Spare Parts

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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.

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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.

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Temporary auxiliary keg storage!

Gas lines and venting are all done for the boil kettle.

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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).

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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:

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Finding the right atmosphere is a key step

More updates to come soon!

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It’s March!

“Made progress, long way to go,” happens to be our catchphrase lately, but I guess it fits the typically encountered struggles of opening a brewery. Every new thing we accomplish seems to open the door to seven other things that need to be done. I naively imagined we would be up and running by March, easy-peasy. Serves me right thinking it would be that simple! As it is, I think we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Many important strides have been made and the equipment is finally coming together. Although it turns out that it was not a realistic goal to be brewing by now, February showed us many improvements!

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Seeing Faces in Things

One huge upgrade was for us to replace the threaded fittings (some modified DIN, plenty of NPT) with Tri-Clover fittings, so Ken from Iron Wolf Forge made a trip up from Racine to do the welding. Ken does sanitary welding on stainless steel, making sure that his work is smooth and leaves no bacteria traps, essential for a brewery. He does a great job, and we are grateful for his help! There was some prep work to be done, many holes to be drilled and pipes to be cut, and over 40 welds overall. Not bad for a weekend of work!

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Much better!

While our system came with many of the necessary larger components it was lacking in a lot of equipment needed to get everything connected and ready to go, and it has been quite a process trying to visualize the system as a whole and figure out what pieces we would still need. Additionally, it seems the system was upgraded bit by bit when it was being utilized down old New Zealand way, and as a result it feels pretty idiosyncratic. For example, of the five serving vessels only two actually match, and both our Hot Liquor Tank and Mash Tun are undersized. This isn’t crippling by any means, but it does force me to get creative with how I approach compiling an equipment list and also how I will approach our brewing schedule. Every time I go over the equipment I seem to learn something new about it or consider something that I hadn’t thought of before. It is good practice though, and thinking or over thinking it will hopefully lead to a less chaotic first brew day!

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Seth Williams installed the first draft tower recently and it looks great. Seth has done a lot of work at the Gun Flint Tavern: rooftop, upstairs, and downstairs, and he always has an artistic vision to his work and does a really fine job. This tower is in the main restaurant, and Seth is currently working on upgrades to the downstairs bar, The Raven, which will feature its own draft tower. The silver conduit hanging from the ceiling houses the serving lines and glycol cooling lines that will run to the towers and bring you fresh beer right from the serving vessels. Sounds awesome!

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I always get myself in trouble when I mention a date that we will be open (as sparingly as I have done!) so for now I won’t make any bold announcements, but once we get close enough I will for sure let people know. At this point it is hard to say when we ‘hope’ to be open because I hoped we would be open a long time ago! One thing I try to keep in mind, too, is that once the whole thing is ready to go we still have to wait on different inspections and state paperwork. So thank you for staying patient and for following us while we continue this long process! It is still super encouraging to hear people get excited about this endeavor and I appreciate everyones’ support a lot. Keep asking questions about the progress! Stop in, grab a beer, and give the brewpub a look!

Cheers,

Paul

 

Beer Activism

Andrew Schmitt of the Minnesota Beer Activists has a great summary of the many new bills being proposed in Minnesota’s legislature involving the sale of liquor on Sundays, you should take a look here: http://mnbeeractivists.com/newsfeed/slew-of-sunday-liquor-sales-bills

A couple of these bills propose lifting Minnesota’s ban on Sunday liquor sales entirely which would be wonderful, but because the subject is really contested in our legislature it might be difficult for these bills to gain enough traction and support for them to pass.

Another bill that could be introduced that would have an immediate affect on the Gun Flint Tavern is named in honor of the rural Brau Brothers Brewing Company. http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/members/pressrelease.asp?pressid=7169&party=2&memid=15369 It might be easier to pass because it proposes a much smaller change by just allowing breweries to sell growlers of beer on Sundays rather than rescinding the statewide ban on sales. This would be really significant for rural breweries and brewpubs in tourist areas like Grand Marais or Ely, because vacationers heading home on Sundays would be able to stop in the local brewery and grab something to go, a luxury many people have missed out on in the past.

If you are so inclined, check out the links to the bills provided in Andrew’s article, read up on them, and contact your representatives! Also please take a moment to sign this petition in support of Sunday sales: http://sundaysalesmn.org/

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Time for before and after pics!

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I love pool as much as the next guy, but I think the stainless is a big improvement over the felt, do you agree? Amazing how much work has been done over the past year!

Moving Forward

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Boil Kettle and Sink

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!

More updates and pictures to come soon!!

Cheers.

New Years: Brew Years

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!

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Hope everyone had wonderful holidays!

Progress Report

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.

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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!

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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?

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As always, feel free to ask me questions about our progress!

They who drink beer, will think beer. -Washington Irving