Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Plan

When Allison and I first started talking about a home brewery, we knew very little about the micro details. I've been working in the brewing industry directly and indirectly since being an engineering co-op student at Molson from 1999-2000. Having been in many breweries and worked on most of the large processing and packaging equipment, I thought scaling down would be simple... It's not.

In a large brewery every step has a dedicated piece of equipment that plays a specific role, in a home brewery you need to combine vessels so that your whole house isn't filled with hoses and tanks. Luckily I happen to know a few brewers who run micro-breweries as well as Paul Dickey who has an amazing home setup. Paul's been brewing since 1985. He's a BJCP [Beer Judge Certification Program] Master Beer Judge (the only one in Canada!) and also on the cusp of selling his own beer on contract with Black Oak Paul was kind enough to let me see his home setup, and from there our planning really started. After many discussions/beers with brewers, I had a good idea of the basic needs of our home setup.

We decided early to do all grain brewing, we have the space in our basement for the extra couple tanks and wanted to be able to make any kind of beer we choose. Although using extract can make some really nice beers, we really wanted to be somewhat traditional in our approach. After some equipment research online, we settled on buying most of our main equipment from Canadian Home Brew Supplies. Randy is the owner and was really great to deal with, if you need anything home brewery related I'd highly recommend getting in touch with him.

Here's our list of major components:
2   BoilerMaker 15 Gallon Brew Kettle
1   Blichmann AutoSparge Assembly
1   BoilerMaker 10 Gallon Brew Kettle
1   False Bottom for 15 Gallon Boilemaker
1   14 Gallon Fermenter with Tri-clamp fittings (more expensive but easier to clean)
1   JSP MaltMill Model A
1   Therminator (small heat exchanger)
2   High Temperature Wort Transfer Pumps
3   Blichmann Engineering Natural Gas Burners

Once we had all the major components, it was time to call a good friend of ours who happens to build process skids for the pharmaceutical industry. They had plenty of scrap stainless steel to build a frame and piping for the components. Here's a picture of the 3 kettles on the scrap stainless before assembly. Note: only in the pharma industry would a scrap frame be polished!

We sketched up a P&ID (piping and instrumentation diagram) for the welders and over the course of 5 weeks, whenever they had a bit of spare time they put the whole thing together. Here's a picture of the almost complete system:

I'll post the P&ID at a later date, as well as a labeled picture of the brewing system for your reference. All the fittings are either tri-clamp or Swagelok, so they are really easy to take apart for cleaning. As I've never actually brewed before I designed the piping/valves and pumps to be able to go from any tank to any tank just in case.

Now to focus on the renovations... As I mentioned in my first posting we are going from an unfinished room to a brewery. Step one was to remove all the junk the former owners of our house had left us (mainly an old work bench, some wood shelving and a bunch of really old paint cans). Then I spent a Saturday afternoon putting up rough drywall on the studded walls. This is where the project sat for about 6 weeks mainly due to the arrival of our daughter Abigail. So 2 weeks ago my good friend Balreet (pictured below with me at his wedding)

 was kind enough to spend a good 8 hours over 2 days helping put up FRP (Fiberglass Reinforced Paneling). Here are a couple progress pictures:

So the walls are done! I had to run a new electrical feed into the rest of the basement because I covered up 2 outlets that fed 4 others in the other room. The next steps are as follows:

1. Get a plumber to add a new drain (the existing drain is 12 feet from where I need it) so far I've lined one up twice to do the install and they didn't show up. Hopefully third time is a charm.
2. Finish the floor with an epoxy type of paint
3. Tile the lip between the floor and the FRP walls
4. Run a new electrical feed from the garage to a junction box, then I will run PVC conduit fo all the electrical needs of the skid as well as 2 fans to vent the room during brewing
5. Install the 2 fans and create a new vent hole to the side of the house
6. Hire a Gas fitter to bring the natural gas to the header on the skid
7. Buy and install a commercial stainless steel sink next to the skid for cleaning
8. Brew Beer!

After you brew you must then ferment, age, dispense and drink... My next post will cover some of these items.



Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My First Post

A few months ago my lovely and patient wife Allison and I decided to build a home brewery. We both have chemical engineering degrees (Environmental Chemical, but process is process) and both enjoy beer. Allison hasn't been able to enjoy much beer of late with having 2 kids 14 months apart, but she's still a fan.

I've decided to write this blog as a way of documenting our journey from an empty unfinished room in our basement to full blown home brewery. Over the next few posts I'll outline the steps we've already taken and hopefully catch up to present day within the next couple weeks.

I'm very new to the home brewing game, but I'm happy to share what little knowledge I've gained over the past few months with anyone who asks.