Brewery Tour: Goose Island Production Facility

Posted by on 08 Jul 2010 | Tagged as: brewery tours, images, links, siebel, video

As part of the Siebel course we went on a tour of Goose Island’s production facility, which operates 24/7/365.  It’s an awesome operation, it looked like a lot of fun to work there, all the people were really cool.  They let us take pictures, so check out the gallery linked below.

Something Went Wrong!

In addition to the video above, you can Click Here to visit the Goose Island Photo Gallery.

They were great hosts.  Their barrel-aging program produces some amazing beers.  We were fortunate to get a taste of a very rare, never released beer that took a Silver at GABF that year: Red Woody.  If you’re ever in Chicago I recommend checking out their original brewpub location.  It’s across the street from Siebel Institute near the Clybourn & North stop on the red line.

The have enormous fermenters:

A bad ass looking centrifuge:

And of course a room that probably resembles heaven:

My boy Tim, in addition to some ridiculous red eye in this photo, has a sick 5-gallon system on which he conducts various brewing experiments.  Check out more of the photos in the gallery.

Goose Island Photo Gallery

World Beer Cup Winners

Posted by on 12 Apr 2010 | Tagged as: links

The World Beer Cup released the list of winning this weekend, you can click on the link at the bottom of the post for the full list.

There are some awesome things here.  SweetWater in ATL got gold for Creeper in the Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sours.  I need to talk to Smith to make sure I get to try some of that!  Black Diamond in Concord, CA got gold for their ESB, Steep Trail Amber Ale.  Congrats Hoodie, get that stuff distributed to me now!  Baird from Japan is the only brewery to pull 3 gold medals in this year’s WBC.  Congrats to Baird and CJinJ.  Schlafly has the best Kölsch in the world, big ups Drew!  I need to get my hands on that as it is one of my favorite styles.  Goose Island had a strong showing, 4 medals, 2 gold including their IPA.  They took 1st & 3rd in the American Brown Ale category!  Sierra Nevada apparently makes a better German Pils than the Germans do, taking gold in that.  Trumer was one of the stops on our European Study Tour, and their fine Pils took silver.  I loved that beer!  My old haunt in San Diego, Pizza Port/Port Brewing, took home 7 medals!  SEVEN!  I haven’t done a count, but that is likely to be the largest medal haul of any brewery.

Here in NY, Ommegang got a rainbow set of 3 medals, and for some reason got a silver in a category which had no gold medal winner.  Brooklyn’s fine Local 2 scored bronze in Belgian Dark Strong.  Scrolling through the list of winners it is amazing how well the American Craft Brew community did.  American brewing is where it’s at these days.  Nobody is more creative, I love the passion in this industry for creating fantastic beers, to style or out of it.  Congrats to all the winners!

The growing World Beer Cup

The growing World Beer Cup

Back on the Radio

Posted by on 15 Mar 2010 | Tagged as: links

Tomorrow I’ll be back on the radio with Jimmy Carbone; his show Beer Sessions is at 5pm on HRN.  You can listen in live, or shortly after the program, at the link below.  I believe iTunes will be picking the show up soon.  Of course you can catch the first shows if you haven’t had a chance to listen in yet.

Now I need to figure out what beer to bring along…

Diesel on your Headphones

Posted by on 27 Feb 2010 | Tagged as: links

On Tuesday @ 5pm I will be on the new radio show Beer Sessions.  Jimmy Carbone, owner of Jimmy’s No. 43 in the East Village, will be hosting the show.  Ray Deter of d.b.a. and Justin Phillips of Beer Table will be there as well.  I got a slew of links at the bottom of this post, so check ’em out.  I believe you can listen live, but also certainly download the podcast afterwards.

We are going to be talking about all things craft beer!  I will be bringing a liter of Happy Ending from Sweetwater in ATL for us to sample.  Big ups to my boy Smith for hookin’ me up with the bottle, Sweetwater needs to get some distro up in NY for their wonderful brews!

Beer Sessions on Heritage Radio Network

Jimmy’s No. 43


Beer Table


Build Your Own Kegerator – Homebrew Draft Beer

Posted by on 30 Jan 2010 | Tagged as: images

Building a kegerator to have draft beer at home, be it commercial or homebrew, is much easier than it seems.  You can save money compared to premade kegerators, moreover you can upgrade the critical components to better parts.

You can view the full gallery by clicking here.

This is version 2 of my kegerator design, I have plans for an upgrade this year. Now that I’m settled back home after 4 straight months on the road, I wanted to get some of this up on the site while I have time.  I have seen other designs using the same style fridge, but they are rare. This one is a Kenmore model, but I’ve also used the Haier counterpart. It is essentially a tall dorm fridge. The great benefit of this is that you do not need to spend the money for an expensive tower and the faucets are still at the correct height for easy pouring.  Still it doesn’t take up much floor space, and the work is less than building a chest freezer collar.

The parts list is not extensive:

  • Compact Refrigerator
  • External Temperature Controller
  • CO2 Cylinder
  • CO2 Regulator (double body or with a splitter)
  • 2 Kegs, or of course many more
  • 2 Shanks (w. wing nut, washer & nipple)
  • 2 Faucets & Tap Handles
  • Plywood
  • Gas and Beverage Lines (3/16″ ID for beverage)
  • Gas & Beverage Keg Couplers (Quick Disconnects)
  • Clamps (worm or otherwise)
  • Gas Leak Eetector
  • Drip Tray (optional, i prefer it)

    You’ll need some basic tools; if you don’t have them already they aren’t expensive to buy. A saw to cut the plywood, some sandpaper to smooth the edges, a drill with a 1″ hole saw and a screw driver if you get worm clamps. Another special tool that you’ll need is a faucet wrench which is shown in another picture below. Pictured above is a cheap cordless drill with the attached hole saw.  Neither are expensive, gets the job done.

    Pull out all the shelves, and the bin in the bottom. You need to build a sturdy plywood shelf for the bottom where the compressor hump is. Cut the plywood down to the shelf’s size, but longer since you want to have it extend out a little bit and still provide support to kegs & the like. The image above shows a plank that’s actually too short, I wish I had made that bigger as I will be replacing it to do my upgrade.

    You’ll need to drill a couple holes for the shanks to pass through. Open the door and line up where you want them to be. Choose a nice height for you to easily pour a beer. I have a 6″ drip tray. I spread the faucets 4″ apart which leaves 1″ of drip tray on either side. You’ll drill through plastic, metal and insulation; so wear some safety glasses, or at least your Oakleys. Before drilling remember to take a hammer and nail and center punch the spot where you want your faucets. A little dent will prevent the drill bit from running when you start. Mark your spots, close the door and saw through the door.

    Slide the shanks through the holes and tighten down the nut, the more sturdy the shank the more sturdy your faucet will be. I used stainless steel shanks on this build. It’s a not wholly necessary upgrade.

    Attach your faucets to the shanks on the front. Hand tighten at first but then use your faucet wrench to secure it. These faucets are forward-sealing Perlicks. I think that in the home setting, it makes sense to at least have forward-sealing faucets, if not flow-control. I built a new kegerator for a buddy awhile back and he went straight for flow control faucets. It ups the price, but they are slick.

    You have many options for tap handles, but it can be fun to collect some unique ones from the wild. My friend went for plain black plastic. I use that on my jockey box, but at home I have tap handles on display.

    Attaching a drip tray is just a matter of drilling two screws into the door. Grab your tallest glass and use that to figure out how high you want to mount it. Then just center it and mark the spots for the screws. Then you can easily remove the drip tray for cleaning.

    You need to build the beer lines. Use 3/16″ ID beverage grade tubing. Connect it to your faucets using a wignut, washer & nipple. Read up on the internet about how to balance a tap line. The Brewers Association’s Guide is a great place to start, click here. You can use barbed disconnects for the keg coupler, or the flared version so you can swap them out for perhaps a commercial keg coupler.

    To control the temperature of your kegerator, you use an external thermostat. It plugs into the wall socket and the fridge into it. Then you secure the temperature probe inside the fridge and set the fridge for its coldest setting. Then the little control box on the outside can be used to set your desired serving temperature.

    You will need to attach your regulator to the CO2 tank. I recommend first finding where you will be getting your gas, I get mine at the welding supply shop. Find out their policy, do they swap tanks or refill yours while you wait. If it’s a swap place, there is no reason to buy a new tank, just pay the deposit there for one. This picture shows the upgrade to a double body regulator which allows you to run different pressures on each keg. Also shown is the tubing connected with the inline gas quick-disconnects. This makes it easy to break the gas line and move the tank. Note the gas leak detector as well. All the lines and connections you build should be tested for leaks. Put them under pressure and use that to ensure you aren’t leaking.

    The internal assembly for usage is shown. Two kegs in the back, with the regulator and tank easily accessible. This is why the inline QDs are so useful for moving the tank out of the way.

    These are the QDs I use on my gas lines. Note the use of clamps. Some will debate the use of various type of clamps, but what matters is that you use them on all your line connections. And no matter which clamp type you use you should test each line before putting it into production use.

    The homebrew keg couplers are separated unlike commercial kegs. The black is the beer, and grey is for gas. Ball locks just pop on and off the keg. But I recommend always removing the keg from the kegerator before disconnecting in case a poppet gets stuck and a beer shower begins it’s easier to work with.

    The design of the kegerator provides extra cold space at beer serving temperature for use. Shown above are mugs in the freezer box, which are probably slightly colder than the beer, but not too bad. Below is the emergency sixer, ideally I like to keep 3 lagers and 3 ales. And also the desiccant is there underneath the platform.

    Putting it all together, you have upgright bottle storage in the door which great for your bombers and Belgians. Unless you upgraded to the flow control faucets you’ll have coils of the beer line which can be contained in the door too. On top of the kegerator you can store glasses and decorations.  Below is the completed interior.

    So find yourself a fridge, pick up a few tools and build yourself a kegerator. Shown in this guide is a homebrew kegerator build, but it can easily be modified just by changing which couplers are used. If you use flared fitting for the homebew couplers, then you can just swap in commercial couplers as desired. If you’re good at classifieds, you can save a lot of money on the fridge. Get it done, and pour yourself a beer.

    Diesel Drafts Gallery – Now Live

    Posted by on 21 Dec 2009 | Tagged as: images, links

    I just launched the Diesel Drafts Gallery.  You can access it from the landing page of this site, or also by clicking

    I have many images and galleries still to post, but there are already a couple up there for your browsing.

    World Brewing Academy Graduate

    Posted by on 16 Dec 2009 | Tagged as: images, siebel

    A little over a week ago I received my diploma from the World Brewing Academy.  The experience was incredible.  As valuable as the education are the friendships built over the course of several months.

    Receiving my diploma from Eder

    Receiving my diploma from Eder

    With limited internet access it’s difficult to keep the site updated, but rest assured there are many photo sets that will be uploaded in the coming months, including the Goose Island production plant, barrels of alt aging at Uerige, perhaps the most beautiful brewhouse I’ve ever seen at Rothaus, and more.

    Till then…

    Upcoming European Tour

    Posted by on 22 Nov 2009 | Tagged as: siebel

    The WBA final was on Friday, been a long weekend of celebrating and getting ready for the beer tour.  We start the tour tomorrow and have an awesome trip ahead of us.  The itinerary goes like this.

    Germany – Hopsteiner
    Germany – Weyermann
    Germany – Ziemann – Bauer
    Germany – Uerige
    Netherlands – Heineken Nederland B.V
    Netherlands – La Trappe (Bierbrouwerij de Konigshoeven)
    Netherlands – Bavaria N.V.
    Belgium – Duvel Moortgat
    Belgium – Cantillon
    Belgium – Drie Fonteinen
    Belgium – Achouffe
    Luxembourg – Bofferding
    Germany – KHS
    Germany – Kieselmann
    Germany – Rothaus
    Austria – Mohrenbrauerei
    Austria – Trumer Privatbrauerei
    Austria – Stiegl Brauerei

    Hops traders, maltsters, equipment manufacturers and some of the best breweries in the world.  It’s going to be a blast and this crew of guys is too much fun.   I’ve been overloaded here in München and haven’t been able to post, but when I get back I’ll be sure to start posting some of the images from the Goose Island production facility tour and as many of these European spots as I can.

    Pro Books 4 Home Brewers – MBAA Practical Handbooks

    Posted by on 04 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: books, links, siebel

    In preparing for Siebel I tore through some professional level texts. A couple weeks ago a friend of mine asked if what I was reading would be a good gift for his father, who is a homebrewer and has a birthday coming up. I figured I’d post this review of the MBAA Practical Handbooks for the Specialty Brewer.  The books can be ordered by clicking here.

    I do think that these books have much to offer the serious home brewer, but there is also quite a bit of content that is essentially meaningless in the homebrew setting as well. I don’t think you need the whole set, more on that below, but my assumption in suggesting these books to a home brewer is that they already have in their collection a bunch of the standard homebrew texts. (I won’t list them all here, but I mean the books you can find at almost every local or online homebrew shop.) That is to say, this book shouldn’t be your first or second book, but it probably works as a good third.

    The MBAA Practical Handbooks for the Specialty Brewer are a 3 volume set.  The first deals with Raw Materials and Brewhouse Operations, the second with Fermenation, Cellaring and Packaging Operations, and the third with Brewing Engineering and Plant Operations.  The books are laid out in a Question & Answer format, so they essentially read like the teacher’s answer book for a comprehensive short essay test on brewing.  If you’ve read the classic “learn to brew” texts, then this is like getting the answer key for the final of a semester class on brewing, except it is way more in depth than any of the homebrew texts available.  This depth however does not place the material out-of-reach of the homebrewer.  It’s in short answer essay form, and the writing and editing are done in such a way that the material doesn’t require much background information.

    While reading the first volume of these  books I thought to myself, I wish I had read these years ago.  I have been pretty hard core with the brewing material I have read in the past, so much of the material was review for me.  Still, it’s presentation made many things clearer to me.  For the homebrewer, I’d recommend Volume 1 for sure, and while half of Volume 2 might be about specifics for commercial brewing, the first 135 page chapter on Fermentation & Cellaring by Daniel Carey and Ken Grossman might make it worth the money to a serious homebrewer as well.  Volume 3 probably has only one chapter that is of interest to home brewer, and that is the chapter on Draft Dispense.  While that section is very useful for people who keg and build their own home draft systems, I find it hard to recommend a 178 page book for 45 pages of relevant material.

    Volume 1 is almost completely applicable to homebrewing.  Sure, you’re never going to pelletize hops or work for a maltster.  The understanding of how your raw materials are produced however will lead to a better understanding of how to use them in the production of wort.  One reason I feel so strongly about the value of this volume is that homebrewers often are weaker in their understanding of malt & malting than other parts of the brewing process.  In beer production, barley is really the raw material, but as brewers we often pay someone else to do the first step of beer production which is malting.  Barley and malt take up two chapters and 60 pages of this volume.  That combined with a 35-page chapter on Hops and a 50-page chapter Wort Production through mashing, separation, boiling and chilling form the core of this volume.  There are a couple toss away chapters on Water and Adjuncts, but there are other places that homebrewers have already found better and more applicable information on those subjects.

    When people find out I make beer, I sometimes quip that I make sweet tea and the yeast make beer.  That’s part of what makes the first volume so valuable, even though it is describing commercial practices that the homebrewer will never use, those practices are used to create the products that homebrewers use as their raw materials to make their sweet teas.  Despite the fact that its the yeast that make the beer, fermentation control is essential in the production of good beer.  This makes the second volume of this set valuable to homebrewers although half of it may not be applicable to their processes.

    Volume 2 is about half applicable to homebrewing, but since the subject is fermentation and cellaring for the most part, it is highly valuable material.  The first chapter, about half of the book, is an in depth look at fermentation and conditioning processes.  Sometimes they go deep on a subject that isn’t useful for homebrewers like 7 pages on how to design a beer cellar from flooring to lighting to ducting.  But the discussions of yeast functions, traditional lager & ale production methods, propagation procedures and the like I believe are useful to brewers of all stripes.  The chapters on Clarification & Filtration and Bottling are essentially non-applicable to homebrewing, and the Lab Methods chapter is either review or better covered for the home setting elsewhere.  The Racking chapter is at least very interesting to beer enthusiasts as you’ll know everything there is to know about the different kegs you’ll find in America (except for dispensing which is covered in the third volume).

    Volume 3 is basically irrelevant to homebrewing.  The only chapter that would really be of interest is the 45 page section on Draft Dispense.  It covers everything from construction of insulated python hoses containing several beer runs and glycol cooling lines to proper technique for drawing a beer from the faucet.  If you’re interested in this material, one place to start is the Draught Beer Quality Manual which is provided online for free from the Brewers Association.  Other chapters include Plant Engineering, Plant Sanitation, Environmental Engineering, Safety Operations.  They are all related to commercial equipment that for the most part have no relevance in the home setting.  Even the Draft Dispense chapter isn’t wholly applicable to home draft setups, but a complete understanding of that leads to better drafts operations no matter your setup.

    So my final recommendation to homebrewers would be that the first volume at $50 is a good purchase if you’re serious about getting to know your raw materials and how to use them.  It’s harder to justify another 50 bucks for the second volume since much less of the text is relevant, however it is 135 pages of Ken Grossman and Daniel Carey talking about fermentation and cellaring.  The third volume is really not worth the money unless you plan on buying both the first two volumes, then maybe you want to drop an extra $20 for the chapter on draft dispense if you want to know all the essential information used in the industry for pouring beer.

    Touring Briess

    Posted by on 26 Sep 2009 | Tagged as: images, links, siebel

    On Monday we hopped a bus to Chilton, WI for a private tour of Briess Malting.  They don’t have public tours available, but their website is pretty awesome in terms of an online tour (see link below).  A full tour of the Chilton Malthouse was fantastic, it was a lot of fun sticking my head into their steeping tanks, playing with germinating malt in my hands, and watching how they bag the final product.  There is something very calming about the germinating rooms, it’s a nice cool temperature, there are these long tubs of moist barley in its early growth phase.  I wanted to lay down and take a nap in a bed of grain.  The lab was also pretty sweet, it’s bigger than my apartment and has all sorts of fun toys.

    The folks at Briess are all very cool.  Midwestern accents are kind of funny, but the people are chill.  Due to issues with proprietary processes and the like, they don’t let folks take photos inside the malt house, so all I have this is shot of the front of the corporate headquarters.  They do have some photos on their site, including one of the basement of the malthouse with the ancient wooden supports for the entire building.  It’s amazing that this malthouse was built over a century ago and is still operating as a modern specialty maltster.

    Briess HQ

    We spent quite a bit of time discussing how to use their products from their specialty malts to extracts.  Like I said already, these people are cool and their passion for helping people produce good beer really comes across when you’re chatting with them about their products. We spent almost an hour just tasting various beers and discussing how the specialty malts were used to achieve some of the flavors in them.  They have a 500 barrel brewhouse and can give some great insight into recipe formulation.

    Visit their website and checkout their tour, I really like their site:

    « Prev - Next »