Russian River Brewing To Get New Brewhouse

Well this is great news for Russian River beer lovers. I got the news last night that the Santa Rosa brewery will be getting some key new brewing equipment, installing a new brewhouse to replace the current one. The last brewhouse was installed in 2008, when they built their production brewery, increasing annual production from 3,000 barrels to 14,000 barrels, a 466% increase. In February of next year, they’ll be swapping out the old one to install a 4 vessel 50-barrel brew house from AAA Metal Fabrication in Oregon. So how to make beer while the new kettles are being installed? Here’s how, from the press release:

Since this is an equipment swap, there will be no way to brew at their production brewery for about a month. This will not only affect beer sales at their pub, but wholesale distribution since all packaged beer is brewed at this facility (Pliny fans should be gasping right about now). Alas, have no fear! Vinnie and Natalie’s good friends at Firestone Walker Brewing Company have graciously offered to brew several batches of Pliny the Elder to keep the beer flowing during this downtime at Russian River! Firestone Walker will brew Pliny the Elder for draft distribution only, and bottled Pliny will continue to come from Russian River through existing inventory in their fermenters. Vinnie will be working closely with Brewmaster Matt Brynildson to dial in the Pliny recipe in an effort to maintain flavor consistency. If you are at all familiar with the Firestone beers, you know their brewing practices and quality are already first class!

Vinnie and Natalie are grateful to their friends at Firestone Walker for helping them out during installation of the new brew house in February. It’s not exactly like borrowing a bag of malt! The ability to have an uninterrupted supply of draft Pliny the Elder for their wholesale partners and, especially, consumers is invaluable to them and the brewery. This is a true testament to the continued collaborative spirit and friendly nature of the Craft Beer Industry.

No word on when the swap is expected to be completed but the new shiny brewhouse will allow them to keep making great beer.

Here’s the Russian River crew in front of the old system, shortly after it was installed in 2008. As noted in the press release, Vinnie and Natalie bought it from Dogfish Head, but Sam Calagione in turn got it from Henry Ortlieb, a fourth generation brewer in the Ortlieb family, who as you can see, had it built in 1997 when he opened Poor Henry’s Brewery and Pub.


Beer In Film #91: The Self-Refilling Beer Can

Today’s beer film is a short break from featuring the Michael Jackson Beer Hunter series, which will conclude tomorrow. Because it’s April 1, our video today is one from my friend and colleague Marty Jones about Cask Brewing Systems — the Canadian company that started microcanning — and their latest innovation: the Self-Refilling Beer Can (SRBC). According to the press release, “The SRBC is a unique Cask invention that enables consumers to refill empty beer cans with the beer that was originally packaged in the SRBC.”

More from the press release:

The can has the potential to significantly change the canned craft beer segment.

“We’ve been providing innovative equipment to craft brewers since the 1980s,” says Cask president and founder Peter Love. “We’ve also been helping craft canners since 2002. But this may be the most innovative thing we’ve ever done.”

“For years,” Love says, “we’ve touted the fact that aluminum cans are infinitely recyclable. Now we can say they are infinitely refillable.”

The can was developed at Cask’s brewing research laboratory with the help of Professor Phelyx, a Denver, Colorado microcanning scientist.

“This can has incredible benefits for craft brewers,” Phelyx says. “The Self-Refilling Beer Can allows breweries to increase their beer production without
having to actually produce more beer.”

To create the SRBC, Phelyx and Cask experts first created a unique resealing mechanism called the Lid Occlusion Lock (LOL) that reseals an opened can when the consumer gently rubs the can’s opening with their finger.

Once the lid is resealed, the beer drinker then lightly shakes the can to activate the In-Can Brewing System (ICBS) that then “rebrews” the original beer that was packaged in the can.

“Perfecting the ICBS was the crucial step in creating the Self-Refilling Beer Can,” Phelyx notes. “Once we were able to make that work, the Self-Refilling Beer Can went from a dream to a reality.”

In addition to providing a lifetime of craft beer to consumers, the SRBC has other benefits.

“It will quickly shrink the packaging costs for our customers,” says Cask’s Jamie Gordon, “and eliminate any waste from dented cans prior to filling. It could eliminate the need for beer can recycling, too.”

The initial response from retailers to the SRBC has not been favorable. “The lost sales alone would be devastating to my industry,” says Ron Vaughn, of Denver, Colorado’s Argonaut Wine & Liquor. “We don’t want to see it in the market.”

To address these concerns, Cask is developing a royalty system that will compensate retailers for any losses from the SRBC.

Cask officials are releasing the first samples of the SRBC to the craft brewing industry on Tuesday, April 1.

Cask officials are not divulging the price of the cans.

Cask Brewing Systems invented the beer industry’s first microcanning equipment in 2002. Cask now supplies a range of affordable, compact, high-performance canning systems to small-scale breweries and packagers worldwide.

Cask has installed over 300 canning lines in 20 countries, and is the official supplier of Ball Corporation printed aluminum cans for its Cask customers.

Marty Jones and Professor Phelyx
Marty Jones with Professor Phelyx.

The Original Midget Brewery

Last week, Boak & Bailey tweeted about what must have been one of the earliest commercial nanobrewery systems. I tried to find out more about the Midget Brewery, though there’s scant information available on the interwebs. Here’s what I found. In 1936, page 30 of the February issue of Popular Science featured a little piece about the Midget Brewery, developed for R&D in Great Britain.


Here’s the full text that accompanied the photograph:

All the operations of a modern beer-making plant are carried out in a working model eight feet high and covering an area of less than five square feet, recently completed for Birmingham University, England. Called the world’s smallest brewery, the miniature establishment will test hops, barley, and yeast, and carry out experiments in brewing research. The model consists of four independent units, capable of producing one gallon of beer apiece from each brew. Brewing conditions in any given plant may be simulated, and it is possible to duplicate any local variety of beer or ale.


Damaged Lagunitas Equipment In Petaluma

When last we looked, the damaged Lagunitas brewing equipment was at the dock, at the Port of Stockton. Earlier today I stopped by the Lagunitas Brewery to pick up some samples for a tasting tomorrow for the Celebrator Beer News and, not surprisingly, the broken lauter tun was around the back of the brewery. Having traveled so far — the equipment, not me — I wanted to see it close up and snapped some photos, too.

At the Lagunitas Brewery.

The damaged brewhouse in Petaluma.

Some of the damage, up close and personal.

Close-up mayhem.

Fullsteam’s Brewery Porn From Space

Regular Bulletin readers already know I have an unnatural, some might say unhealthy, love of brewing equipment — a.k.a. brewery porn — so I was thrilled to see Fullsteam Brewery’s new brewhouse from space. I especially love the artists rendering of where his brewhouse might have ended up had it not been for the hand of fate stepping in and cutting NASA’s budget.


Recently, the reworked-for-full-gravity brewhouse was “docked” at the Fullsteam space in Durham, North Carolina.


To see more of it, check out the original post or the Flickr gallery.

Lagunitas Tweetup

Yesterday I attended my first Tweetup, organized by Ashley Routson — a.k.a. The Beer Wench — and Fred Abercrombie from Ünnecessary Ümlaut. Though we’ve attended at least one beer event together, I’d yet to meet either blogger. So this seemed like a good opportunity to do just that, and also drink some tasty beers and meet some more like-minded tweeters. In case the term is new to you — it was to me — a Tweetup is a get together in the real world that’s organized using Twitter.

Tweetup organizer Ashley, a.k.a. The Beer Wench, with Ron Lindenbusch, from Lagunitas
Tweetup organizer Ashley, a.k.a. The Beer Wench, with Ron Lindenbusch, from Lagunitas.

The Tweetup took place at Lagunitas Brewing in Petaluma, Calif. Between 40 and 50 tweeters attended the event. It was a lot of fun. I’ve been to Lagunitas countless times, but it’s a great place to hang out. Ron Lindenbusch gave a tour to the many people there who’d never been to the brewery. I ambled around the brewery, talking to people I knew there, and snapping photos of the brewery because … well, you can never see too much brewery porn in my opinion. It was another great example of Twitter bringing people together instead of keeping them apart, as many of Twitter’s critics have argued it does.

Me and The Beer Wench
Me and The Beer Wench.

Below is a slideshow of the Lagunitas Tweetup. This Flickr gallery is best viewed in full screen. To view it that way, after clicking on the arrow in the center to start the slideshow, click on the button on the bottom right with the four arrows pointing outward on it, to see the photos in glorious full screen. Once in full screen slideshow mode, click on “Show Info” to identify each photo.

Boscos Opens Production Brewery

Boscos, the small brewpub chain with locations in Tennessee and Arkansas, has completed work on their new production brewery in Memphis. The first batch of beer was brewed December 31 of last year by my friend Chuck Skypeck, who also sent along a few photos of the new facility. If you’re like me, you can’t get enough pictures of brewing equipment.

The outside of Boscos new production brewery, where the headquarters were moved about a year ago. The building itself is curved to follow the distinctive path of the road in a part of Memphis south of downtown currently going through a resurgence. It used to be a meat packaging plant with some elements they needed already in place and the rest they remodeled, keeping a number of the retro industrial architectural elements intact, like green tiled walls and chrome swinging doors.

Head brewer Mike Campbell, formerly with Tractor Brewing in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who’s been on hand to help build the brewery since the beginning.

The production brewery will be used primarily for off-premise sales of growlers and kegs, which is not permitted from their brewpubs under Tennessee law, and also to provide beer for additional Boscos that will not have their own breweries. The first of these, in Cool Springs, Tennessee (south of Nashville), is slated to open this spring. They’ll also begin distributing their beer to a select number of area restaurants.


The New Brewhouse at Lagunitas

I stopped by Lagunitas Brewing Friday afternoon to see the new brewhouse that I’d heard they’re in the process of installing. They’re in week three of a nine-week installation of a new 80-barrel system from a German company, ROLEC Prozess-und Brautechnik GmbH, along with many new pieces of equipment. Peter Moroskow and his team, who also recently installed new breweries at both Stone Brewing and Victory Brewing, had taken over the place and there were miles of pipes and other equipment everywhere, with blueprints dotting the walls and a Bavarian flag hanging overhead.


The Bavarian flag hanging from above, with just a fraction of the pipe remaining on the floor below.

For more photos of brewing equipment being installed at Lagunitas, visit the photo gallery.