Sunday, March 13, 2011

Goose Island and the European Brewing Tour Schedule

The last update was rather wordy, so this one will be mostly pictures and descriptions! We recently went on a behind the scenes brewery tour at Chicago's largest craft brewery, Goose Island. Most brewery tours are pretty basic, they tell you how beer is made and show you some big stainless steel vessels and then you sample some beer and call it a day. Since we are in brewing school and all, we get to go on "Siebel tours", which basically consist of "ask me any questions you could possibly think of and I will answer it." The willingness of these awesome folks to share information with us is a really cool perk, though not unexpected as most of them are alumni! Lets get to the pictures:

This is the upper portion of Goose Island's brewery. Here is where the "hot side" of the brewing process goes on.

Their little tasting area at the top of their brewhouse which overlooks the brewing vessels. Awesome little perch!

The inside of their boil kettle (an internal calandria). Awesome way to get rid of volatiles! I think it was a 50 barrel kettle.

Big plate heat exchanger from the boil kettle to the fermenters.

Fermenters. The large ones are 200-300 barrel fermenters and the smaller ones are for specialty beers.

Yeast propagator

Centrifuge. One of the most impressive parts about modern breweries is the pipework that connects all this stuff together. Some of it is amazing!

Sexy pipe work.

I think all these were 300 barrel fermenters. Off to the upper right is where the brewhouse is.

Bourbon barrel aging as well as some experimentation.

Bottling line. They are working 24 hours a day 350+ days a year. This place is rocking.

Bottles on their way into the filler.


Siebel's little pilot brewery! Students do not get to brew on this but it is used by Siebel for test batches for their other business units.

On Tuesday we got the list of the places that we will be visiting on our European brewery tour. We will be visiting German and Austrian breweries as well as a malting facility, a manufacturer of brewing equipment, and a hop distributor. I am just going to list them on here for you guys!

Steinecker (Manufacturer of brewing equipment)
Hopsteiner (Hops and Hop products)
Krones AG (Packaging and brewing equipment)
Bischofshof (Brewery)
Kaspar Shulz (Manufacturer of brewing equipment)
Weyerman (Malting Facility)
Schneider (Brewery known for Wheat Beers)
Kuchibauer (Brewery known for Wheat Beers)
Stiegl Brauerei (Brewery)
Augustiner Brau (Brewery)
Gusswerk (Brewery)
Eggenberg (Brewery known for Samiclaus)
Brauerei Hofstetten (Brewery)
Bierkullnarium (Beer and Food pairing)
Schlagl (Brewery)
Flottweg (Manufacturer of centrifuges)

Obviously as we visit these places I will give you more of an update on each of them individually. Also, if you know anything about these places be sure to email me or leave a comment! I am going to do as much research as I can before I get to each but any additional info is welcome!

Location:Chicago, IL

What do you do at brewing school?

The past week has been incredibly busy, as have the past four. While many people would assume that going to brewing school would be more like an advanced course in drinking, it has been far from that. Most of my nights have been spent studying. The demand I have put on myself to do well in school has certainly come at a cost. I haven't been able to explore Chicago as I would have liked. However, I can always come back to visit!

So what have I been spending all my time learning about? Well it hasn't just been brewing. The coursework is split up into 3 sections:

1) Raw Materials and Wort Production
2) Beer Production and Quality Control
3) Packaging and Process Technology

These three sections are two weeks a piece. The week consists of lectures from 9-5 with field trips and sensory analysis at least once a week or so. All of the lectures are done by industry experts from Siebel or other brewing related organizations.

The first week was all about raw materials and taught by a representative from Rahr malting. We started at raw barley in the field and went all the way through the base malting process: steeping, germination, kilning and storage. We went on a field trip to Briess Malting in which we learned about specialty malts which come from the same place as base malts but are kilned at different temperatures which give them their unique flavor, aroma and mouthfeel. We also covered brewing water (it is the largest percentage of raw material in beer), hops, and did a little work with adjuncts.

The second week was on the conversion of those raw materials into wort in the brewhouse. Milling to wort cooling, we covered everything on what is considered the "hot side" of the brewing process. This process includes milling, mashing, lautering, boiling and wort cooling. Most of the brewery tours you go on place emphasis on the brewhouse (where the "hot side" of brewing takes place) as it is the most impressive part of the brewing process from an aesthetic point of view.

The third week we started on the "cold side" of brewing which is where we actually make beer. We covered everything yeast in this week from applicable microbiology including yeast morphology, yeast metabolism, and yeast nutrition to genetic characteristics of yeast. "Yeast week" was probably the most difficult of the class because the information is so expansive.

The fourth week we covered filtration, spoilage organisms, beer haze, foam, and aging characteristics. This was also quite dense from a biochemical standpoint. The major takeaway is that oxygen is bad for beer. Make sure you buy local and buy fresh!

The fifth week was focused on the packaging of beer. It is safe to say that we covered anything and everything to do with the packaging of beer. Bottling, canning, labeling, kegging, we covered it all. Packaging isn't really brewing but we have to put our beer into a container and we should be as concerned with that container and how the beer gets into it as we are with the ingredients that go into our beer.

The upcoming week we are going to be covering topics like pumps, construction materials (stainless steel etc), production systems, brewery design, and tools in the brewery. We will finish off the week by having a food/beer pairing class taught by Randy Mosher!

That sums up the six weeks of theoretical class work that we have gone through. I hope it didn't bore you to death! All of the theory will be put into practice at Doemen's Academy in Munich where we will be working on a miniaturized production brewery. All the studying hours will be rewarded with some practical experience very soon!

On average I have been studying around 3-4 hours a night to prepare for our weekly tests on Friday morning. Combined with class it comes out to roughly 12 hours of school per day which can get taxing after a couple of weeks. Before I came, I was advised that the first six weeks would be a lot of studying and that has certainly been the case.

Location:Chicago, IL