The brewing equipment was delivered to Maple Shade last Tuesday, but I’ve actually been slowly working on the project for the past couple of months. While still working as the brewer in West Chester, I was dedicating one day a week to getting the MS equipment ready for installation.
The first task was to completely set up New Jersey’s newest brewhouse in the Iron Hill headquarters. It seemed a bit futile, because the brewery would eventually have to be disassembled in order to get it on the flatbed and move it from Wilmington to Maple Shade. It is however, the only foolproof way to be sure I was getting an accurate picture of what I would need to purchase in order to make it work, Iron Hill style.
Every brewing company does things a little bit differently and how the equipment is set up is a big part of how they do things. One thing I’ve learned about Iron Hill is that we learn a little every time we open a new location. If you were to walk through the brewery of every location chronologically from Newark to Lancaster you would see an evolution of improvements along the way. In other words after 12 years and 7 locations we’ve got a pretty good idea of what works for us. Once the brewery was set up I took a look at it and assesed what was broken or missing and what would need to be changed. Whether it was to conform to our standard procedures or it was necesarry in order to fit into the footprint we had planned for it at the site, we were going to need some modifications. Once that was done our welders and equipment manufacturers were able to start working to get the parts ready in time for the brewery install.
The last step in assessing the brewhouse was to grab one of my old brewsheets and go through it minute by minute, making sure I could in fact do everything on this brewhouse that I had been able to do on a real live brew in West Chester.
The other part was just inventory. Our warehouse a couple of months ago was a start up brewer’s candy store. It was just filled with tanks, fittings, tools, and brewing sundries, but again, I had no way of knowing if everything I needed was there. So I laid out every piece of stainless I could find and took an inventory of what I had and compared it to what I’d need tankwise. Sixteen pressure relief valves, check. Sixteen zwickles, check. Nine carbonating stones, check.
I had a pretty good idea of what I would need in my head, but then there are always those little things you don’t think of until you need them. So one of the days I had dedicated to Maple Shade was actually spent in West Chester. I grabbed a cup of coffee and a clipboard and walked up to the front, right hand corner of the brewery and started writing down everything I could see. I worked my way back until I was in the back left hand corner of the grain room with a cramped hand and pages full of chickenscratch.
Not the most exciting work and definitely not what I’d dreamed of as a starry-eyed apprentice brewer back at Dock Street. But it was the best way I could think of to ensure I didn’t start brewing my first batch only to realize after mashing in that I didn’t have a hose to get the beer into the fermenter! Not even McMaster-Carr can get me equipment that quickly!
At the end of the day, cross-referencing my inventory prevented me from having to stay up at night worrying about what important piece of equipment I was probably forgetting. I was able to go to bed and fall comfortably asleep, counting the imaginary tri-clover fittings that floated one by one over my head.