Tuesday, December 20, 2011

12/20/11 Expansion Update

This will probably be the last expansion update before Christmas, but a lot has happened and I wanted to share it with you.

We got confirmation that the tanks are in production at JV Northwest and should be ready in mid- January.  

Nearly all the concrete has been poured for the floor.

The support joists have yet to be cemented into place, though that'll happen soon.

These are by far the largest and most fancy drains in the building.  They've even got strainer baskets to catch debris.

The ceiling lights have been moved over in preparation for the roof  extension.

The brilliant engineers at SL Chasse have found a way to build most of the extension without taking the roof off for a long time.  The crews in the warehouse and bottling line couldn't be happier.

Once the extension is fully assembled, the existing roof structure will be removed while coolant and electric lines out to the space.  That'll make it much easier to "plug and play" when all the tanks arrive form Oregon.

We wish you all a Happy Chanukah and a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Smuttynose Expansion update 12/14/11

Eureka!  That's big!

The first step of the second phase of the Heritage Avenue expansion began yesterday with this massive diesel-powered vacuum.  As you can guess from looking closely, we now have a debris-free roof and a few employees that thought they heard a jet engine when leaving the building for lunch. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Smuttynose 2012 Big Beer Series

Without further adieu, here is the 2012 Big Beer Series line-up:

January- Baltic Porter
March- Really Old Brown Dog
May- Wheat Wine Ale
June/July- Homunculus
September- Scotch Ale
October- Stout (possibly Imperial, possibly something new)
December- Gravitation

Astute readers will notice that two of these releases were carried over from the 2011 schedule.  Due to increased demand for our core brands, we lost the ability to have more than one Big Beer in process at a time.  This capacity reduction caused two significant delays in 2011's series and a few small ones as well.  

We still wanted to brew Baltic Porter and Really Old Brown Dog, so we've simply bumped them into 2012.  Otherwise, we tried to make the new schedule with realistic ease-of-production in the front of our mind.  In other words, we hate missing deadlines so we tried to set more realistic release schedule for 2012.

These changes won't affect the Big Beer Series Subscription, as each subscription is good for nine releases, regardless of when you sign-up or how many beers come out during the calendar year.  It's not too late to reserve a subscription for the beer lover on your shopping list. You'll be giving them a great gift that keeps giving all year long.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Expansion Update 12/7/11

The last few days at Smuttynose have been as busy as usual, but all brewing, bottling, kegging and cleaning has had a new soundtrack: the sound of a jackhammer and a concrete saw.

You're looking at the future home of a custom-poured concrete pad
that will be home to trench drains and LOTS of Smuttynose beer

In our last newsletter, we posted pictures from our warehouse of cleared-out pallet racks, showing the first step of another expansion (our third in two years) at our Heritage Avenue facility.  Now, in the words of Nacho Libre, we're getting down to the "neety greety."  Over the last week, we've had concrete workers tearing up the existing concrete floor to put in the necessary ceiling reinforcements for the roof extension, that will allow the 22.5' height of the fermenters to fit properly.  

A support joist anchor

Once the supports are in place, we can begin increasing the roof height and adding the roof portal through which the tanks will be craned.  Our plumber, Danny Boy, will soon work alongside the Smuttynose maintenance crew of Adam and Adam, to pre-run glycol pipes for the coolant system connections.

It's been nearly a decade since the backs of BBs 1-6 have seen the light of day.

With any change in a complex system like this, there are adjustments that need to be made.  To make room for the new construction, we had to move pallet racks, unassembled packaging and various other bits of Smuttynose stuff to an off-site warehouse facility.  This part of the project gave us a great chance to get rid of some junk, recycle a lot of old papers and tear down a wall that really has opened up our space (see the above picture).  The space already feels different.   

Another interesting effect of this expansion will be schedule expansion and increased staff demands.  We aren't putting in a new brewhouse, so that means we'll have to crank out up to twelve more 50bbl brews every two weeks to keep these tanks filled.  Dave and Greg are currently figuring out how our production schedule will change and what staffing adjustments, if any, will need to be made.  

In total this expansion will allow us to add just shy of 10,000 bbls of annual production to our output, which is a nice little bump.  We've also begun doing some site prep at Towle Farm this week, which is always nice because we're never quite sure exactly where we can fit another expansion here at Heritage Ave.

Nothing says excavation like a thigh-sized tree root surfacing.

Stay tuned for another expansion update!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bottle Fail

The time has come for another blog post and this one isn't fun to write.

In all our communications leading up to the Satchmo (Short Batch #13) release, we told you all that we'd be releasing a limited amount of caged-and-corked 750ml bottles that would be sold exclusively at Smuttynose. We were very excited about this opportunity; we even visited Allagash during their Ghoulship release to see what we could crib from them.  

Unfortunately, our initial bottling of 750's didn't go as we had planned.  The bottled Satchmo is so limited that we have none to sell.  Our small bottler, which also fills the Portsmouth Brewery's bottles, was not working properly when we ran which meant we had to stop bottling short of our goal.  There were three problems on the day and we're glad to be able to explain exactly what happened with each of them.

Here goes:

1) The fill heads that create a pressure-tight seal over the bottle tops didn't fit over the top of the 750s.  These special bottles have wider tops so that the cage has something to grab on to.  The wider top prevented the head from going down far enough, preventing a proper seal.  Without a proper seal between the fill head and the bottle, the partially-carbonated beer will foam as it's put into the bottle, resulting in under-filled bottles.

2) The sacks of oak chips in the bottling tank impeded the flow of beer through the product line causing interruptions in the pump's prime.  When this interruption occurs, liquid doesn't get pumped and the bottle filler recognizes the error and aborts the fill.

3) We were kegging and bottling Satchmo from the same tank (tank 12), a scenario that has never been a problem when running our main filler.  In this instance it was a large problem as the smaller bottler is much more sensitive to pressure variation on the "product in" line which meant rampant filling errors and the loss of some product and lots of time trouble shooting.

The net result of these three problems was a very short period of less-than-ideal, but still acceptable filling.  Needless to say, we have learned a lot from this experience, but it has left a bit of egg on our face, as we know that some of you were very excited about a bottled Short Batch release.

On behalf of Smuttynose, I apologize for any disappointment this may have caused.  We're also disappointed and maybe a bit embarrassed, but we're doing our best to look ahead to future 750ml bottlings. We hope you are too.