everything is going to be transferred to another truck, which will then head to Long Island on Monday.
Tic Tic Tic Tic...
Meanwhile, thanks to Slow Food Huntington and the Cinema Arts Centre for their hospitality at last night's screening of Beer Wars. I was able to bring a bit of vintage Hellsmoke Porter for the post-movie tasting. It had mellowed out a bit, I'm really looking forward to brewing some more as soon as I get that friggin' system delivered and set up.
My new 3 BBL system is still pending delivery. The manufacturer just informed me about some more delays. Since it is Unit #1 of a brand new model system, such things can happen. It's been taking longer to have ready to ship out the door than they had anticipated.
The manufacturer (Premier Stainless Systems in California) has an excellent reputation, so I totally trust them. They've been manufacturing quality 7, 10, 15, and 20 barrel systems for years. So, once I get this thing delivered, fired up, and ready to go, my beer will again begin to flow.
One key component on the new system got delayed a bit further, so it isn't here yet. So, by the time I get it delivered, install it, and get it running, new beer might not be seen until March.
Since there are numerous variables from system to system, I'll likely brew half-sized batches in the beginning to dial things in. Those half-sized batches, being 1.5 BBL (46.5 gallons) will still be more than my old ten-gallon batches.
It hasn't shipped from California yet (the manufacturer has a few components pending), but below is the 3-barrel system that I'll be brewing on in 2010.
It won't be arranged as shown above, the two fermenters to the left will be in the 10-foot x 10 foot fermentation room while the mash tun and boil kettle will be in the 7-foot x 10-foot brewhouse. (The mash tun and boil kettle will be a tight fit, but it's workable.) The Blind Bat Brewery will still be a relatively small operation, but since I'm upgrading from a 10-gallon system, I'm expanding from tiny to small.
I'll also still be working the regular job during the week, but will be able to brew just over nine times as much beer per batch than I can on my current system. (3 barrels = 93 gallons, vs. 10-gallon batches). So, while I didn't get whole heck of a lot of beer out in 2009, 2010 will be seeing more from me.
So, the ten-gallon batches, brewing only on weekends, has been fun -- but I sure haven't been getting much beer out during the first official year of the Blind Bat Brewery. I've shut down operations for a bit while I reorganize the little brewhouse to get the place ready for a 3-barrel system that should arrive in February 2010. (One barrel of beer is 31 gallons, so I'll be able to brew 93-gallon batches rather than the 10-gallon batches.) I'll still be brewing just on weekends, but I'll be able to get a whole heck of a lot more beer brewed and out the door in 2010 than I was in 2009.
I'll share more on the new equipment as I have something to show. I'll be keeping the trusty old Sabco equipment for a while longer, it will still come in handy for experiments and recipe formulations.
I haven't posted on the blog in a while, but have been keeping busy. A couple of things are fermenting, but I've also been working on expanding the little brewery a bit.
Not a lot of beer has been getting out with the weekend brewing of ten-gallon batches, but I should be getting more beer out next year. While my schedule will remain part-time / weekends for a while longer, capacity will be increasing with the installation of a 3 barrel system. Each barrel equals 31 gallons, so I'll be able to brew just over nine-times as much beer (93 gallons, aka 619 pints) in about the same time it takes to brew ten gallons.
I've been down with the flu since Friday (just the good-old-fashioned kind, not the swine flu), but it kept me from any brewing duties this weekend. Am crawling back to the day job today, after spending yesterday in bed. Am hoping to get things moving in the brewhouse this week (transferring hefeweizen from fermenters to conditioning vessels, bottling up hellsmoke) and be back to brewing on Saturday. Sorry about the delays.
Finally! I delivered some more Hellsmoke Porter on the way home from work last night to Big Z Beverage (http://www.bigzbeverage.com) on Jericho Turnpike. Tonight I'll be heading out to Bellport to deliver some to Dave's Bellport Cold Beer & Soda (http://bellportbeer.com/).
A sincere thank you to everyone for being patient. This part-time, one-man, 1/3-barrel nanobrewery hasn't been cranking out lots of beer, but I am exploring options that I can use in my existing space (and schedule) to increase my output six-fold.
This week I'm bottling up the Hellsmoke Porter that was brewed in February, and will be getting it out next week. Will be putting out word of where and when early next week.
Weekends are the only time I can get any good amount of work done, so I'll be working in the brewhouse this weekend and not getting to the '09 Spring Craft Beer Festival at Nassau Coliseum. There will be some great beer there, though, so please go and enjoy! (Be sure to stop by the Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts table.)
I'm in the midst of exploring various ways to increase the amount of beer I can brew in any given brew session, so stay tuned...
Well, I didn't do great job keeping the yeast happy during the fermentation of my Wheatley Hills Weizenbock. After conditioning and bottling, it is unfortunately clear to me that while the Weizenbock is OK, it doesn't have all the character that I was aiming for. So, while it is drinkable (I'll be drinking and serving it at home), it isn't something I want to ask people to pay for. So, the Wheatley Hills Weizenbock won't be hitting shelves in the near future.
Meanwhile, more of the Hellsmoke Porter is currently fermenting and conditioning, so that will be out again soon. I'll be next brewing up beer more appropriate for Spring, and fresh batches of my Weizenbock should be making an appearance this Fall.
One of the perils of part-time operations is that the job that pays the bills has been taking priority over the part-time startup. The "day job" keeps spilling into evenings and mornings, but I'm lucky to have it.
I had planned on getting the Wheatley Hills Weizenbock out before the end of this week, but it looks more like it will be out sometime next week -- as I'll be bottling and labeling on Sunday. If that goes well, I'll then be making deliveries next week -- so either watch this space or your email (if you are signed up for the email updates) for news on where and when. In the meantime, the Weizenbock has been carbonating and conditioning in "corny" kegs.
Saturday will be the better day for brewing this weekend, and so I'll be smoking and brewing more of the Hellsmoke then.
OK, so I didn't get much work done on Saturday (Valentine's Day). Did get some cleaning done on Sunday, and am about to take advantage of the balmy just-above-freezing Monday-off-from-work to smoke and brew more Hellsmoke Porter. I've had a pot of coffee, and am out the door to begin right after I post this.
Apologies to all about the still-pending Wheatley Hills Weizenbock -- it's still conditioning, but it will be out this month. Word of where and when will be posted here (and via the Blind Bat Brewery Email Updates).
We seem to be having a real Winter this year, and things are again "progressing" slower than I would like. A busted pipe reminded me that the equipment isn't too happy with the sub-freezing temperatures. (Unlike the fermentation room, my little brewhouse is unheated.) Couple that with the fact that this is a small-scale, part-time endeavor (brewing on weekends or days where I can play hooky from work), the beer isn't flowing out too rapidly at present. As warmer weekends approach, so will new batches of beer.
Meanwhile some Weizenbock should be out early February.
I'll be kicking the smoke up a notch with the next batch of Hellsmoke Porter. The earlier homebrew version was a lot smokier than what was available to folks in December's "First Flight", but I seemed to be the only one who was happy with the homebrew level of smoke. Perhaps I brought the smoke level down too much. A good number of RateBeer / BeerAdvocate reviewers indicated that they would like more smoke, so I'll try to find a happy balance between the old homebrew smoke and that of the December release. Not too much to overwhelm the senses, but a bit more smoke seems to be called for.
I'm not sure how it got there, but I just got word from one of the folks signed up for my email updates that they came across (and purchased) some of the Hellsmoke Porter in New Beer Distributors in lower Manhattan.
Well, that went quicker than I thought it would. Despite three deliveries to Big Z since Saturday the 13th, the first official batch of the Hellsmoke Porter is reportedly just about all gone (check with Mark or Rick at Big Z to be sure). I've had some good feedback on it, so I'll be brewing up more for January availability. I'm also working on getting it into more locations. This is a small-batch brewery to begin with, but my goal is to first see how folks like a specific beer before I go nuts and start brewing up lots of back-to-back batches.
The Hellsmoke Porter is now available in 22-ounce bottles at Big Z Beverage on Jericho Turnpike in Huntington. For directions and contact info, use the "Where to Find" page at http://BlindBatBrewery.com. I'm also working on getting some of the Hellsmoke out to Bellport Beer & Soda, word of when will follow.
If you try the Hellsmoke, or any of the other future beers, please let me know what you think via the "Be The Judge" form at BlindBatBrewery.com. The form is designed to keep feedback anonymous by default, but feel free to let me know who you are if you want.
The Hellsmoke Porter is a robust porter, roasty and a bit smokey thanks to the alder and applewood I used to smoke some of the grains before mashing. As with many traditional porters, the carbonation level is on the moderately-low end of the scale. It goes great with steak, burgers, and other barbecued or grilled meats.
Meanwhile, back at the nanobrewery.... I'm cleaning kegs to carbonate and condition the Hellsmoke Porter. Bottling to follow shortly. I'll be sending out word of where these bottles will be available soon. I would have taken care of all this over the last weekend, but there was a delay due to the greenhouse effect. Not the global greenhouse effect, but the preparations I'm undertaking for the greenhouse we're about to build in our back yard. Leveling out the area and preparing the foundation took up the weekend. So, I'm playing hooky from the day job today (after a late night of watching election returns), and playing a bit of catchup.
About to brew another test batch today, but wanted to get something out about these tests I've been doing --- and when beer might actually be available for folks to try.
While I would like nothing better than to have beer out for folks to enjoy this very day, I don't want to just put anything out there just for the sake of having it out there. The old saying goes, "you can't make a first impression twice."
While waiting for my licenses, I was informed that I was forbidden to brew until licensed. So, for almost a year, I was unable to perfect recipes and techniques that I had planned on working on while licenses were pending. That's what I've now been working on since this June.
If this was a full-time brewery, I would have been able to brew a good number of test batches a week. I'm a bit behind where I would like to be since I'm still working a full-time job which has has spilled into mornings, evenings, and weekends lately. That should be a temporary situation, due to a number of extra projects with hard deadlines. For now, only part of the weekends are open for me to brew.
So, it may be that beer won't start flowing until the Fall. I hope folks understand.