Thursday, July 22, 2010

If you can't measure it...

Count what is countable, measure what is measurable. What is not measurable, make measurable.
Apparently, some geezer, name of Galileo Galilei, may have said this. Good on him.

Here are some things we measure (and count). You might call them process variables.

Mash temp (right after start). pH at 15 mins (if we remember)

First runnings from the mash tun - gravity (actually brix) and pH (cooled to around 40C) and subsequently as run-off proceeds.

Copper volume, gravity, pH.

FV volume and gravity

Progress of fermentation - temp and gravity

(yeast) Cell counts and gravity at racking

Post-conditioning gravity and pH

Plus we have to smell and taste stuff. Yep, there's a lot of beer that has to be tasted. Oh well.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Fingers crossed.

Oooh, that big heater on our copper. Bad heater. It went again of course. So I decided to have a proper look at it. Insulation cooked off the wiring. Corroded conductors. Nasty. OK, so, undo everything and wire it up again. I decided to remove the wiring enclosure and spin it round a bit to give a better angle for getting the wires to the crappy little terminals. This gave me a better look at the ends of the actual elements.

I tend to call this heater the 12K element, but it's actually 6 elements, joined together 2 per phase. And what's this, the little link connecting two of the elements is all gnarly and burned. Barely touching one of the posts, and only shakily connected to the other one.

On the left, the old one, on the right, a new one I hastily "machined". Little beggar.

I reckon that old one would have been arcing and getting all naughty and hot. It may have been the cause of the trouble all along. Perhaps.

And you know, it all seems to be working. This is good, as we absolutely have to brew tomorrow. It's probably going to be  Sunbird, some of which is likely for the big festival in that London. Touch wood.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Dear Cellarpersons,

Most of the time our casks come back in good condition, even closed nicely (sometimes) and we're very appreciative of the time spent, and care taken, by cellar people and publicans in presenting our beer in the best possible condition, as well as their responsible handling of these returnable assets. To you, thanks.

But (and of course there's a "but") ...
I picked up a bunch of empties the other day (from a wholesaler) and was surprised to find a wooden keystone in one of them. We don't use wooden keystones. We use a nice tight-fitting rubbery one. (The keystone is the small bung through which the tap is hammered.) Clearly then, someone has removed our keystone for some reason (did they get their tap stuck?) and bunged in another one.

Now, there's a bit of a knack to getting a keystone out at the best of times. What we don't do is belt a gnarly old screwdriver down the side with a big old hammer and pry the sucker out. If the tap's stuck (I had occasion to deal with this in the cellar of a good customer just the other day) the trick is to carefully but firmly lever the tap back and forth a little, twisting it a quarter turn or so from time to time, until it gets loose enough to pull out in the normal way.

The plastic casks that we use have a number of advantages: They're light, easy to handle, quiet (no terrible clanging as you clear out the cellar) and cheap. They're not so cheap that they're disposable, and they belong to us - we lend them to you - and we're happy to do so. In the olden days you might have been bringing your casks to the brewery to be filled. We don't make you do that now.

Plastic casks do have some drawbacks. They're somewhat susceptible to damage from the indiscriminate use of metal tools. And sure enough, in removing the keystone a number (why?) of small, rough, screwdriver holes have been punched through the keystone seat. This cask is now impossible to clean properly and has been retired. That's about 30 quid gone, just like that.

We have had a few casks returned damaged in similar ways. I can't imagine any reason why you'd need to remove either the keystone or the shive (we've had a few of those also). If you do need to get them out - please try to figure out a way of doing it without knackering our assets. Our phone number is on every cask - give us a call and we'd be happy to talk to you about it.

And while you're at it, I'm always pleased to see that people are marking the casks with received dates, vented dates, whatever. But why do it in permanent marker? People, the clue's in the name. What you want is either a sticker (on which you can write with anything - this is what Weatherspoons do for goodness sake) or use a grease pencil (wax pencil / china marker/ chinagraph pencil).

Seriously folk, if I promise not to come into your pub and f*ck up your glasses, will you please look after my casks?