Friday, October 26, 2007

Pink Boots at Uinta and at Portneuf Valley

"Hide not your talents; they for use were made. What use is a sundial in the shade?" ~Benjamin Franklin

October 16: Today was an insanely long day. Lots of things contributed to that. One was that my one day delay out of Denver meant I could only spend two hours at Uinta. Another was that today was the only day that Penny Pink would be brewing at Portneuf Valley Brewery and she wanted me to help her troubleshoot beer flavors that might be attributed to production and equipment changes. Another thing was that I really wanted to get home to see my honey.

I met Uinta's President/Sales & Operations Manager/Owner-Partner Steve Kuftinec at 8:30 am. Steve gave me a tour and I commented that Uinta had one of the best laid-out brewery buildings that I had seen. The production process went counter-clockwise and everything was completely logical. Steve told me that the building had been purpose-built for Uinta.

When Uinta opened their current location they only planned to have a tasting room. However, the first day the taproom opened, 40 people showed up at the door expecting a brewpub and wanting to order lunch. How can you say "no" to that kind of business? Uinta quickly installed a kitchen and now they are open for soup and sandwichs for lunch and early dinner.

Steve showed me the brewery offices upstairs and commented that CEO Will Hamill was the mastermind/genius that helped build Uinta from the new kid on the block to its current place as the largest craft brewery in Utah.

Steve introduced me to Cellarman/Lab QC guy Eric Baumann who was in the middle of a DE filter, Production Manager Kevin Ely who was busy planning the brew schedule, and Russ Webster. I'm not sure who has the title, "Brewmaster," but I think Kevin has it.

Steve told me that brewer James Smith was looking forward to my visit. I loved the title on his business card. It said, "James Smith, Passionate Brewer." I brewed with James briefly, then we sat in a quiet office where he could keep an eye on the brewhouse through the window and we talked shop for awhile.

James still homebrews because Uinta is a production brewery and not a brewpub so there's not much room for experimentation at work. He's got some beer in a wooden barrel at home and he wants to do more barrel aging. I told him about the crazy-fascinating lactic and brettanomyces beers I've tasted on my trip, and we talked about whiskey distilling, which James is also interested in.

The interesting thing about James' passions, is that he was raised Mormon. He said his mom had a little trouble with the brewing at first. She asked him, "You don't drink much, do you honey?" James said some Mormons didn't like that he was a brewers, and others thought it was interesting. All levels of reactions, just like the rest of life.

I really had a great time with James and wished I could have stayed longer, but duty and the road were calling me. Steve gifted me a mixed six-pack on my way out the door. In the photo at the top of this page, L to R (zigzagging up and down): Teri, James, Eric, Kevin, Will and Russ. Steve took the photo rather than be in it. He claimed he had "a face made for radio."

I took the photo at left of some autumn-tinged aspen trees in Idaho as I zipped up Hwy 15. Utah had lots of mesas, which are flat lopped-off high areas in the high desert.

I drove nearly straight north to Pocatello, Idaho. Penny Pink is the Brewmistress and Owner of Portneuf Valley Brewing Company there.

In the photo below, Penny and I are standing in front of her three-vessel brewhouse and one of her 2-barrel fermenters. Penny prefers the title Brewmistress over Brewmaster. She says it's just one more thing to "throw 'em off guard," along with her name (Pink) and height (taller than me). If you've read her entertaining posts on the Brewers Forum, then you know how funny she is.

Penny must be one stubborn woman. She just won't quit no matter how hard it gets. (That sense of humor comes in handy here.)

She's got the smallest commercial brewing system that I visited on this trip. Her batch size is 2 to 4 barrels, depending on the fermenter, and it takes her about 11 hours to brew it. That amount of time was just recently lowered from 14 hours by an equipment upgrade.

I had plenty of time while driving to ponder how brewing could take that long, and I couldn't quite figure it out. As I watched Penny's wort take about three hours to get to a boil, and then take about three hours to cool down and run off to the fermenter. Ah ha. I see now. If you are fighting your equipment, you could be in for a verrryyy looonnnnggggg day.

We discussed various things Penny could try. I checked emails during the run-off. (Maybe we should call it the walk-off because it took so long!) Finally the day was done, about 11:00 pm, and we sat down with Penny's son, Jeremias. (Not a typo. It's an old fashioned spelling for Jeremiah.) Jeremias is Portneuf Valley Brewing's art director, and his t-shirt designs are very popular.

We went through every single beer. I was so tired I had a hard time articulating my impressions.

I followed Penny to her house and parked in front. I told her I planned to sleep in a little tomorrow.

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