Saturday, August 25, 2007

Pink Boots at Gritty McDuffs

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” ~ Stephen Covey

August 23: Those of you who haven't visited Portland, Maine may have heard of Gritty McDuffs. Those of you who have already been there are on a first name basis with the brewpub. You call it Gritty's.

Brewmaster/Owner Ed Stebbins got me parked and situated in the busy waterfront/ working port area of Portland. As we walked back to Gritty's I noticed the sign in this photo. Every metal sign like this that I saw was bent. I think people want to steal them in a big way. Maybe Gritty's should print up a bunch identical metal signs and sell them in their merchandise area?

Ed handed me off to Assistant Brewer Jon Shaw for the day. Head Brewer Andy Hainer had the day off. Jon mashed in Gritty's popular pale ale, known as Original Pub Style. Gritty's has one of the first Peter Austin brewing equipment systems that Alan Pugsley made famous.

Gritty's brewery was probably the most labor-intensive and least automated brewery I will see on my trip. There are no digital or analog temperature control units on the 7-barrel open-topped fermenters. The brewer draws a sample of beer, takes it's temperature and if the beer is four degrees over target, the brewer cracks open the ball valve on the glycol line and "trickles" in glycol for 60 minutes or until the correct temperature is reached. This process is repeated for each fermenter and conditioning tank. A similar manual check and correction is used for every procedure in the brewing process at Gritty's. You definitely have to stay on your toes in a Peter Austin brewery!

Ed's partner Richard Pfeffer joined us for lunch. In the photo at the top of this page, we are standing in front of Gritty's brick-clad copper brew kettle. Photo, L to R: Ed, Teri, Jon and Richard. Local retired bricklayer Lance Brown popped in looking for Andy during the day. Lance did the brickwork on all the Peter Austin brew kettles installed in New England. The bricks are curved, not straight, so they look very nice encircling the kettle.

Gritty's is losing Jon Shaw in three weeks. He's going back to school for his college degree in business. Jon might rejoin the brewing community after graduation, or he might open a brewpub of his own somewhere. Best wishes, Jon!

After the Original Pub Style ale was tucked safely in its open fermenter, Ed took me to The Great Lost Bear, an institution in Portland since 1979. Mike Dickson is also an institution. Ed told me Mike's been a bartender and cellarmaster at the "Great Lost" for about 25 years. Photo above left shows Mike and me in front of one of Great Lost Bear's banks of tap handles.

While Ed and I sat there enjoying a wide variety of Maine beers, in walked Alan Pugsley of Shipyard Brewing and Peter Austin brewing equipment fame. Alan invited me to see Shipyard, the largest Peter Austin installation in the U.S. When he told me he had 300-barrel open-topped fermenters, I scheduled a visit for the next day. (Photo at right, L to R: Ed, Alan and Teri.)

On the way out the door I almost smacked into Kevin Watson, Brewmaster at Stone Coast Brewing Co. Kevin used to work at Hales Ales in Seattle, and he looked very familiar. I had just tried Kevin's Imperial IPA 840 at the bar, and I thought it tasted like a Pacific Northwest imperial IPA because of it's big malt backbone. We quickly reintroduced ourselves. The Great Lost Bear appears to be a great place for finding lost comrades in good beer!

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