15 June 2016
Here we are again. We’ve talked about some awesome beers that are on their way to you. We’ve had events, with even more to come, giving fans a chance to try Prairie brews that they might not have tasted before. We’ve met one of the crew. It’s almost like the cart got a little ahead of the horse. Let’s talk about where it begins. The journey of a humble stack of malt sacks becoming the beer that we all love. The beginning of the bottle in your fridge waiting for the day you take it, condensation slowly gathering on the curve of the neck, the cap popped, brew filling your glass. Whoa there, we’re going to be talking about the Brewhouse, not how little hops are made.
Chances are if you stopped into your local alcohol supply store, that hot little bottle you’re holding came from a little place called Krebs, Oklahoma. The building itself is unassuming enough, set back, almost out of sight. Big enough to house the operation that creates fantastic yearly and special releases and the guys that make it happen. It’s a tight fit, with the brewing tanks, fermenters, barrels, hoses, tools, ingredients, and varied miscellanea with numbers and arrows for reading. Oh, and the people that read those dials. They’re stuffed in there too. Don’t worry though, we all like each other, and we’re getting to spread out eventually. But more on that later.
The view inside is essentially the same no matter which door you choose to enter from. One is closer to rows of highly stacked barrels. The other brings you right into the heart of it all. Fermenters stand in rows, contents contentedly bubbling away or soaking up the hops or spices before they make it to their final stop, the bottle. Let’s look up on the brew deck, home away from home for our brewers, Michael Lalli (Brew Master), Todd Holder (Head Brewer), Michael Crittenden and Haven Wilkinson (Shift Brewers). The top of four tanks can be seen up here, and the first is for the mash. Malty goodness is added, science happens, time elapses, and then on to the lauter ton. In this step, the mash is separated into wort with some residual grain particles present. The third tank is the kettle process, which is a little on the self-explanatory side. The product hangs out, hops are added, and then it’s ready to move on to the whirl pool. This is the final process of our fledgling beer here on the brew deck, the separation of any solids still found in the wort. Leaving our brewers with the task of cleaning up and preparing for another day.
The journey of wort to beer is not yet over, it now passes to our cellarmen. The cellar crew consists of BJ Howell (Production Coordinator), Jamel Clark (Cellar Leader), Devin Rolan and Aaron Shreffler (Cellarmen). It is their duty to safely ferment the beer and complete any secondary processes, such as dry hopping or dry spicing.
Both have been processes in new releases. Americana being a dry hopped American farmhouse ale and Paradise, an imperial stout with coconut. As stewards of beer production, the cellarmen clean, carbonate, and rack barrels. All over the place. This is where we leave you, the beer is hanging out and the next step will be the bottling. Until then.