Working With Living Organisms
Every day at the brewery is unique, and we never know exactly what to expect.
Beer is alive, full of billions of that uber-important microorganism Saccharomyces Cerevisiae (brewer’s yeast).
Yeast is moody and temperamental.
We want it to be happy and healthy, by giving it food (sugar and oxygen), a nice place to live (proper temperature and pH), and a fresh batch of sugary wort to work on after it finishes the last.
For this reason, we need to follow its schedule.
Rushing a beer can lead to various off-flavors, and waiting too long to dump, harvest and reuse yeast can lead to others.
Figuring Out The "Yeast Schedule"
Figuring out this schedule is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding parts of my job.
Commercial brewing is an endless puzzle, each decision affecting the next.
Schedules are made and remade, to ensure that we have tanks available when we expect them to be, beers available in the taproom and for distribution when we need them to be, fresh and healthy yeast available especially when repitching, and a balanced menu of light, dark, hoppy, sour, and other styles maintained.
These logistics were not generally taught in brewing school, or learned, to this extent, while homebrewing.
The more I brew, the more I learn about the habits of various yeasts and the average time I can expect for batches to finish out. I look at taproom sales weekly, and the amount of beer per batch remaining, to plan out what I expect to brew for the next few weeks.
Then I determine likely brew days based on when currently fermenting beers will be finished, and slot in beers to brew for those days. I determine how long those beers will take to ferment out, and continue the cycle.
The Sour Wrench
Kettle souring throws another wrinkle into plans, by tying up our brew kettle for usually two to three days. Like yeast during fermentation, the timing here is dependent on how quickly the souring organisms, various forms of Lactobacillus, drop the pH of the beer to the target range.
Kettle soured beers are ideally worked into the schedule when all fermenters are occupied for multiple days at a time, to maximize utilization of the kettle, and minimize empty fermenters.
Aging Takes Time
Barrel aging is another possibility when all of our taps and brite tanks are full.
Barrels are generally given 2 months to a year or more to age, which offers us the ability to continue to brew while adding storage capacity.
Still, we will eventually need a place to put all of these new beers.
Nineteen taps are not as many as it seems!
Love of the Process
One of the things I love most about brewing at Olde Salem is the emphasis on variety and the encouragement to be creative.
Inserting new beers while maintaining flagships on tap keeps us on our toes and keeps each new day as unique as the beer we brew. We appreciate your support in allowing us to keep doing what we do!