Life has been crazy busy lately. In addition to working at Wolf Creek Brewery, I’m also doing social media and writing their blog.
You can check out the purpose of this crazy photo over at the Wolf Creek blog. On top of real work, I also volunteer at Enegren Brewing Friday through Sunday.
I got a little refresher from Red Mango on my way over to Moorpark Friday afternoon.
And then I got another little refresher at Ladyface on the way. Sweet Cherry Porter on cask? How could I not?
Definitely glad I treated myself before this huge pallet arrived! Those would be 356 two liter growlers from Italy. The caps were in the same shipment. That’s right – caps were not attached to the bottles.
I spent Friday afternoon and all of Saturday assembling the tops and attaching them to the bottles – this time with help from the EBC crew. My hands and wrists still ache.
While I was there on Friday, the owner/brewmaster from Hangar 24 happened to swing by with about seven other employees/sales reps. Ben Cook recently had an article written about him in the New Brewer magazine which his coworkers made sure to point out, much to Ben’s dismay. I immediately jumped on the bandwagon and insisted on a personalized autograph and cheesy picture just to humiliate him a little more. The entire group of guys were a much needed fun breath of fresh air in between unloading and assembling growlers. Now I need to get to the Redlands and visit the brewery!
Friday night was brew night – Chris and Matt mashed in and brewed overnight and then Joe and I came in the morning to relieve them and finish up the brew. Saturday was a long one full of pain and growlers and cursing at growlers that created pain, but with this schedule we had all of Sunday free!
We went on a 16.7 mile mountain bike ride on Sunday morning then ate back all of the calories we’d burned at the local greasy diner, Cactus Patch, before heading back to work.
And then the week started again. Normally this would be tragic (or at least it would be if I had a normal job and didn’t brew beer for a living), but I had the fifteenth gathering of Ladies at Ladyface: The Fermentables and Comestibles Education and Tippling Society to look forward to on Monday night!
We went “back to the basics” and had a brewery tour where we were walked through the brew process and got to munch on milled malts and sip Blind Ambition straight from the fermentor. There were many new faces, all eager to learn and imbibe and get tippled in the necessary fashion it takes to be a L@L.
We had a nice big group of ladies attending – not a single keg was left un-sat-upon. We spent the evening sipping homebrews and socializing before grabbing some foods to ward off the dizzying effects of beer on empty stomachs.
Sweet potato fries – suicide style. Could you need anything more in life?
For recaps of our past Ladies at Ladyface meetings, check out the links below:
Ladies at Ladyface: 1
Ladies at Ladyface: 2
Ladies at Ladyface: 3
Ladies at Ladyface: 4
Ladies at Ladyface: 5
Ladies at Ladyface: 6
Ladies at Ladyface: 7
Ladies at Ladyface: 8
Ladies at Ladyface: 9
Ladies at Ladyface: 10
Ladies at Ladyface: 11
Ladies at Ladyface: 12
Ladies at Ladyface: 13
Ladies at Ladyface: 14
Last weekend I worked with Wolf Creek Brewery up in Mammoth for the Bluesapalooza music and beer fest.
The drive up was absolutely gorgeous. I got to see the flat grid of Palmdale, the flat grid of Lancaster…
And Mt. Whitney. That part actually was beautiful.
Friday night was the brewers’ reception. Every brewery brought different house brews and shared them with the masses. I sampled everything from Ladyface Bluebelly Barleywine to Lagunitas Alt to Noble Ale Works brews to quite a few others that seem to have slipped my mind for some odd reason…
It was quite an enjoyable two hours and seemed to pass rather quickly as I bounced around from group to group, meeting brewers I haven’t met like Beachwood BBQ and the Noble Ale Works folks, and hanging out with some favorites I’ve known for quite some time – Ladyface, the LAB crew and Stone to name a few.
The music was in full swing by the time the reception was over, so we danced along and danced our way over to Clocktower Cellar to hang with the brewers some more. We needed to be up early Saturday to set up the booth so we called it a night at a nice early 1am. Oops.
I got into my fancy girlesque zone (very difficult to do, honestly) and decorated the table. I made pretty decor stuffs out of fabric! No one who knows me would’ve guessed I did this.
At noon the crowds came swarming in, armed with taster glasses and ready to hydrate.
It was a warm day, so I tried my best to keep everyone’s glasses full and kept hydrated myself with tasters from Kinetic Brewing, Hess Brewing and Eagle Rock Brewery.
I also ran into quite a few friends – three of the members from the Thousand Oaked Homebrew Club I belong to.
Courtney repping both the TOaked club and Enegren!
Another TOaked member was out celebrating his bachelor party – a beer festival is definitely the best way to do it!
Speaks for itself…
Right here is the instant before the black clouds burped and vomited rain over the city. Good visual, huh? Every drunkard in the area shrieked and cheered and took cover under the closet brewery tent. We made many a new overly tipsy friend during that downpour.
At 5pm we shut down our CO2 tanks, disconnected the kegs and packed everything into our van. To cap off the weekend and celebrate Laina’s birthday, we went out for fancy wine and delicious foods and then went back to our little condo and passed out.
Sunday morning we had to head back home, but first we celebrated a Wolf Creek tradition. We went back to listen to a little music…
And supported the Mammoth Lakes Fire Department. Gotta support them. They work so hard, it wouldn’t be right not to obey her sign.
Bloody Mary it is! This is the first one I’ve ever had. Took me a while to finish, but I did eventually finish to fully show my support.
On our way out, I saw a shirt I recognized.
It’s a small world!
And now I’m off to City Tavern to attend a “meet the brewers night” with those on the shirt above! Cheers!
If you’d asked me three years ago if I would ever imagine myself completely submersed in the world of beer, I would’ve laughed my ass off as I popped the top off of a Fat Tire or Blue Moon and drank it straight from the bottle.
My goodness how things change. This entire week has been nothing but brewing, beer, cleaning and more brewing. And beer.
Scrubbed out faucets and cleaned tap lines in the beginning of the week. My hands have healed from the scrub brushes just in time to scrub out some more tomorrey!
Keg delivery is tomorrey as well! Gotta replenish those taps with fresh brews! And hopefully replenish myself with a new experiment by head chef, Chuy? Hint hint, Chuy, if you’re reading this, hehe. We’ll also be dropping off kegs at The LAB Brewing for a local tap takeover for Father’s Day! If you’re in town, head over there on Saturday and sample some of the amazing brews the Agoura Hills/Moorpark/Ventura County has!
The brew days have only contained slight injuries. Tuesday’s consisted of 175 degree spent grain falling into my boot. Today, I somehow have bruised lines across the tops of my knees as well as a blister on my finger from a hot water burn. Not bad for a double brew week!
Today, the grain mill jammed on our last 20lbs of malted wheat. Luckily it was an easy fix – scoop everything out, find the small stone that had gotten lodged between the gears, then reassemble and finish milling.
Once in a while we get spoiled during these early mornings and are surprised with bacon from the kitchen. These mornings are my favorite.
This morning, unfortunately, was not one of those mornings. Three cups of coffee and crunching on the grain before we mashed in made do.
We also had some quality control to do – Surfin’ Monks was transferred yesterday and carbonated today. It passed the test.
Luckily, I won’t be doing what I was last weekend – an overnight brew at Enegren. We mashed in at 7:30pm and worked until 6am. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…
…Unless your 3am meal consists of flamin’ hot Cheetos, M&Ms and Gatorade from a late run to 7-11. Sometimes you just get desperate.
Luckily, coffee heals all. Apparently it works faster when you snort it.
Filed under brewery, brewing
On Saturday I went up to Santa Barbara with the Wolf Creek crew to serve at the 3rd annual Santa Barbara Zoo Brew.
We packed up the pickup truck with kegs and the jockeybox and headed north.
I was the designated “foofer” of the day. Foofer is a scientific term. Basically, I tried to make the table look pretty and make the jockeybox look invisible. Designing pretty things is not in my nature, but I gave it a go…
After we’d set up, I wandered around the little park to check it out.
The calm before the storm.
And so it begins! The first hour was for VIP only and was nice and mellow. Then everyone else piled in.
We poured taster after taster with no rest for the entire five hours!
The majority of the crowd was made up of UCSB students and the majority of them knew absolutely nothing about beer. I can’t recall how many times someone tripped up to the table and slurringly asked, “Can I have the light one?” One girl and I had a very serious conversation about how just because a beer is called “pale ale”, it doesn’t mean that it tastes light. I got a high five for my explanation. Hooray.
Luckily, I was able to Keep Calm and Chive On through all of this.
I spotted four Chivers at the event! I was only able to grab a few pics with these two though.
Dang, I really need one of these shirts. That and a BFM…
There was a mad rush for beer when the last half hour was announced. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw one guy sprint across the little park, stop to take his flip flops off, leave them perfectly placed and punch some guy in the face for looking at his girlfriend wrong. Lovely.
After everyone stopped pouring beer and the attendees stopped trying to bribe us to pour them “just one last taster”, the park emptied out very quickly.
We packed up our fancy setup and waited for the carts to come and shuttle us back down to the parking lot.
Enjoying the peace after the crazy day.
Definitely not the worst view to be stuck with.
We drove back to Valencia, enjoying the ocean views while we had them, and wrapped up the thirteen hour day with a brew at Dargan’s Irish Pub in Ventura.
We work so very hard…
Day three of Wolf Creek Unplugged!
Today was brew day! Typically we have up to two brew days per week, seeing that our fermentor and bright tank space is limited. This week’s single brew was Surfin’ Monks. I was up at 5:45am, inhaled a mug of coffee and headed over to the brewery.
We mashed in with 850lbs of grain.
Delicious malted barley!
It was so windy this morning that we had to wedge the used bags underneath the truck tires, and they still tried to fly away on us.
Breakfast was next. Meghan, the pastry chef at Wolf Creek, has to trim the edges off of her brownies and lemon bars so they are pretty when served, and we get to reap the benefits! I make multiple trips per day to the kitchen to chow down on these. I should probably stop doing that…
We do a step mash where we slowly “step” up the temperature at different intervals then allow it to rest so the starches can convert to sugars.
After the final temperature step is hit, we begin sparging and transferring the beer over to the boil kettle.
Water is sprayed over the grain bed in order to drain all of the sugary wort from the mash tun.
While we wait for the boil kettle to finish filling with said wort, we consume more foods. Chipotle tenders with a side of asparagus! If I add asparagus, then my meal is healthy. That’s just how it works.
We came back from lunch to find a wonderfully drained mash tun and a full kettle, rapidly approaching a rolling boil.
(Relatively) dry grain bed.
At this point, Rick and I open up the mash tun and start scraping out all of the drained mash into big garbage cans so I can hop in there and scrub it out.
It’s around 92 degrees when I get in there, and I’m kneeling on 174 degree steel plates. I lose about ten pounds of sweat every brew day. It’s a very glamorous job as you can see…
After the boil is complete, we whirlpool the wort so all of the hop residue and other junk piles into a cone in the center of the kettle so we can rack off all the good stuff.
Trub! That’s the real name for “hop residue and other junk”. After I drain this, I jump in and scrub it out. Luckily, this one is a nice cool 85 degrees and I’m not kneeling on top of a hot liquor tank, so I don’t have the overwhelming urge to pass out.
Brewing is an incredibly hot job. Seriously, overheating all the time. There’s steam everywhere, all the time! The beer is then run through the heat exchanger to cool it down and oxygenated on the way into the freshly cleaned fermentor. Yeast is pitched, the lid is closed for a few weeks, then suddenly…
It was a lovely 10 hour day and now I’m relaxing with a Stone Ruination IPA and a full mug of Extreme Moose Tracks ice cream. Decompressing commence.
Wolf Creek Unplugged: Transferring. It’s just about as exciting as it sounds, PLUS I get free delicious foods.
Breakfast soup! Every morning, I randomly walk by the kitchen door, hoping they’ve finished making the soup of the day. Around 10am this morning, the Mexican Chicken Soup was done. Yay breakfast!!!
Rick and I had to keg off all of the Surfin’ Monks in order to empty the serving tank so we could transfer Mountain Hawk Red over.
A little pump action… Many a tri-clamp is used. Many a hot water burn is inflicted.
The serving tank was cleaned with caustic, phosphoric, and then a final rinse of 185+ degree water…
Partway through, I was called to the bar to make sure that the Surfin’ Monks we’d just kegged wasn’t “off” in any way. It wasn’t, plus I got a full taster of beer. Bummer. It’s a tough job, but I’VE got to do it.
Since we need twenty minutes for each wash, the bar fridge gets restocked while we wait. That Silk French Vanilla Creamer is mine – for every morning that I need an extra boost, this lovely carton awaits me to greet my taste buds and jolt me back into the present time. Those mornings that I need an extra boost? EVERY MORNING. No exceptions.
More pump action as the acids are flushed. Gas masks (aka brew towels) on!
Lunch? Okey, I guess that’s okey! Tilapia tossed in almond lemon butter, fresh shallots and garlic, with garlic mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus on the side.
About half of what I’d just eaten, packed up and to-go. Every lunch I order holds me over through dinner! Two meals in one – awesome.
We finished transferring beer around 3pm. I headed out into the 90 degree day with raging winds, blasted the air conditioner and then collapsed onto the couch to finish editing pictures, crack open a beer and do a little Cicerone studying. Not the most exciting day in the world, but perfect in preparation for brew day tomorrey!
This week I’ll be recapping every single day as a “Week in the Life of an Assistant Brewer” to give anyone who’s interested a glimpse of what a regular work week looks like for me.
Please keep in mind that my position is as assistant brewer in a brewpub that is preparing to transition from a 10bbl system up to a 30bbl production brewery. My days vary considerably from what a typical assistant brewer’s day looks like.
This morning I rolled out of bed, threw coffee in my to-go mug and got to work around 9:30am (we like to slowly transition from weekend mode to work week mode) to start filling the boil kettle with water and heating it up for keg washing.
My lovely spaceship. I’ll be jumping in there soon enough to scrub off all the hard water scale and hop residue after our next brew day. In case you didn’t know, Valencia water is essentially made of rocks. It’s this hard:
I actually pulled these from the drain a few weeks ago. All that buildup created actual rocks from mineral deposits. Crazy!
While we waited for the water to heat, the other assistant brewer, Rick, and I popped the stem out of one of the kegs to make sure that nothing evil or disgusting was growing inside. I’m thrilled to report that it was absolutely spotless! We had an incredibly impossible time trying to crank the o-ring back in once we replaced the stem, though. The palm of my hand and my fingertips have the bruises to prove it.
I hopped into the kitchen to grab the list of specials – one of my favorite parts of the day! On a typical day, I pace between the brewery and the door to the kitchen, waiting for the “breakfast soup” to be done. Today I actually had time to consume foods for breakfast, so the pacing was kept to a minimum.
Speaking of pacing, I pace in these. As a proud member of the Pink Boots Society, I now wear these with pride. Originally I went out to get the tackiest boots I could find, but now I’m slightly in love with them.
Fire. It’s just what we do. We had to replace some tubing on our keg washer, and of course you can’t do that without a torch… No, I’m certain that this is the legit way.
Rick was stuck with the task of keg washing, as I had an appointment at noon to visit the new brewery location to take some “before” pictures for the new blog I’ll be beginning tonight, documenting the process of opening a production facility. We walked the area, talked about silo and flex auger locations, almost melted in the 95 degree heat, and I snapped away.
We wrapped up the day early around 2pm and I headed home with the air conditioner blasting, my new iPad (on loan from the brewery for social media purposes) buckled securely in the passenger seat. The rest of the day was spent consuming giant mugs full of Moose Tracks ice cream and editing photos for the brewery blog. The only question that remains:
Which wine do I open tonight?
(Wonderful side note: Both of these bottles were given as tips when I worked at Enegren this weekend. No complaints here!)