Here at the Bucket, we get a lot of calls and emails from people who want to take tours of the brewery. For a variety of reasons, we don’t offer tours at the moment. We do, however, want to give people a look at the operation that is the Bucket Brewery.
As you navigate the halls of the Lorraine Mills on Mineral Spring Ave., you may happen upon the doors of our facility. The space we are in as of this writing is a 375sf room that is packed tight with equipment and ingredients. Come on in and have a look around!
As soon as you open the door, you can see almost the entirety of the brewery. Directly ahead, against the windows, you can see one of the brew pots that makes up our brewhouse.
Immediately as you walk in, you can will see our empty kegs waiting to be filled with beer. Actually, I guess we are kind of like the kegs in that respect!
The brewing process starts when we mill our grains. Most of our grains are different varieties of malted barley. Inside the husks of the grains, lie the sugars that will be extracted and eventually converted to alcohol. The small grain mill above can hold about 10-15lbs of grain at a time. The drill turns a grinding wheel that pulls the grain in, cracking the husks. The milled grains then fall into a five gallon bucket which is carried to the brewhouse when full. Each brew day, we will use 100-150 lbs of grain, so a good number of trips are made back and forth to get this done.
The brewhouse is where most of the action is on a brew day. Our brewhouse, like most, uses three vessels. In this case they are 55 gallon steel pots. The nearest one is the Hot Liquor Tank (HLT). Here, water is heated to between 170 and 180 degrees. It is then pumped into the next vessel over which is the mash tun. The mash tun is where the cracked grains await. Once the hot water is mixed with the grains, we get a mash with a temperature between 150 and 160 degrees, which is optimal for extracting the sugars from the grains.
Once the mash is full, it is left to steep for 60-90 minutes, depending on the recipe. The result is a very sweet liquid called wort that is then pumped into the third and final vessel in the brewhouse, the boiler. More hot water is added to the mash and it is allowed to steep for a shorter amount of time. That is then added to the boiler and a final “sparge” is done to rinse any remaining sugars out and into the boiler to top it off.
The newly made wort is then boiled for 90 minutes, during which time we add hops at different times. Depending on what hops are used, and when they are added you will get either bitterness or a floral, aromatic quality. We try to always get a good balance of both.
Once the wort is done boiling, it is chilled and put into one of our fermenters. A run through our brewhouse will produce 30 gallons of wort, or half a batch. Each day we run through the process twice to fill one of these stainless steel tanks. Once the cooled wort is in the tank, yeast is added. Over the next week or two, the yeast will consume the sugars in the wort and produce alcohol. At the end of a brew day, a report it attached to the tanks that lists all of the details of that particular batch. This report will follow the beer until it leaves the brewery.
The fermentation room is temperature controlled to remain in a temperature range that the yeast thrive in. Doing this is important to ensure that they can complete the fermentation and not create any undesirable flavors in the beer.
After completing the majority of their fermentation in the steel tanks, the nearly finished beer is then moved into plastic tanks for conditioning. This helps us clear a lot of the yeast out of the beer. These tanks also allow us to reharvest some yeast for use in a future batch of beer.
After a week or two in the conditioning tanks, the beer is moved into kegs, which are then put in temperature controlled chest freezers on the other side of the brewhouse. The photo above is taken from the fermenting room and shows the very small scale of the brewery. You can also see that storage happens wherever there is an inch of space… I’ll show more that that later.
In the chest freezers, the kegs are pressurized with CO2 to provide carbonation. This process takes about a week to complete. Extra space in the freezer provides a home for bags of hops and jars of yeast that were harvested from other batches. Once the beer is carbonated to our liking, it is shipped out to our distributor and then on to your favorite bars and restaurants!
Now that we’ve been through the brewing process, let’s take a look around the brewery a bit more:
We store items in every nook and cranny in this space. What we lack in floor space, we make up for in height, so shelves provide homes for much of our equipment.
We sometimes take the time to do some experimentation. When I was taking photos for this tour, Erik had one such experiment running. He had brewed up a batch of our Rhode Scholar, but rather than putting it into a large fermenter, it was separated into several home-brew fermenters. Each one was given a different type of yeast to see what the differences would be. We haven’t had a chance to drink them yet, but even visually, the difference is remarkable.
I hope this gives you a good insight into the workings of the Bucket Brewery. If you have any questions or want me to take some pictures of other aspects of the brewing process, just leave a comment.