Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Pilot System Arrives aka Winning the Lottery for a Homebrewer

Pals Brewing Company's New Pilot System
I can think of maybe three things in the lifetime of a homebrewer that can make you feel like you've won the lottery and gone straight to heaven. And up until today I would say I was pretty much a pauper living homeless on the street with regards to these homebrewing treasures.

The first and perhaps highest honor is winning a best of show in competition, especially the coveted Homebrewer of the Year award at the National Homebrewers Conference. Now I've never won a medal at a homebrewing contest but then again like the sweepstakes you have to enter to win. Since I was never really interested in the hassle of bottling and shipping beer I never did. It costs a fair amount of money and bottling with homebrewers equipment isn't anything to write home about. A lot can go wrong (like exploding bottles or flat beer) and de-labeling, scrubbing and sanitizing bottles is definitely not my idea of a good time! New bottles cost about as much as the beer.

The second pinnacle for homebrewers is getting to brew your homebrew recipe with the pros. Let's face it. If a professional brewery is willing to take your recipe, invest in labor and ingredients, and risk customer ill will when they put it on tap you know you've brewed a pretty darn good beer. My good friend Karl recently received this accolade after winning top honors for his version of an American Strong Ale and it was a pretty cool deal. He got to skip work, brew on the 1 Barrel system down at One Barrel Brewing with a trained brewer while he drank a few cold ones AND he didn't have to clean any bottles. Then once the beer was finished, he got to invite all of his family and friends down to the brewery during Madison Craft Beer Week (including me) for the first tapping and show off his brewing brilliance. I mean what brewer wouldn't want to have their name up in lights on the local beer menu like this?
Karl's shining moment during 2016 Madison Craft Beer Week
Again since I was never really into contests I've never had this experience.

Which brings me to the third greatest triumph of all homebrewers, the day when your shiny brand new homebrewing system arrives on your doorstep like the stork with a new baby. Now keep in mind that my first homebrewing system was a 3 gallon stainless steel pot and a plastic bucket like almost everyone else. Of course a skilled homebrewer can make a pretty decent beer with just those tools and eventually my brews really started to improve. Here's a picture of me and some friends bottling a batch of Peristaltic Pale Ale back in the day. Man I miss that GD tie-dyed shirt!
Pal and friends bottling Peristaltic Pale Ale circa 2000

It might look leisurely but just prior to this let me tell you we were soaked up to our elbows in soap and sanitizer cleaning those darn labels off the bottles. Even to this day my all-grain homebrew setup is stored in about 50 pieces across 20 different locations. So every brew day everything needs to be trucked out of the house and into the garage on that same blue table you see there in the picture. Then at the end of 5 hours of brewing, I get to clean it all, disassemble it, and put it all back. It really is an exhausting labor of love but it's all worth it once you tap that cold, tasty brew for the first time.

Well, let me just say that I don't have to put that mouse trap contraption together anymore. Because that beautiful pilot system just arrived from our friends at MoreBeer.

Pure Homebrewing Bliss
It brings a tear to my eye. All I have to do is plug it in, connect the propane, connect up to the water supply and roll it out of the corner of the garage. I never thought I would ever own a brew system this nice. And to think that very soon with hard work and some community support I might have two this nice! At Pals Brewing Company this will just be the pilot system. The only thing left to decide is what to brew on it first and thankfully the blueberries are just starting to ripen.... I guess my personal favorite summer beer, the Blueberry Ale, is a pretty easy choice. So if you're in the Madison area in late July drop in and try some before it's gone. But if you're out in Nebraska don't you fret. Hopefully in just a few months this pilot system will be pushing out a wide variety of tasty brews right in your backyard. Until then, raise a glass of whatever local brew wets your whistle. Perhaps one of Dan's Jalapeno Ale's from Kinkaider Brewing Co. in Broken Bow. Tell 'em Pals sent you. Cheers!

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