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Fermentor vs. Fermenter

SS Brewtech 1bbl FermentorA sizable contributing factor to beer flavor is the consistency of your fermentation temperature. Huge swings in either direction are not the type of party that yeast want to attend. So being able to dial in your internal temp, no matter what the external temp, is key.

Researching fermentation tanks has taken months (we actually started more than a year ago) and we are close to making a decision. Ss Brewtech offers these beautiful stainless steel 1bbl conical vessels that, although they are not jacketed for glycol, can have both a neoprene jacket applied and a chiller/heater kit attached. Along with a glycol system, we can pump glycol coolant through the internal chiller coil and fight both the external summer temps and the internal heat that active yeast produce.

ss-brewtech03We plan to order these closer to when we have the brewhouse insulated and the brew system tested.

Brew System Ordered!

Ruby Street Brewing Alpha - Good Earth BrewingWe feel like it’s Christmas today…and in 8 weeks, we will graduate from our much-loved 5 gallon system that we have had such great times with, up to a Ruby Street Brewing Alpha 1bbl system (31.5 gallons) that uses 50 gallon SAE 304 stainless steel kettles.

Three great things about this nano/pico brewing system:

  1. It’s movable. As we build out our brew room, initial plans may change and we may need to adjust brew system and fermentation vessel positions.
  2. It’s electric. This means no fumes from propane or natural gas, no open flames, very little chance of scorching wort, and hopefully in the future it will be run mostly through solar panels on the roof.
  3. It’s automated! This does NOT mean we do less work. It actually means we have much better control over mash and boil temperatures, timing, and sparging. And we are allowed more time to focus on sanitation, clarifying the beer, fermentation temp control, and recipe development.

More updates soon!

The Grand Daddy of All Applications

On March 21st we created an account and profile on the TTB, or Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. When it comes to licensing the production of beer, no matter where or at what volume, this is where you start.

I love that it is an online application, and that you can save your work and resume at some later time. Because this bad boy is full of dozens of detailed questions regarding things such as:

  • Power of Attorney info
  • Provide a description of each tract of land that comprises the brewery by distance and directions
  • Describe brewery security to include; locks, access to the brewery and how un-taxpaid goods will be protected during and after business hours
  • Describe any air pollution control equipment used with incinerators

Today we started to tackle the application, and this has to be completed and submitted before we can submit the state version to the OLCC (Oregon Liquor Control Commission).

A Plan for Wastewater

We reached out to Larry Brown at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. The first step was to provide him with a brief description of our property and proposed setup, including the brew system. This included estimated water usage and waste:

Brewing once a week, we estimate the total waste water volume to be 8,060 gallons per year (672 gallons per month.) After checking the pH and temperature level, we have the option of using the waste water in our year-round greenhouse, applying to our 192 cubic ft compost area, and/or applying to our 1 acre hop yard during the summer (only if this does not trigger additional permits or oversight.)

Disposal of solids (spent grains & hops) will happen on-site as feed for fowl.

We also included descriptions of the two cleaning agents we plan on using and a MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) for  Star San:

P.B.W. is a buffered alkaline detergent that has been proven to be more than an effective substitute for caustic soda cleaners. Because of its unique formulation of buffers and mild alkalis, it is safe on skin as well as soft metals such as stainless steel, aluminum, and on plastics. P.B.W. uses active oxygen to penetrate carbon or protein soils and is not effected by hard water. The oxygen also helps in reducing B.O.D. and C.O.D. in wastewater, which is an added environmental benefit.

Star San is environmentally friendly, biodegradable, and will not harm septic systems.

He needed clarification in several areas:

Water usage: “It is my understanding that one can typically expect about 7 to 10 times the amount of wastewater generated as beer produced.”

Caustics and Sanitizers: “It is also my understanding that such wastewater will have diluted amounts of caustic and sanitizers. At this time I am unable to find a MSDS sheet for the caustic you plan on using and cannot provide guidance accordingly with respect to land application activities or its use on plants in a greenhouse operation. Star San residuals, on the other hand, can actually provide a benefit to plants by the addition of phosphorous.”

Wastewater vs. sewage: “Wastewater from the brewing production activity is not to contain any sewage; no hand sinks, no toilets, etc.  Sewage combined with this type of waste will require a WPCF individual permit which means that you will need an engineered wastewater sewage disposal and treatment system.”

Composting: In review of your proposal and considering the wastewater characteristics of this type of waste, composting would be a good avenue for you to take in order to keep out of the DEQ permitting realm. I need a little bit more information concerning how you are planning to store and transport such liquid to the composting area. I need to make sure that you have ample storage capacity in case of freezing conditions; or assurances that brewing will stop under these types of situations; or that you will have the contents pumped for disposal as a back-up option.

Solid Waste: With respect to your proposal to use the spent hops and grains for fowl, I would suggest different language where such material will be used for animal feed and any residuals if conducted on the property be either offered to neighboring farmers, or would be composted to prevent nuisance type conditions from being created.

Oregon Dept of Ag – Food Safety Division

Today we spoke with Jon Harrang at the ODA Food Safety Div in Redmond. His recommendations were as follows:

  1. Come up with a clear vision of what you want to do and then work to obtain land use approval for that through Deschutes County Community Development Dept.
  2. Decide if you will have any non-resident employees and/or a tasting room. That will dictate whether or not you need a dedicated restroom, or if the house toilet will suffice.
  3. If a tasting room is planned, and you are able to get approval to do that from DC-CDD, then that will affect the overall layout of the facility and a restroom would need to be incorporated into the plans.  Also, in that case you would need to get a septic authorization letter through the County.
  4. You indicated you are on a well. It needs to be tested at least annually for total coliforms/e.coli, with results kept on file at the firm.
  5. You stated that you hope to land-apply the liquid portion of the brewery waste.  You would need to talk to Larry Brown DEQ/Bend and also Matt Haynes of ODA’s fertilizer program to get approval for that.
  6. Finally, send me a drawing or set of plans showing “what will be where”.  It is best if we agree on the layout and are able to schedule a site visit before building occurs.

Bring on the Red Tape!

This was the first of our listed government outreach tasks. We’ve actually found all individuals to be very responsive and helpful.

Caroline House is an Assistant Planner at Deschutes County Community Development, and today she provided us with property information needed to begin a draft of a Land Use Application. Used when applying for a Type 1 Home Occupation permit, we are following in the footsteps of Rat Hole Brewing southeast of Bend. This allows a business to operate on a residential property if it meets a long list of requirements. She recommended beginning the Land Use Application process immediately, as it can take more than six months to work through once submitted.

She also shared a document that describes in detail what is allowed in Exclusive Farm Use Zones, which is where our property resides.

After reviewing the documents she sent us, I had to specifically ask about brewing in an EFU zone. Part of this is because those government documents are slightly difficult to interpret. Hoping it would help, I shared this article on farmhouse brewing with her:

“… forward-thinking brewers are going so far as to build breweries on farmland, sourcing raw materials directly from their property…”
“And it’s all possible thanks to new laws in several states that have given farm-based microbreweries … the freedom to grow, produce, and serve beer on agricultural land, much like wineries”
“In Virginia, where legislation passed in 2014 giving new freedom to farm-based brewers, the movement is bubbling up around him. The bill, SB 430, created a special license for brewers to legally grow, brew, and live on agricultural land (that latter of which had been illegal up until that point).”