The Brewery FAQ

Q. Why a 45 gallon brewery?
A. I started all grain brewing in a 15 gallon keg setup producing 10 gallon batches. One option to expand was to add a second set (boiler and mash tun) to my existing 2 burner stove, but we wanted to avoid variation in the batch by using a single container. I also didn't want to have to upgrade again at a later date, and I don't see any future need to upgrade. I also got the 55 gallon drums for $50/ea :-) We did our first club brew with our homebrew club, the Silicon Valley Sudzers. We brewed 45 gallons of Belgian Dubbel for the 2001 Northern California Homebrewers Festival. Each member took home 4 gallons home on a Corny keg with a different yeast (results will be posted on the Sudzers webpage.

Q. What do you do with all that beer?
A. I've had a brewing partner since the end of my extract brewing days, and 5 gallons each doesn't last long. We found ourselves without enough beer to give out to friends and family as well as enter in competitions. As infrequently as we brewed in the past, the 5 gallons was gone before it had a chance to age adequately. Sure, you can drink it within a week of fermentation, but a beer 2 to 4 months old is in it's prime. We are after all brewing for the taste....

Q. How big a starter is needed to ferment a 45 gallon batch?
A. Well, depending on preparation as little as 1.7 gallons of starter. By our second batch I had purchased a refurbished Mirak Magnetic Stirring Plate with a 12" x 12" base suitable for using a 5 gallon glass carboy. An adequate culture contains 10 million cells per ml and requires a 'stirred' starter of .75 quart per 5 gallons of wort. An unstirred starter would have to be 2.5 gallons to attain this density of cells, and yes that's per 5 gallons. I highly recommend a stirring plate to anyone home brewing, they can be purchased for about $80 and your fermentations kick off in a matter of hours (not days like pitching a 35 ml slant of yeast). It took me about three days to propogate a starter on the stirring plate.

Q. Where did you get the plans and parts for the brewery?
A. I designed the brewery through several sketches, and finally a CAD program which was really unnecessary (it took longer to learn CAD than it was worth). I took several ideas from home breweries I found on the web as well as commercially built home brew sculptures. Most of the parts are available at your local hardware/plumbing supply and from some of the better home brew supply stores. I did quite a bit of research on the web to get the best deals as I knew this would be an expensive venture, however there are a few homebrew supply/equipment stores that have recently started carrying a nice supply of many of these items at reasonable prices.

Q. Doesn't a large brewery reduce the number of styles you can brew?
A. Not at all, we still have our Old 10 Gallon Brewery. We are free to add different hops and grains to these 'sub batches' as well as yeast which can be the most influential ingredient to a batch. We normally don't brew a full 45 gallon batch.

Q. Doesn't it take longer to brew 45 gallons?
A. Nope, about the same amount of time as 10 gallons. We used to take 5 to 6 hours to do 10 gallons. A lot of time was lost waiting for our slow 35k btu burners to raise from different temperature stages, and for gravity to drain our mash tun into the boiler before we could lift it back onto the burner (our old brewery was a 2 tier by virtue of the stove holding the mash tun above the empty boiler waiting on the ground). Having a 250f bronze magnetic drive pump helps move the mash to the boiler while the burners are bringing the wort to a boil. We are also able to avoid mashing delays caused by temperature loss by recirculating the mash through the heat exchanger, and the water from this exchanger also doubles as our sparge water conveniently heated just shy of the sparge temperature during mashing. We've done 30 gallons in 3 1/2 hours and 45 gallons in 4 3/4 hours, this doesn't include preparation or cleanup, or slacking :-). I takes about 1 hour to raise from sparge to boil at full capacity.

Q. What doesn't the brewery have? What are future planned additions?
A. The brewery needs a gear reduction (or at least hand cranked) mash stirring device, the 48" stainless rice paddle I got from the local restaurant supply is a lot of work. A stainless pipe has already been welded to the center of the mash tun as a provision for a stirring device, as well as thermometer probe protectors welded just above the fittings on the inside of the boiler and mash tun. Another nice option will be an integrated grain mill, I've got some nice 6" stainless pipe from the scrap yard which will serve as rollers.

Q. How much grain does it take to make 45 gallons?
A. We used 120 lbs of malt in the last batch and got a starting gravity of 1.060. It took 25 minutes to mill the grain using our Trash Compactor Driven Phil Mill.

Q. Where is "The Brewery"?
A. Conceived and built in Santa Clara, CA (AKA Silicon Valley), the brewery's new permenant home is in Boulder Creek, CA about 35 miles south of San Jose and about 15 miles north of Santa Cruz, in the mountains of the San Lorenzo valley near Big Basin State Park. House prices have doubled in the last three years due to the "prosperity" the internet has brought to the area, as well as a hell of a lot of people :-(. Boulder Creek is one of the last affordable areas within "realistic" commute distances, and it's a much nicer place to live now that Silicon Valley has been ruined (Yes, I am a disgruntled native).

Q. How often do you brew?
A. About once every 2 months, this gives us an adequate supply of beer while staying within the legal limits (200 gallon/yr with two adults in the household). Since my partner lives at a different location, I guess technically we could brew another 200 at his house, we've never brewed more than 120 gallons in a year. If you live in the area and are interested in observing a brew, drop me a line.

Q. What do you use as a fermenter?
A. Heh. Well I haven't been able to find a suitable 55 gallon container, at least for a price I'm willing to pay. I could probably get another 55 gallon drum, but would need to have a cone welded to the bottom. We are currently using three Modified 15 gallon kegs for our batches which gives us the flexibility to play with different yeasts.

Q. How do you transport the brewery?
A. In a Powerwagon of course. Actually, it fits in my other truck just fine, a 1982 Toyota.

Have other questions?

Last updated 06/19/01