How We Brew At The Brewery – One Barrel Brewing Co. – Chai Town Brown

OBBC_k_fI have been brewing at the 1BBC (One Barrel Brewing Co.   ) which is a Nano-Brewery in Madison, WI for a few months now. It is amazing to find out that after 12 years of homebrewing how many little things about the brewing process I didn’t quite understand and how limiting my homemade equipment really was. For this blog, I aim to take you through a typical day at the brewery by recounting this Monday as I was working as the Assistant Brewer at 1BBC.

10 a.m

I get to the brewery.

The timer on the water tank was set the night before as it takes three hours to get the Hot Liquor Tank up to the 168ºF I need to dough in and get the mash to a temp of 156º F. I have to hook up a few hoses to a pump to start adding about 20 gallons of water to grain which was ground the night before by Owner and Brewmaster Peter Gentry. I set a few timers (one for 45 minutes and another for 60) after my mash is to temp and then I play the waiting game.

10:30 a.m.

The mash is using enzymes and other sciencey type things to convert starches to sugars so I take the time to get the rest of the ingredients ready. I am brewing a 36-gallon batch of a Mild Brown Ale that will later be infused with a homemade chai tea (minus the milk or cream). The recipe calls for lactose in the last 15 minutes of the boil to give the Brown Ale that creamy chai sweetness.


Hops Lined Up For A Previous Brew Day

In addition to the lactose addition there is only one hop addition that needs to be made at 60 minutes. I like to get all my hops weighed out in labeled dishes so when the timer goes off I can just dump the container and reset the timer for the next hop addition. Anyway, I put six ounces or so of hops (E. Kent Goldings if I recall correctly) in a labeled pint glass and move on to yeast.

1BBC has been using White Labs yeast as of late. I take six vials of the California WLP001 (comparable to Wyeast 1056) out of the fridge so they can “wake up” at room temperature and get ready for work.

11:15 a.m.

The first timer goes off and it is time to check the starches with iodine to make sure everything has been converted and it has. It always works which is comforting.

One thing I forgot to mention is that the entire time the mash is working I am recirculating. This means I am taking water/wort out of the bottom of the mash tun and pumping it through a coil that hangs in the hot liquor tank (which has been brought up to 180ºF). The nice thing about the electric brewery is I can set the mash tun to stay at 156ºF (or whatever temp we desire) and the pump will recirculate when necessary to keep the mash at that desired temp.

Since my test shows the starches have been converted, I can now use the recirculation to bring the temp of the mash up to 168ºF to stop the conversions which is known as mashout. It takes a while to get up to temp, but soon I will be ready to sparge.

*It is about this time of day when I start thinking about cooking myself a pizza at the adjacent bar where we sell the beer

12:00 p.m.

The mash is at 168ºF so it is time to sparge. Before I start transferring the wort into the boil kettle I like to get a good two to three inches of sparge water above the grain bed. When that is complete I slowly pump wort out of the mash tun and into the boil kettle while continuously keeping fresh sparge water atop the grain bed.

12:45 p.m.

I have about 5 gallons of wort in the kettle which is enough to cover the heating element. Once the element is covered I can turn it on safely and begin bringing the wort to a boil. All the while the transfer of wort continues until I have about 37 gallons in the boil kettle, and in the meantime, kegging of previous beers and cleaning/sanitizing the fermenter the beer is going into are tasks which I need to get accomplished. There is not much standing around time at the brewery, that is for sure.

2 p.m.

The beer is finally boiling and I can add my one and only hop addition. Back to cleaning stuff.

2:45 p.m.

Time to add the lactose and then make sure the wort chiller is all set up for when the 60 minute boil is finished. Setting up the chiller was tricky the first few times, but now I can do the whole thing in about eight minutes.


Our Wort Chiller Set-Up

2:55 p.m.

Five minutes before the boil is finished I run the boiling wort through the chiller before the cold water is turned on to kill any lingering bacteria that might have escaped my sanitizing of the hoses and chiller. Not likely, but I like to take every precaution to ensure the beer turns out as planned.

3:00 p.m.

I turn on the cold water full-blast and start pumping the beer into the fermenter. It takes about a half hour so I try to use the time to get some of the brew equipment cleaned and ready for the next day. 1BBC makes beer four or more times a week.


Label Includes:Name, Date, Original Gravity, and Yeast

3:30 p.m.

The fermenter is full and it is time to add the yeast. I sanitize the vials and my hands. The vials need a vigorous shaking to ensure one gets all of the yeast out and into the chilled wort. Once the yeast has been pitched I seal the fermenter, add a blow-off hose, and label the fermenter so we know what is inside and when it was made.

3:45 p.m.

I clean the equipment and the brewery and grind the grains for the next day’s brew. Head Brewer Dan will be brewing the #2 Strong Ale (Belgian Style Strong) which has more than double the amount of grain in it that the Chai Town Brown I just brewed has in it. It weighs in at over 100 pounds of grain which takes a while to grind.

4:30 p.m.

I set the timer so the hot liquor tank is at 168ºF in the morning and I go home.

*This was my first day setting the timer on my own and I forgot to turn the tank on so I cost Dan about three hours of his day. Sorry Buddy, I’ll get it right next time for sure.

Intro to Hops

Great intro to hops if you are new to beer, the brewing process, or just beer-curious. No need to be shy about it. We are all a little curious.

Tapped SJ

The most common question I have gotten in my years in the beer business is, “What the hell are hops?”. Therefore, I figured it was only appropriate to address this topic right off the bat. But to understand hops, we must first understand the brewing process.

The art of brewing can be traced all the way back to ancient Egypt, and may even have saved all of civilization. Simply put, brewing is the process of boiling and fermenting four basic ingredients: water, a starch source (most commonly barley), yeast, and hops. There are many steps to the brewing process but we’ll keep this simple. The first step is turning your grain into a fermentable product through germination, kilning, milling and mashing. Germination is where the grain is steeped in water to make the grains “sprout”. Once they sprout, they are dried and roasted (kilning) which provides color and…

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Untappd App

Untappd is a smart phone app powered by foursquare which allows users users to document and rate beers they are drinking as they drink them.

I have been using the Untappd for about three weeks now and I have already “checked in” 68 times, tried 55 distinct beers (this included a lot of small samples), and achieved 16 badges. *Badges are like little rewards for meeting certain criteria. For example: Checking in to five different Trappist beers.


beer-rating app powered by foursquare

I enjoy having a log of beers and what I thought of them in my pocket because I talk about beer a lot in my daily life as a brewer at One Barrel Brewing Company and as a bartender at the nearby Tex Tubbs Taco Palace. It is beneficial for someone like myself who tries to sample ever beer I can to have notes and some sort of record of how I rate certain beers in case I am unsure in retrospect how the beer was received during the time of its imbibing.  Honestly, I think I will grow tired of the app as I seem to with all apps, including its parent app foursquare, but I think it is a great way to track one’s beer drinking patterns if one so desires.

But you don’t have to make my word for it. Try it out for yourself.