Saturday, August 25, 2007

Pink Boots at Allagash and Visit to Shipyard

"Creativity is allowing oneself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep." ~Scott Adams
August 24: I arrived at Allagash just as their new 120-barrel fermenter was being moved inside the big roll-up door. I quickly introduced myself to Brewmaster/ Owner Rob Tod and Head Brewer Jason Perkins. I didn't want to miss any of the action so I got myself into a safe position to snap a few photos. Below are four photos of two men on forklifts, one forklift on each end, standing the fermenter up. A big steel red scaffold was attached to aid in manipulation.

Once the excitement of standing up the fermenter was over, Jason gave me a tour of the brewery. Then I worked with brewer Dee Dee Germain as she managed two back-to-back brews of Allagash White, their Belgian-style Wit and most popular summertime beer.
Photo at top of page, L to R: Rob, Teri, Jason and Dee Dee in front of the new tank.

I had fun talking shop with Dee Dee. I've really enjoyed discussing beer and brewing with women brewers on this trip. It's been a great opportunity for me to meet other women brewers, because I only knew a few before this. In the past I think I've been too busy with my responsibilities at conferences or judging events to seek out other women brewers to talk beer and brewing. I hope to partake of more girl-beer-chat in the future.

[Note: If you're a woman brewer (or you know of one), please see if your (her) name is on my list of women brewers, which I am calling the "Pink Boots Society." If not, please email me with your (her) name, brewery, etc., so I can add you (her) to my list. Thanks!]

Because of the tank delivery and installation, it was an untypically light day at Allagash. Rob bought ice cream sandwiches from the ice cream truck for everybody. They tell me Rob does that a lot. It started at their old location next door, which they just moved out of in April, because it got so darn hot over there in the summer.

Allagash has had a very busy year: They have doubled their production from 5,000 to 10,000 barrels per year in the last two years. They are nearly out of space in their new facility, and have to begin planning the next expansion almost immediately. That makes Jason a really busy guy, as his family is expanding and their children will double from 1 to 2 this month!

One of the highlights of my day at Allagash was in the early afternoon when Jason and Dee Dee invited me to join them on a barrel tasting of their three oldest wood-aged beer barrels. Jason drew out the beer with the glass wine-thief, and released a portion into each of our glasses. We tried one batch of the employees' favorite beer, Curieux (pronounced "curio"), and two samples of what is tentatively known as Gargamel; one with Raspberries and one without. Each of the samples was completely unique with Beligan yeast character, sourness and vanilla notes. The Gargamel had been aged in red wine casks from California, and I thought that was a great idea for the flavors and styles of beer that Allagash produces.

Afterwards, Jason opened a bottle of Curieux that had been blended with 20% un-wooded Triple. The dilution gave the beer just the right balance. It was a delightful blend of vanilla wood and Belgian character. I wouldn't have guessed that putting a Belgian Triple into a Jim Beam bourbon barrel would have worked so well. That's why it is wise to experiment.

Jason and Dee Dee gifted me a mixed case of Allagash beer for my collection. The lucky brewers on my route west of Allagash's distribution range will enjoy the benefit.

At about 2:30 I departed for Shipyard Brewing, down in Portland's old marine district, which is very close to where Gritty's is located.
Shipyard is a very big brewery, and it took a little while for the employees to track down Brewmaster/ Owner Alan Pugsley. Alan gave me a full tour of the extensive facilities including the finished beer warehouse expansion they are in the middle of.

Gee, is there any brewery in this country that is not either in the middle of an expansion, planning an expansion, or that has just moved into newly expanded facilities?

Shipyard owns its complex of buildings and a few other buildings nearby. The warehouse expansion is needed because Shipyard sold a portion of their complex to a hotel group that will put up a business-style residence hotel. Alan says Portland's nearby waterfront development has increased the value of Shipyard's land, and it made sense to sell a portion of it to finance further expansion.

Shipyard is the largest Peter Austin Brewing Systems brewery in the U.S. (Alan - please correct me if I am wrong.) In the photo above, Alan is standing in front of his twin 50-barrel brick-clad direct-fire brew kettles. The sweet wort is split up as it is transferred from Shipyard's 100-barrel mash tun.

Alan has several sizes of open-topped fermenters, from 100-barrel to 300-barrel. As we walked through the maze that is the four floors of Shipyard's brewery, Alan showed me two different sets of 300-barrel open-topped fermenters. The 100-barrel fermenters are round/cylindrocal, but the 300-barrel fermenters are square.

The photos below are of the exterior and interior of some of the 300-bbl fermenters. The photo on the right shows one tank, not four. The tank's side walls are supported by crossbeams across the top.
I asked Alan if the tanks have some kind of a CIP (clean in place) system, and he pointed to one of his brewers walking by and said, "There's the CIP system right there." The tanks are scrubbed and sanitized by hand, just like Gritty's tanks are.

I looked for signs of automation in the brewhouse and found a high-low level controller in the grant. Spent grain removal was also automated. I looked at the glycol lines as we walked by a fermenter, and there was a valve cracked open to trickle. I didn't see any thermocontrollers, either digital or analog on any of the fermenters, and I believe Alan when he tells me that Shipyard is basically a giant version of Gritty's extremely manual system.

Most of the automation was reserved for the darkly-lit packaging area, where Alan had recently had a bulk glass depalletizer installed. Hand-bottling is not an option at Shipyard. Ed Stebbins had guessed that Shipyard produces 60 brands of beer. Alan estimated it at 80-100 brands of beer, both in bottles and in kegs. Shipyard contract brews beer for lots of smaller companies. For example, they produce Gritty's 12 oz. bottles. (But not Gritty's 22 oz. bottles or kegs.)

Therefore Shipyard has to dedicate tons of warehouse space to packaging materials for all those brands of beer. Thus the recent addition of the bulk glass depalletizer. They just don't have storage room for 80-100 brands of pre-pack glass!

We wound our way through the maze back to Shipyard's extensive visitor center and gift shop. Alan gifted me a mixed case of his beer and a mixed case of his Capt'n Eli's Soda Pop. I thought the Ginger Beer was excellent. What I liked best about the Capt'n Eli soda I tried (Ginger, Root Beer, Lemon-Lime and Blueberry) was that they were not too sweet.

Shipyard had other soda flavors, but those are the ones I tried. The Lemon-Lime had more lime character. I wonder if it would make a good Marguerita mix? (Who says sodas are only for kids?) Retired to the Leavitt household, where Pete and Marie's Rhode Island friends were also visiting for the night. After our fabulous "lobsta" dinner steamed in ocean water (see August 22 post for photo), the four boys settled down to a movie and the adults settled down with cocktails outside. The weather was great and we all stayed up a bit too late and probably talked a bit too loud. You know how it goes when you're having fun! (Photo above, L to R: Christy, Marie, Pete and Geoff.)

1 comment:

Ted Manahan said...

I get out to Maine every couple years to visit family. Last year we had a family reunion in Bar Harbor for a week! I was very impressed with the Atlantic Brewing Company's Bragget.

I have a two year old bottle of Curieux aging away in the basement. It is 11% ABV, so no rush to open it! I really like what Allagash is doing.

Portland is becoming a beer mecca. It is nice that we can get some of Shipyard's products here in Colorado.