I have met a lot of beer drinkers in my life. Some of them were even good friends. As for me, I have never been much of a beer guy. I used to enjoy a cold one every now and again as a younger man, but my tastes have changed. Beer isn’t my thing. Perhaps that’s why I don’t know so much about it. In fact, everything I know about beer I learned from a brew pub.
Do not make the assumption that I worked at the pub. Don’t assume that I patronized it, either. Neither was the case. Rather, there was a time in my life when I worked as a route service representative for a commercial linen company. I made deliveries to the brew pub three times weekly. I learned a lot from those visits.
A Lot of Expensive Equipment
I still remember my first visit. In order to get from the receiving door to the bar and dining room, I had to walk through the production area. Every trip brought me face-to-face with a lot of expensive equipment. I saw conical brewing tanks in a long row against the back wall. They were all connected by what seemed like and endless amount of tubing. Everything was stainless steel, of course.
There were holding tanks as well, along with stacks of kegs, stainless steel prep tables, racks, and a whole selection of tools I had never seen before. Walking through the production area made me realize just how much of a financial investment went in to opening the brew pub. I cannot imagine it was cheap.
While writing this post, I looked at a couple of companies that make conical brewing equipment. Houston-based CedarStone Industry was one of them. I also read numerous news stories of local brew pubs opening in their respective towns. My combined research leads me to believe that opening even a modest operation could cost several million dollars. That’s amazing.
A Complicated Process
Getting back to my linen days, the brewpub was the last stop on my route. Fortunately, I would get there in the early afternoon. Guess where I would have lunch that day? As I sat at the bar enjoying a sandwich or something off the grill, I had plenty of opportunity to ask the brew master and his bartenders questions.
They tried to explain the finer points of beer brewing to no avail. I was less interested in the beer itself and more interested in how the equipment worked. Perhaps I am an engineer at heart. At any rate, though I may not have learned the art of brewing beer, I did learn a lot about conical brewing, brite tanks, oxidation, beer conditioning, and even tank sanitation.
There were some topics for which I learned more then I cared to know. Other topics left me wanting for information the brew master was not willing to divulge. All in all, I feel like I got a pretty good education out of it. I was pretty disappointed when the brew pub decided not to renew its linen contract with my employer.
More than a year of brew pub visits taught me that running a small brewery is still a major undertaking. Not only is brewing beer difficult, but beer drinkers are very picky. If they latch onto your beer, your pub can do very well. But if locals do not like what you are producing, you could end up brewing beer for empty seats. Maybe that’s why so many hobbyists prefer to brew their own beer at home.