Thursday, January 25, 2007

Konnichiwa, Fred!

So, there I was, having a pint with Jamie the other day at the Windsor. The Windsor is the local tavern in Vankleek Hill, and it shares a really cool history with the town. Mike and Robby, the two owners, have taken over the business from their dad, who took it over from his dad, who took it over from his dad, too. In fact, the Windsor has been owned and operated by the same family for 100 years (since 1907, for those of you who are as bad at math as I am). I love going there on quiet days to think about how many pints and bottles and darts games must have gone on in that place.

So anyway, there we were, talking away while Mike, who was working the bar that afternoon, was talking to some dude. The guy must have been asking questions about our brewery, 'cause Mike finally said, "well, Steve's right here, why don't you ask him". At which point the dude introduced himself as Fred, the Sleeman's beer rep. We had a good conversation and Fred seemed like a pretty cool guy.

But, Fred gave me hell for not updating the blog more often though, so I figured I better get cracking and write one up. So, this blog entry is now confessional time for all you brewers checking out the blog. I'd like you to comment saying who you are, and what brewery you are from - and Fred, this is a test; you said you are on the blog about once a week, so I'd better hear from you to prove it!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Brewery Measurements

I’m doing another all-nighter to catch up on the things (like this blog) that I’ve not had a chance to get to with the day-to-day brewery, moving into my new apt., and general stuff going on. I finally got a chance to read my Dad’s blog entry at 4:57 am and, as always, you notice weird things when you’ve been up all night thinking (notice that word started with “th” and not “dr”).

What caught my attention was the line “The whole system was in pristine condition, albeit slightly smaller than we wanted (15 bbl)”. Having been working in the beer industry for a full 6 months now, I’m a seasoned veteran when it comes to measurements like 15bbl, but it dawned on me that not too long ago, I would have scratched my head for a long time trying to figure that one out…big bottles of lager?…barometric bubble lengths?…Bavarian Bag Legs?

So, for all of you who’ve been wondering about pints, kegs, barrels, etc., this blog’s for you:

U.S. breweries still work off imperial measurements and although most equipment is made elsewhere, it ends up being sold to the States – which means that a lot of beer related measurements are still based on that crazy system.

So, when talking about the size of your brewery, most people refer to how much beer your system can produce in one batch of beer.

Imperial measurements actually include the measure of barrels. Our new brewery can theoretically produce 15 barrels at one shot, so it’s called a 15 barrel system (bbl is the abrev). Here’s where this starts to get confusing:

1 barrel = 1.17 hectoliters (the rest of the world outside of the U.S. uses hectolitres to measure beer)
1 hectolitre = 100 litres, so
1 barrel = 1.17 hectolitres = 117 litres of beer

Our system is a 15 barrel system, so we can make 1,755 litres of beer in one batch.(117 x 15 = 1,755 litres)

But if you are like me, a figure like 1,755 litres doesn’t mean much…So, how many kegs does that make?

Well, not surprisingly it doesn’t get any less confusing. The imperial keg size is ½ barrel, or 58.6 litres. The big breweries still use these kegs, but many of the craft brewers, like ourselves have moved away from using such a confusing size and have moved to easy numbers, like 50 litres.

So if we’re talking old-school keg size, we can produce 30 kegs in one batch – if we’re talking about the 50 litre kegs that we actually use, then we can produce 35.1. (if you are wondering what happens to the .1; well, at our brewery, we drink it.)

Things get more confusing because, for whatever reason, pubs still use pints instead of litres. And it gets even more confusing, because one pint in the U.S. is 16 ounces, but one pint in Canada is 20 ounces [insert joke about how Canadians are cooler beer-drinkers here]. Not that we sell our beer in the states, but trying to figure this crap out when you are making your glassware decisions is a pain in the pint.

Back to figuring this out…There are 30mL to every ounce, so one Canadian-sized 20 ounce pint has 600mL of yummy beer inside. 1,000mL to one litre, so our 50 litre keg has 50,000mL in it, which works out to 83 and-a-bit pints in one keg of beer.

So, if one batch produces 35 kegs of beer (forget about the 0.1, cause I already told you we drank it), then that works out to 2905 pints of beer in one batch.

And what about bottles? We’re not bottling yet, mainly ’cause the math is mind-boggling.

In Ontario, the Beer Store (which is owned by Molson’s and Labatt’s) charges a huge premium if you don’t put your beer in the industry standard bottle (which is used by Molson’s and Labatt’s). This bottle is 341mL, which doesn’t convert to anything useful whatsoever. In the U.S., most bottles are 12 ounces, which is 355mL and is the size that most cans of beer come in.

So again, if you are wondering how much beer we can make in one batch, it would work out to 5,146 bottles of beer, which works out to 214 two-fours of Ontario industry standard beer bottles.

Here’s a handy reference chart:

1 bbl (barell)
= 1.17 hl (hectoliters)
= 117 litres
= 2 beer store sized kegs
= 2.34 50 litre kegs
= 344 bottles of beer
= 3907 ounces
= 195 Canadian pints
= 244 U.S. pints