First Brewday on the 10 Barrel System!

On Tuesday, August 9th, we brewed our first batch of beer on the big system, a Session IPA!  Up until now, we had been brewing on a system about 1/10th the size of our main system, making small batches of beer that fill up about 2 kegs per batch.  Not a huge step up from what Kevin and Matt were used to doing at home.  But in another week or so, we will fill 14 full sized kegs with the Session IPA in preparation of the grand opening!

Brewing on our 10 bbl system from Alpha Brew Ops went surprisingly well the first time around.  We had our consultant John with us the whole day, which made it a lot less stressful.

We had originally planned to brew our house IPA, but realized the day before that we didn’t have enough yeast for that strength beer, so we made a last minute decision to brew the Session IPA, which was originally planned for the second round of beers.  Fortunately we had all the ingredients for that beer on hand, and the amount of yeast we had available was just right for that beer.

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Kevin adding 7 pounds of hops to the kettle

We used Mosaic and Chinook hops for the Session IPA, all of which were added at the end of the boil, which should give this beer a ton of hop flavor and aroma, while maintaining a low level of bitterness.  This beer will end up in the 4-5% ABV range, categorizing it as a “session” beer, meaning you can drink several of these in a single session!

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Emptying spent grains from the mash tun

On Thursday, two days after our first batch on the big system, Matt and Kevin flew solo and brewed a Munich Dunkel Lager.  And on Tuesday of this week, they will fill the third fermenter with a batch of the house IPA.  After that beer is safe and fermenting, we plan on making the announcement of our Grand Opening, so stay tuned!

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Adding yeast to the fermenter

Here is a sneak preview of the beers that we have brewed to date so far, we haven’t finalized all the names for the beers, so we will keep that a surprise. We are getting super excited to prepare to bring Charlottesville more great craft beer!

1 bbl pilot system:

Mosaic Pale Ale
Hefeweizen
Rye IPA
Amber Ale
Brown Ale
Black IPA
IPL
Bock

 

10 bbl Alpha system:

Session IPA
Munich Dunkel
IPA (this Tuesday)
German Lager (round 2)
Pale Ale (round 2)

 

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First Brewday on the 10 Barrel System!

First Batch of Random Row Beer Has Been Brewed!

On Sunday we finally made the transition from homebrewers to professional brewers.  We wanted to start with something simple to scale up from the 5 gallon batches we make at home to the 42 gallons that fit in our pilot system, and also that we knew people would like (from having made it before, albeit on a smaller scale).  So we went with a pale ale using Mosaic hops.  The unique and experimental part of this beer is that it is a 0 IBU Pale ale.  Probably better saved for a separate post to fully explain, but all the hops were added at the end of the boil, which depending on how you make the calculation, could result in 0 IBU’s, or bitterness units.  A typical Pale Ale falls in the 30-50 range, while IPA’s generally contain 40-70 IBU.  The entire brewday took us thirteen hours.  It was one of the most physically and mentally challenging days of work I’ve ever had.  Every professional brewer we’ve ever talked to has said it would take 12-18 hours to brew our first batch (typically a brew day at home takes 4-5 hours) so while it was a long day, we learned a lot and, most important, it was fun! Which is good because we see a lot of 12-18 hour days in our future.

This post about our first brewday wouldn’t be complete without giving a big thank you and shoutout to our neighbors Three Notch’d Brewing Co.  Once again, they saved us after I sent Levi a text asking to help troubleshoot our mill.  He was there in 30 minutes rewiring our mill to get it up and running.   And as luck would have it, our first shipment of malt was supposed to arrive today, but is still in Atlanta for some reason, and Three Notch’d again offered to help by spotting us the malt we need until it arrives later this week.  I can only hope that we are able to pay back half of the debt we have incurred to them to this point alone.

One of the things pro brewers talk about is getting your system “dialed in.”  What that really refers to is the interaction between your raw materials (grain) and equipment.  As an example – during the “mashing” step in brewing, you mix crushed grain with warm water.  The warm water uses enzymes in the grain to convert complex carbohydrates to more simple sugars (e.g. maltose, which is a disaccharide), which the yeast will later convert into ethanol.  Homebrewers usually buy grain that’s already crushed, but professional brewers crush their own grain.  The finer you crush your grain, the more sugar you can extract out of it, which is a good thing.  But the flip side is that the finer you crush your grain, the more it becomes like paste when mixed with water, and it’s hard to actually get all the sugar water (called “wort”) out of the grain (this process is called lautering) and into a kettle to be boiled, cooled, and eventually mixed with yeast.

 

Tomorrow we’ll be making a hefeweizen and then a Rye PA later this week.  Hopefully we can bring all three of these beers to the VA Craft Brewers Festival on August 20th.  But we’ll of course have to taste them first – one of the other things we’ve been told is that there’s a decent chance we’ll have to dump our first batch of beer.  As much as we’d hate to do that, we refuse to offer something to Virginians that we aren’t proud of. Going into the brewery the morning after brewing I was relieved to see that the beer was fermenting away and the glycol controller had the beer at the temperature I had set it at the night before.  Talk about a restless sleep.  We are optimistic that we’ll have at least two or three fresh, locally made beers available for the VACBF.

 

After this first three round of beers, we’ll move on to our larger, 10 BBL (310 gallon) system.  Just like the pilot system, it will also have to be “dialed in.”  But this system will allow us to make large quantities of beers that we know will be popular, like Pilsners during the summer, IPA (year round), etc.  The pilot system will then be used for experimental or seasonal batches, allowing us to keep a constantly changing menu while at the same time providing a stable of standards based on everyone’s feedback.

Bottom line – if you’re dying to try some Random Row beer, mark your calendar for August 20th and go to http://vacraftbrewersfest.com/default.aspx to get your tickets. It will also be a great chance to meet our brewers, Kevin and Matt, and show your support for the local brewing scene. We probably won’t be ready to open up our Preston Avenue tasting room by August 20th, so this will be your first chance to taste our beer. If not, hopefully we’ll see you in late August / early September!

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Dialing in the mill gap with sieves
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Milling
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Mashing in

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View of the bar/brewery from the main entrance

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First Batch of Random Row Beer Has Been Brewed!

Gearing Up for Brewing

I feel like a broken record when talking to people about the brewery lately.  It seems like for the past month, we’ve been “getting ready to brew our first batch in the next week or two”.  But there are certain things that we absolutely must have before we can start brewing.   Power and water are two of those things that we currently do not have yet.  

But we have been working hard in preparation for the utilities to be connected so that when they are, we are ready to get going.  Our tanks and brewhouse are now set in place and are getting final connections for glycol and utilities this week.  Once the fermenters and serving tanks are hooked up to a functional chiller, they will be ready to accept the first batches of beer.

Our pilot system will be functional first, because it is all electric and does not need a gas source, unlike the main brewhouse, which is heated with natural gas.  The gas connection is another week or so away from being connected.  Water lines will be run inside the building next week, and assuming the power gets turned on by Dominion in time, we plan on brewing our first pilot batch next Thursday!

In other exciting news, the patio was poured last week and looks awesome!  The exterior of the building is finishing up, and the parking lot repaving is also nearing completion.  Paint is going up inside, our biergarten bench is being built from 100+ year old wood flooring reclaimed from a house that was demolished in Nelson County, and the framing for the bar is in place awaiting the concrete top to be poured in place.  The space actually looks like a brewery now! All that’s left is to make some beer, which “should happen in the next week or two”!   Still a little far out to have an opening date, but we are aiming for late August/early September, we will keep you posted on our progress!

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The bar is framed out and ready for the concrete top to be poured soon!
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The built in bench is under construction and will provide plenty of seating!
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Kevin simulating relaxing on the bench with a beer… he can’t wait for the real thing!
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Easy to envision picnic tables, cornhole, and lots of beer out on the newly poured patio!
Gearing Up for Brewing

Brewhouse Arrival and Construction Updates

One of the final and biggest pieces of the puzzle arrived this week!  Our brewhouse, consisting of a mash/lauter tun and boil kettle, the equipment we will actually be brewing the beer on, was delivered from Nebraska.  We had another beautiful day to unload the equipment and forklift it into the building, but unfortunately we are not quite at the point where we can set the equipment in place and hook it up.

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Mash/Lauter tun coming off the truck

Construction is starting to pick up though.  Framing is almost complete inside for the yeast lab/office, bathrooms, mill room, and cold room.  A new storefront is framed out that will increase the amount of light entering the space and provide access to the patio.

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New storefront framing and future access to patio

Our walk in cooler was built this week as well.  Recycled panels from previous cold rooms were used to keep the cost down.  I found out the panels came from Alabama, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina, all states I have some ties to (cousins in Alabama, lived in Pennsylvania, friends in South Carolina).

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We will be wrapping the cold room with drywall to make it look a bit nicer from the tasting room side.  At about 125 sq.ft., this thing will get packed pretty tight.  Because we will have serving tanks, that will mean less beer kegged, so we are hoping we don’t outgrow this before we open!

We now have a temporary sign up on the building side that faces Preston Avenue!  We were excited to get this up, and hope that everyone driving by sees it and starts getting excited about Random Row!  Our patio will be poured in front of where the sign is now.  I can already picture a food truck parked next to the patio and people sitting outside sipping on their Random Row beer!  We are finalizing our plans for the outdoor space and hope to maximize how much common area we can have access to.  Still a few things to sort out with the ABC to be sure we are complying with alcohol laws, but we are optimistic that our outdoor space will be one of the main draws of the brewery.  More to come on the patio space when it is sorted out!  sign no trucks in front.jpg

Here are a few more pictures of us moving the brewhouse into the building!

Oh, and did we mention there will be parking!? About 150 spots actually.  Paving was started this week as well.  Can’t wait to see all those parking spots right outside our building!

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Looking out from our building, Moxie hair salon is our neighbor!

Cheers! -Kevin

Brewhouse Arrival and Construction Updates

Updates and First 6 Beers We Will Be Brewing

First, we’d like to give everyone a few updates on our progress so far.  A lot has been going on the past few weeks and we have been staying busy planning and preparing to bring Charlottesville more great craft beer!

Construction of our brewery is starting to pick up and it’s exciting to see work getting done and things starting to come together.  There is still much work to do before we are brewing beer, but that time continues to get shorter and shorter.  After a rough grinding to smooth them out, our floors are scheduled to be completed this week, with a polyurethane coating going into the brewery space and a simple clear sealant going into the tasting room area.  This has been delayed by weather, since our space is not yet sealed off to the outside and moisture and temperature have been issues, along with the roof not being sealed up yet either.  We switched from an epoxy material to a urethane material due to urethanes ability to cure under a wider range of conditions.

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brewery floors prepped for their coating

 

After modifying our cold room layout to maximize its size, we will be installing it in the next week.  We will be storing a cold water tank (called a cold liquor tank), kegs, hops, yeast (and probably my lunches) in there.

And the most exciting news, our 10 barrel (310 gallon) brewhouse, what we will be using to actually brew the beer, will be arriving next week! You can expect a post with plenty of pictures to follow that.

Now, onto the beer…

We will have the ability to brew 6 batches of beer per cycle.  This is limited by the number of fermenters we will have.  We are starting with 3 x 7bbl (217 gallon, or 14 full sized kegs) fermenters and 3 x 1bbl (31 gallon, or 2 full sized kegs) fermenters.  A batch of beer takes about 2 weeks from the time it is brewed to the time it can be served, so we will be able to brew 6 batches right away, but will then have to wait until they are finished before brewing additional batches.

Here is our tentative opening day draft list (names still TBD):

IPA – Anyone surprised? Didn’t think so.  IPA accounts for over 25% of all craft beer sales, and we at Random Row love our IPA’s.  We will be showcasing the Falconer’s Flight 7C’s hop, a relatively new variety that is actually a blend of 7 of the “C” hops, along with a couple experimental hops.

German Style Lager – The second beer that we plan to be a year-round offering will be a German Festbier style lager.  A light copper colored lager balanced more towards maltiness, this will be the closest beer to an American domestic lager that we will serve, packing much more flavor than the aforementioned of course.

Pale Ale – Close behind IPA in craft market share is the American Pale Ale.  This beer will be lower in alcohol and hop bitterness, and have more malt sweetness than our IPA.

Specialty IPA – Did we mention that IPA’s are popular?  We plan on always having at least 2 IPA’s on tap once we get up and running.  Sometimes more.  But our alternate IPA’s will be more experimental.  Some of the different specialty IPA’s we may brew include Black IPA, Brown IPA, White IPA, Rye IPA, Belgian IPA, and Red IPA.

Hefeweizen – Translated into English “yeast wheat”, our wheat beer will be restrained in the banana/clove flavors traditionally created by the German yeast used to ferment this style.  Fermenting at slightly lower temperatures allows the yeast to release less of the compounds that give this beer its signature flavor, making a more drinkable beer.

English Mild – This session brown ale hasn’t gained much popularity in the US, but we dig it. A complex malt richness pairs with a low ABV (3-4%) to create a beer that we think you will be coming back often for.

If you didn’t get in on the last order of T-shirts, they are now available online! We will also have them for you to purchase when we open the taproom, sometime this summer (we will narrow that down as we get closer to finishing!).

CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOUR RANDOM ROW T-SHIRT

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Kevin and his three sisters modeling Random Row T-Shirts
Updates and First 6 Beers We Will Be Brewing

First Delivery of Equipment!

On Friday we received our first delivery of equipment! Our 15 bbl hot liquor tank, 3 x 7 bbl fermenters, and 4 x 7 bbl serving tanks all came on a 40 ft trailer.  It took us about 3 hours to unload the truck and bring everything into our space, which is still a ways away from being ready.  So for now, its all tucked away in the corner until we can get the brewery area built and ready to place the tanks in their final location.

We will be getting our dual compressor, 10 HP glycol chiller in the next week or two, which will sit outside the building in front.  To prepare for the chiller, we will be pouring a level concrete pad for it to sit on.

The remaining equipment, including the 10 bbl brewhouse, should be arriving in about a month.  We are hoping the brewery will be ready to accept the brewhouse when it gets here via Lincoln, NE (Alpha Brewing Ops).  We are currently getting ready to lay our trench drains and finish up the concrete floors, and finalizing the design for our HVAC systems.   Still a lot of work to get done for our anticipated June opening!

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15 BBL Hot Liquor Tank
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15 BBL Hot Liquor Tank

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4 serving tanks in front, HLT and Fermenters in back
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7 BBL serving tank

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7 BBL Fermenter
First Delivery of Equipment!

How We Plan on Making Random Row a Family Friendly Brewery

Kevin, Bob, and Bradley, the founders of Random Row Brewing Co., have a vision to make a brewery and tasting room that has a little bit for everybody, kids included. Family friendly breweries are becoming a popular destination across the country, and a quick search on Google will bring up several articles highlighting these establishments.

Charlottesville in general is a great place to raise a family, and there is no shortage of things to do that involve the whole family. Before the brewery boom in Virginia (pre 2012 and SB-604) anyone bringing their kids to a bar would have been seen as irresponsible. This may still be the case, but we’re not a bar, we’re a brewery with a tasting room. What’s the difference? Rather than trying to define what a bar is, I can describe the purpose of a brewery tasting room. According to the state of Virginia, we are a manufacturing business. We manufacture beer that we can then showcase and sell directly to the consumer from the “factory”. The goal isn’t to get you intoxicated, it’s to have you experience the product we work so hard to produce while enjoying the environment we are currently working on creating.

IMG_4370-0.JPG Blue Mountain Brewery in Crozet is very family friendly, but 20-30 minutes away from Charlottesville.

This is where we want to ask for your opinions and ideas. We have been working on different ways to keep children occupied and happy while the adults are sampling the various beers we will have on tap. We want to preserve the atmosphere we are creating while offering a few activities for the kids. Small, child-sized tables with crayons and coloring books, a chalkboard wall for coloring, “family nights” with kid activities, these are all things we are considering having. Oh, and did we mention there will be plenty of parking right outside the brewery?

Please comment on what you would like to see at the brewery to keep your kids happy and occupied!

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Construction has begun! Trenches being cut into the concrete for plumbing and our brewery trench drains!

How We Plan on Making Random Row a Family Friendly Brewery