My brewing story began after a department store wine kit was hauled off by the trashmen. Yes, a wine kit started my passion with brewing beer, and in time my business. I trashed the kit because I lacked knowledge in the process of wine-making, and more frighteningly, in how to clean and sanitize the equipment. The instructions emphasized sanitization, but the concern that I may get someone sick caused me to drop kick the kit into the waste can.
I then read a magazine article about home brewing. Who doesn’t like beer, right? This article made it clear that cleanliness is a very important part of the process, but as I read, I realized that I was overthinking it. I began to understand that all of debris needs to be removed from the brewing equipment, and then a sanitizer is added to the equipment to kill most of the bacteria, so that your pitched yeast has no competition when it infects your bitter wort. Simple! I am a simple guy, and I figured that I can do that.
I bought my first brewing kit: 5 gallon brew kettle, a 5 gallon carboy, and a 7 gallon food grade bucket. The recipe was a brown ale. It was good for a month or two, and then it started losing flavor. I came to realize that bottling introduces oxygen to the finished beer. Oxygen in finished beer after time will degrade that beer’s flavor.
After a year of making my own recipes my wife and I were seated at a local watering hole for lunch (the Wednesday before Thanksgiving). She said, “Why don’t you start a brewery?” To be honest it was in the back of my head, but I figured that thought would never become a conversion with my wife. So, I agreed with her, as a good husband would do. Although, at the time, neither of us really understood what we were getting ourselves into.
I started reading from a website devoted to the entire brewing process. With this knowledge, I began brewing beers around ingredients I knew a little brewery could access without to much hassle. Through this site I also learned of a movie made in the mid 90’s called ‘Frankenbrew’. This video showed me that one guy with some determination, out of the box thinking, and hard work could start a brewery without investors, a bank loan, or a truck load of cash. I then followed the movie’s suggestions on what to buy from the used dairy equipment market. This offset the price of starting a new brewery significantly, since I had already priced out a real brewery’s equipment prior to seeing the movie. I knew I could never come up with a million or so dollars myself, and I wanted this brewery to be mine. Yes, you read that correctly! I am the only owner, investor, employee, brewer, boss, maintenance guy, and janitor. I did it all with help from some wonderful family members and great friends when they had time to help. It is a wonderful feeling to know I only have me to answer to.
Years later, I had the stainless steel equipment needed. I found a space three blocks from my home. By this time, I realized that I needed a real brew kettle. Having well over 200 gallons of boiling wort would be very dangerous in anything less than a proven kettle, so I ordered and purchased a 10 bbl Bennett Forgeworks brew kettle. I then started getting the paperwork inked with both the Federal and State government agencies. Approvals took a lifetime, okay about 6 months (a lifetime for a guy with barely any budget).
Please check out the pictures of my equipment here (if you’re interested in seeing what my frankinbrew system looks like).