Finally getting around to posting some of the goings on at the Tavern, starting with a shot of the Raven’s new look! This is going to be a bit of a photo heavy post, so depending on your blog viewing preferences: I’m sorry or you’re welcome.
At the beginning of April, Bell’s Brewery hosted a tap takeover which served as a good opportunity to test out the new draft system. I had a crash course on how the beer pumps work (really, they do all the work by themselves. I still don’t get it), which will be beneficial when it is time to hook them up to the serving tanks.
As I understand it, CO2 pushes the beer out of the keg and powers the pumps which feed the beer into split lines–one each for the upstairs and downstairs draft towers. A glycol pump on the rooftop keeps the beer fresh and cold on its journey to the glass. We have six pumps (and taps), one for each serving vessel and one for small batch specialty beers. Pretty exciting if you ask me.
Temporary auxiliary keg storage!
Gas lines and venting are all done for the boil kettle.
This is our repurposed transfer pump, I’m most happy with the little cart for ease of movement. This guy’s main job will be moving the beer from fermenting vessels over to the serving vessels for conditioning and carbonation, but he’ll get double and triple duty too (He definitely does NOT know what he is getting himself into).
Ummm, I’ll pass over this contraption for now.
But I’ll leave you with a behind the scenes glimpse of a recent pilot batch:
Well, tomorrow morning we will finally be able to move the rest of the big equipment into the Tavern: Fermenting Vessels, Mash Tun, and all. An exciting step for sure! If you are in the area, stop by for a pint and watch us piece the brewery together! When it is in place the equipment will be welded to standardize the fittings.
So far the brewpub looks pretty spacious, but don’t be fooled. After we are done tomorrow things will be cramped. Breweries have so many different components with everything having a specific place, but in the chaotic environment of a brew day there is bound to be some equipment shuffling and with not a lot of extra space we might have to get a bit creative. I’m sure many of our first brews will be spent figuring out how to manage the space and equipment efficiently.
One of the first beers we will be testing out on the big system is a Belgian Pale Ale. Belgian pales stylistically are drinkable beers and very well balanced between the malt body and the yeast spiciness. Belgian yeasts can produce a lot of prominent phenols which cause a beer to taste peppery and spicy. The goal of a Belgian Pale is to subdue those flavors while not completely overshadowing them. So: well balanced, not too spicy, lower alcohol percentage, clean, amazing. Our version strays from the style in the use of extra aroma hops, but I like the character they add. Look for it in the months to come!
One of the best parts of the brewing community is the amount of advice and enthusiasm that goes back and forth among professional brewers and homebrewers of all experience levels. There is so much goodwill and opportunity in brewing. I started brewing long after I had attended many functions of the Twin Ports homebrew club, the Northern Ale Stars, and they have been an endless support to me. Coming up on the 8th and 9th of February is their annual homebrew competition in Duluth: http://www.northernalestars.org/greatnorthernbrewhaha.html
This is a really fun event even for those who don’t homebrew, so if you are even a little bit interested go and check it out!
We knew when we began work on the brewpub that installing a brewery from the ground up was going to be a long and sometimes frustrating process, and while it has taken even longer than I was hoping for, it can be gratifying at the same time. Each bit of progress gets us closer to our end goal. To see it happening and to be involved in the process is awesome. That part is very satisfying. Waiting for our State paperwork to go through isn’t pleasant, but it is just something that comes along with a start-up.
The biggest changes in the brewpub recently have been most noticeable ones. All the glass is finally in now, and the ceiling has been hung. All the people involved on this project are doing wonderful work and as a result the build-out is looking phenomenal. We are really close to the point of moving the rest of the equipment in. Next on the list is installing the track lighting and doing the tile work around the new doors. Once we get the equipment in we’ll get to work on plumbing it together, and once that is up and operable and all our paperwork and licenses get the go-ahead we get to start brewing! So as always, we’ve made some great progress, but there is a lot ahead of us.
In the meantime the brew team is coming up with some cold weather libations on the pilot system. During these frigid and dark months I like the warmth and fortitude that a heavy stout offers, and we have a couple different variations we are working on. Bundle up and look for one at the Tavern soon!
It has been longer than I meant to go in between posting and it is time for a good progress update! The brewery is still in its construction phase at this time, and it has been quite a long process. I think that even when you expect all the normal delays–licenses, inspections, paperwork, construction–you can still get caught up in the end goal and forget a bit about how much actual work and effort and time is involved in the process. I tend to get ahead of myself because I can’t wait to start creating beers, but the reality is that there is still a lot of work to be done before we can start brewing.
That being said, equipment has been moved around a bit, and if you have stopped by the Tavern lately you’ve likely noticed some serving tanks in the brewing area. This is good progress because it means we can start to figure out what valves and clamps and extra parts I still need to source to make the system operable and uniform. Since the system has not been used in some time the equipment is at different levels of operation right now so it will take some effort to get it all together and ready to go.
So what else is there to do? The glycol lines for fermentation temperature control still need to be run through the ceiling, the vent and hood for the boil kettle need to be installed so the ceiling can be finished. Lights and outlets need to be installed, the plumbing needs to be finished, and other things that will be done bit by bit in the coming weeks. The work on installing the cooling A/C unit has started today, and the serving lines should be in place next week, and then the draft tower can be built. Still waiting on the glass company to install the doors. Looks like a really busy month is shaping up!
Once all of the construction is done and the equipment is ready to go we still need to test the equipment after a really thorough deep clean and put some batches through it to dial everything in. Then we can get outfitted for an opening date! Behind the scenes we are finalizing some recipe formulation and brewing them on our pilot system. We are playing with some fun and innovative ideas we’d like to do on a bigger scale. What are some beer styles/experiments you’d like to see us produce on the big system when we are up and running?
As always, feel free to ask me questions about our progress!
They who drink beer, will think beer. -Washington Irving
As many people know and as you have likely seen or heard, the Gun Flint Tavern is in the process of opening a brewpub. We have long felt that Cook County needs its own brewpub to showcase fresh, locally made beer. Our biggest hold up at this point is the time it takes for the TTB to approve our Brewer’s Notice, and all of the government paperwork that has to be approved. So while we patiently wait for this we are devoting ourselves to the process of rehab and construction. The process and progress being made is very exciting to see!
Minnesota has a healthy craft beer tradition—in part because it represents larger themes of Minnesota culture—like involving community, local ingredient sourcing, and innovation—but also because Minnesotans like good beer. The nation has been privileged with a craft beer renaissance since the mid-1970’s, but the industry has really been exploding in the past decade and Minnesota has proven to be a quality player with the Twin Cities and Duluth highlighting our offerings. A big factor in what has been driving this industry boost has been a desire to have beer right from the place it is made, as fresh as it gets, and the Gun Flint Tavern is thankful to be helping that effort by joining an already excellent group of breweries on the North Shore ranging from the Duluth/Superior area up to Castle Danger.
The Gun Flint Tavern was at the forefront of Cook County’s craft beer scene, always focusing on and featuring more and more Minnesota breweries. In addition, we have been blessed with a devoted following of beer lovers in the county. We are grateful and excited to be able to take this to its logical conclusion and open a facility geared at creating quality fresh beer for everyone: whether you live here or you are visiting the area.
As far as our timeline goes for opening: we’re really not sure. We are doing our best to move things along and we are excited to actually start brewing, but there are a lot of steps to cover first. We have made some big strides with the reconstruction and we are close to being able to install our equipment, but again, it is a process with a specific progression. This blog will be an outlet to provide new details and updates, and to follow the ultimate timeline of the brewpub. Please email me if you have any questions, I’m more than happy to chat!
We are so thankful that this opportunity came up, and for all the help we’ve gotten in the process. Our excitement seems to be matched by everyone we talk to. Both Cook County and the craft beer community have been incredible in welcoming and offering us assistance. Thanks for all your help and support!