The Unrepentant Individual

...just hanging around until Dec 21, 2012

May 5, 2007

CA Brew Plans

So, with the move, I won’t have a nice big garage any more. This puts a damper on my brewing plans. But I won’t let things like that stop me!

I’ve already recruited one, and likely two, fellow brewers. My brother-in-law has volunteered his garage for the operation, and he’s the type of hobbyist (like me) that will be willing to go completely and totally overboard on this. His other brother-in-law is likely to be just as crazy about it, and I think I might have gotten him hooked when I was out there for the wedding last weekend. I think I had them hooked when I explained the process: drink, smoke cigars, and somehow at the end of the process you have more beer than what you started with! We might even get a few other hangers-on to join us from time to time, but I expect the three of us will be a core group of this operation.

As the brewers and beer folks out there know, I’ve already expanded a fair bit above the “basic” brewing techniques. I made the switch from extract to all-grain, which brings down the cost of a batch and gives me control over a lot of the parameters of brewing that you don’t get with extract. I’ve done fairly well with some of the recipes I’ve designed as well.

But there are a few things I want to do that will allow me to really cut down the cost of a batch. These are things that I could have done in Georgia (and likely would have), but having a third brewer really increases the ability to expand the operation. So there are two stages that we need to go through to really fire this up:

Stage 1

We need a fridge or two. The first fridge will allow us to store hops (bought in bulk), and to keep cultures of yeast on hand. Hops and yeast are two of the most expensive brewing inputs once you transition to all-grain. With this, we can make sure that we can re-use yeast by keeping a few strains on hand in the fridge, and buy hops by the pound instead of the ounce. The second fridge isn’t quite as necessary, but it can help us to control fermentation temps, since we’ll be dealing with SoCal summers.

Second, as I mentioned yesterday, is the need for a grain mill. That way we can buy our grain in bulk 55-lb bags and crush it ourself, which *DRASTICALLY* reduces the cost of brewing. You can easily spend $20 on grain for a normal-strength batch, this will bring it closer to $10-12. Over three batches brewed at once, we’re saving close to $30 per brew day, so it will pay for itself quickly.

With this, of course, we need a scale to measure ingredients, and probably need to build another mash/lauter tun so that we can be mashing multiple batches at the same time. Those are pretty simple things to take care of, though, so we should be fine.

Stage 2:

Two words: Go big!

We need first to build this. Why sit around doing three separate batches at once when we can do one REALLY BIG one? And if we need to, we could always have a separate batch or two going in case someone wanted to brew a specialty beer that day as well. This would allow us to brew 15-20 gallons at a time. Of course, that means we need a 25-gallon stainless-steel brew pot. So we’ll probably have to scour the restaurant supply places to get one of those cheap. We’ll also have to put together fittings, tubing, a new wort chiller, etc, to be able to take care of the added size. And, last, we need to set things up so that we don’t have to lift a couple hundred lbs of beer at a time… That may entail learning how to weld so we can build a brewing sculpture.

At this stage I can see us really starting to use the hangers-on to help us finance this. I know they’ve got friends that would probably like to occasionally homebrew, and so do I. With the savings we would have at this point, we could brew a batch FAR CHEAPER than they could by going to a place like this. If we charge them for their ingredients, plus $15-20 or so for our wonderful expertise and help, we could slowly recoup all our expenses…

Stage 3: (purely theoretical at this point)

Screw homebrew, we’re going commercial! Knowing our wives, I think I might even have a name worked out: “Whipped Brewing Co”… :-D

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 2:24 pm || Permalink || Comments (6) || Trackback URL || Categories: Beer, Personal Life


  1. And this is why I can’t see myself going to all grain brewing any time soon. Too much equipment, time and space.

    I’m just glad I prefer to brew ales and don’t have to worry about a lagering fridge as well.

    Comment by Chris Byrne — May 5, 2007 @ 6:17 pm
  2. Chris,

    The jump from extract to all-grain is quite simple, as long as you’re currently doing full boils.

    See the photo here. You’ll notice that I have a 5 gallon Igloo cooler. That’s about $25 at Home Depot. To that I added a new spigot, a stopper, and a coil of copper with holes drilled in to run the sparge. Total cost was less than $40, and I can do all-grain (if you’re considering it, I do recommend the 10 gallon cooler, as it allows you to do high-gravity beers that I can’t currently do).

    Of course, if you don’t do full boils, it’s a big jump in cost to do that. But if you’re doing full boils, the cost to go all-grain is quite low. And I’ve probably recouped that cost in ingredients.

    Space is no different (as it’s just the cooler you see there). Time is, of course. I’d say it’s a 60-90 minute increase in time for the whole process. But I’ll gladly take a little more time for the added control that I get over the process…

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — May 6, 2007 @ 11:29 pm
  3. You should try growing your own hops too – that will save some $$$

    Comment by Hoover — May 7, 2007 @ 3:37 pm
  4. Yeah, I can imagine the SWAT team busting down my door, just like they did to those scary people growing tomatoes… All it takes is one neighbor to make a comment about there being a “grow operation”, and I’ll end up with black-clad guys carrying assault weapons charging in like I’m Pablo Escobar.

    Actually, to tell you the truth, I had thought about growing my own hops. I won’t be able to do it in my new closet apartment, though… And hops are poisonous to dogs, so I wouldn’t want to grow them anywhere near where the dogs would be (both the guys I’d be brewing with also have dogs)… I’m stuck buying hops, at least for now.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — May 7, 2007 @ 4:01 pm
  5. You know, you could start your own brewing business…..Why not?

    Comment by Lucy Stern — May 7, 2007 @ 11:03 pm
  6. If you’re going to market it, you need a couple of other brews to round out your fledgeling brand’s line-up.

    I suggest the following:

    1. A stout that you will name after me, of course.

    2. A ridiculously hoppy ale with an obscenely high alcoholic content that you should call “Mongo’s Mark,” or something to that effect.

    Just my $.02

    Comment by Sober John — May 8, 2007 @ 4:07 pm

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