After years working in enterprise technology, I hung it up to take a year off and travel across the country in an RV with my wife (pictured below). It was on this trip that I fell in love with beer. Since then, I started a company that built apps, which was acquired by Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine, and two years later, I’m now their publisher and chief content officer. A simple road trip resulted in a new passion and trajectory for my life!
What I Like to Brew
I like to brew what I like to drink. Today, that’s New England Style–IPAs, saisons, and big stouts (15 percent and higher ABV).
How Often I Brew
I don’t brew as often as I’d like because I have a nine-week-old baby who’s been keeping me busy. But in general, I try to get a batch in at least once a month.
My Brewing System Evolution
I can admit that I’m a gear head. I enjoy working on my system almost as much as I enjoy brewing the beer. I also can’t stand the thought that there is a brewing technique out there that my system may hold me back from (step mash, whirlpool, parti-gyle, coolship, etc.). So, here is the evolution my brew system:
• Extract brewing with 3-gallon pot: 1 batch
• Partial-mash brewing with 10-gallon pot on a gas burner: 1 batch
• All-grain batch with 10-gallon pot and 5-gallon plastic bucket: 1 batch
• Converted three 7.5-gallon kegs into keggles for my first 3-tier system: 6 batches
The width-to-height ratio on this system was all wrong. I got stuck mashes every time I brewed, regardless of my use of oats, wheat, or anything else that might stick a mash.
• Converted a keggle system to an all-electric system, controlled by a Brewpi: 3 batches
• Added RIMS tube to system: 1 batch
I made a homemade one out of copper (picture below). Terrible idea. Scorching was impossible to avoid. I know some people out there will disagree, but don’t do this! • Upgraded to Ss Brewtech Kettles and Mash Tun on gas: 11 batches I love this system, which is pictured below. The problem was that I didn't have the ability to step mash, and I was forced to move indoors with my brew system because of a move to an apartment, which brings me to my system today.
My Brew System Today
I have a 20-gallon 3-tier electric system with:
• Two 20-gallon Ss Brewtech Kettles (HLT and boil kettle)
• Ss Brewtech 20-gallon mash tun
• Chugger pump
• HERMS coil built by hand (not recommended—bending this by hand was not fun)
• Blichmann 30-amp Tower of Power to control the elements (I can only fire one at a time, which is fine for me)
• Blichmann plate chiller
• Home Depot mobile scaffolding for the stand
• Shop vac. For anyone who doesn’t have a shop vac, get one. It's a beautiful tool for sucking up spent grain from the mash and hops from the kettle.
For a few reasons, I went for a 20-gallon system. One is grain capacity—when I brew a 5-gallon batch of 15 percent ABV stout, for example, I need every cubic inch of that 20-gallon mash tun. Another reason is splitting batches. I’ll often make a 15-gallon IPA batch and split it for different hopping/yeast. And a third reason is to brew a full keg of beer, because for gatherings of friends and special events, I sometimes want to spin up a full keg. This system lets me do that.
After building some of my own electric panels, I decided to go with a simple commercial option (Blichmann Tower of Power), just for the safety of my family. I’m an okay electrician, but I wouldn’t bet my kid’s life on it. The Tower of Power is easy to use, mobile, and has a nice built-in stand to hold the pump and chiller.
I should also mention, this is our office system which I use sometimes: Embedded content: https://www.instagram.com/p/zlT_GalX1I/?taken-by=craftbeerbrew
What I Will Add Next
A built-in stand and a fixed control panel. If my brewery is designed correctly, I should never have to move my pots or panel. I would like to build my system into the garage in such a way that makes it super easy to pop in, brew a batch, and pop out. No packing, unpacking, plugging in, and unplugging elements.
As a part of the panel, I’d also like to get more temperature probes in place. At the moment, I have one in the pump, but that’s it. I have to circulate my wort in order to get the reading to the panel.
On the flip side, I’ve also considered moving my system back to gas. I miss the roar of the flame and feel like I have more control over the temperature (even though I don’t) when I can feel the heat all around me.
My Dream System
Ruby Street Fusion 25 with temperature control and chilling package (Fusion 15 pictured below). No question about it!
One Item I Can’t Live Without
I would probably go with a shop-vac, spray bottle, or maybe a small scale. Okay, so that’s three items.