Saturday, 27 December 2014

The year ahead... In terms of brewing

The new year is just around the corner and we will have to hit the ground running... From a stock on hand position we are screwed and from a production capacity point of view it is not looking much better.

At least all the pieces are coming together to put a significant upgrade project in motion. In effect we will replace all our brewing infrastructure, except for a couple of items. It promises to be a challenging year ahead.

It is actually quite crazy when you realize how many things have to be planned, synchronized and decided upon when planning a brewery expansion. All the pieces of the puzzle representing a brewing operation is intricately intertwined. If you change one thing it effects a myriad of things, from financial prediction models; amounts to be financed to the various parts of the practical operations of the brewing process itself. Just deciding the actual brewhouse size and fermentation cellar capacity is a process of note.

Thanks to a lot of research, reading and listening to podcasts it is clear that it is not necessary to have the biggest possible brewhouse. Instead it is more important to have a flexibly piece of equipment and one that can be run multiple times in a day or shift. Even when planning to run a relatively small brewing operation one can learn from big breweries. Large breweries always use fermenters a couple of times the volume of their kettles. This results in always blending a couple of batches together, evening out small batch variations, resulting in more consistent and repeatable beers. It is also more effective in terms of space, cost and other resources. In order to push the number of brews per day / shift, some large breweries run two kettles for the same mash / lauter tun. If correctly planned the output capacity of a relatively small brewhouse can be doubled from a 2/3/4 batches per shift rate to a 4/6/8 batches per shift capacity with the simple upgrade of adding a second kettle.

If all goes to plan the increased production capacity will allow us to grow the business and increase our market footprint. We should also have enough inventory on hand to make sure all beer gets enough time to condition properly and that we have a reasonable stock buffer to deal with spikes in demand and unexpected large orders.

The bigger capacity will also provide the opportunity to play with some new ideas to push the boundaries in the Cape Town beer market. Beer for us is about experimenting. Given the large wine & distilled spirits industry in the Western Cape the base material, i.e. barrels, for a barrel aging and sour beer production setup should be available.

A barrel program requires three basic areas to be covered: Time & patience; space to keep barrels; and the willingness & capability to experiment + learn from mistakes and others. I am confident we can cover all these with some dedication, hard work and the space we have.

Despite all the side projects like barrel aging, sour beers and other one-off beers we plan to refine our production of flavorful and hop-forward beers. Our passion and core dedication will remain with these beers as they are aimed at showing beer consumers that there is no reason why beer should be bland or dumbed down. We all deserve to drink beer with more character than fizzy yellow dishwater with trace amounts of hops and real malted barley.

May 2015 be a memorable beer year...

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