My second day at Vault Brewing Company involved the less sexy, albeit essential, aspects of professional brewing. I cleaned, sanitized and filled kegs from a bright tank, and set up continuous hop back (very cool). I also learned about their point of sale software that allows them to efficiently track daily revenue and determine which beers are consumed so they can plan their brew schedule around customer's favorites. While at Vault I also learned they had just begun barrel aging using apple brandy barrels. As a homebrewer we tend to think in the short term managing one or two beers at a time, but a pro brewer's planning extends much further as they may manage 10-15 different beers at a time and barrel age beers from months to years.
During my second day at Vault I also had a surprising encounter with fellow Byo.com blogger Richard Bolster (see my recent post for more details about our collaboration brew). All in all, the second day provided me with a behind the scenes look at the day-to-day operations of a brewpub.
As a scientist, I am always evaluating my brew day and comparing it to previous brews. My two days at Vault were an eye opening experience of how a commercial brew day compares to a day brewing beer in my garage. To my surprise, the process of brewing a 10 BBL batch of commercial beer wasn't much different from making 5 gallons of homebrew. The major differences included the obvious increase in scale, the attention to every detail and how it could affect the finished beer, and the day-to-day operational planning that would ensure ingredients were available to fill the fermenters and to satisfy the customer's craft beer thirst. When I asked head brewer Mark Thomas his thoughts on homebrewing vs pro-brewing he reiterated these thoughts by saying, "All the processes and theory at a homebrew level are applicable at a pro level, but now all the small details are critical for producing a consistent product. Things like mash pH, crush levels, sparge efficiency, isomerization, yeast cell count, O2 dissolve rate, flocculation, fermentation time, boil rate, water filtration, water mineral content, ingredient variation, enzyme content, yeast harvesting technique, etc., you will need to understand, and control or account for. The great thing is, you can learn and implement all these at a homebrew level. In a brewpub environment, you have the added equipment and processes required to dispense all this beer. I like to think of it as throwing a party for a few hundred of your friends, where you provide all the beer, every night."...