How I Spent My Winter Vacation

As I mentioned in earlier posts, I was unable (or perhaps unwilling due to exhaustion) to blog much of the time from December 19, 2011 through January 20, 2012 due to fulfilling my required internship for brewing school. Man, what an amazing experience it was, but first some background. I've known Doug and Tracy Hurst, owners of Metropolitan Brewing Company for a couple of years now. Metro has a unique position in the craft beer industry as one of the very few breweries which focuses solely on lager beers (pilsner, vienna lager) and lager hybrid beers (alt, kolsch). Metro just had their 3 year anniversary in December 2011 and its success is a testament to the passion of the owners to make great craft beer. I volunteered once in 2010 to help them bottle beer for a day just to test the waters and it was great. Because of that one volunteer day and because of my seriousness about opening my own brewery, Doug and Tracy have been extremely generous to me.

Tracy Hurst and I at Metropolitan Brewing

When the time came to let American Brewers Guild, my brewing school, know where I was interested in interning, Metropolitan Brewing was an obvious choice. Their brewery is very, very similar to what I envision mine to be with a 15 BBL steam heated brew house and 30 BBL fermenters, all purchased new. I approached Doug and Tracy about the internship and it all came together quite nicely. I brewed and learned about the beer business for 5 weeks straight, every day they were open for business.   In case you're wondering how I was able to get that much time off from work it was simply a matter of asking and then using all of my 2011 and 2012 vacation time.  I'm not fucking around here, you see.

So what did I learn? Well, a lot. Too much for one blog post, that's for sure. I'll be peppering blog posts with little tidbits I picked up as I go along here just as a record for me to remember and also to help anyone else out there going through this adventure. The big stuff I learned was how to:

  • Clean and sanitize fermenters and the bright tank which includes assembling and dissembling all parts and fittings
  • Clean and sanitize a diatomaceous earth (DE) plate filter
  • Filter beer with a DE plate filter
  • Brew 15 BBL batches of beer including mashing, vorlaufing, lautering/sparging, boiling, whirlpooling, chilling, and aerating
  • Keg beer from a bright tank
  • Bottle beer from a bright tank with a Meheen 4 head bottle filling machine
  • Cleaning and sanitizing Meheen
  • Clean out spent grain from a mash tun
  • Clean mash tun and brew kettle
  • Safely use cleaning and sanitizing chemicals
  • Safely use diatomaceous earth (respiratory safety)

These are the obvious things that you would expect to learn while interning at a brewery.  But oh, there are so, so many things that I also learned including how to:

  • Use a forklift (already knew, but needed a refresher)
  • Properly pack a pallet of beer cases
  • Properly shrink wrap a pallet of beer cases or kegs
  • Properly handle and store brewing hoses
  • Use sanitary fittings and put them on or take them off one handed (very important)
  • Organize and neatly maintain order of just about everything possible
  • Manage hot liquor (hot water used in the brewing process)
  • Record keeping of beer batches, product shipped, kegs returned, much more
  • Control inventory for both finished product and raw ingredients

This is just a fraction of all the stuff I learned.  It was just an incredible five weeks of long hours and many weekends and I loved it.

Now I'm back at my day job chomping at the bit, trying to get through my business plan and push this project to the next big phase.  Working at Metropolitan has really given me a leg up on what's involved with both starting up and operating a craft brewery and I'm not going to waste this great opportunity.

Hang on folks, things are going to move pretty fast from here.  Failure is not an option.