This is Travis Fritts.
I want to share a little information about what we’re doing in the brewery with everybody.
Before I do that, I’d like to say thanks to everyone for the great reception we’ve had to our beers lately. We haven’t had this much fun brewing in a long time, and we’re thankful for that, too. We hope to keep making beer that our friends love for a long time.
We opened a year and a half ago, and Head Brewer Nate Rykse and I had the same goal: to make solid beer all the time. Not necessarily flashy or trendy, just good. We started with a bunch of old school styles: dry English stout, Scottish export, pale ale, altbier. All of them were solid, but none of them got anybody’s attention. I was confused about it for a few months. I hadn’t been paying enough attention to the beer market, and I missed the boat completely. I didn’t explain what we were doing or why, because I didn’t realize how much people cared. In September of last year, I got in touch with a group of craft beer fans in Southeast MI called the DACBE, and found out what it was that the new breed of “beer geek” was looking for, and we developed the M43 as our first effort to connect with them.
With the recent popularity of our M43 and Boxer IPA, I want to make sure I let our friends know what’s going on. So, Here goes!
New Brand development:
At Old Nation, we’re lucky to have two breweries in one building. One is a 7 barrel pilot system with two insulated and cooled 7 barrel tanks (a barrel is how Brewers measure volume. One barrel equals 31 gallons, or roughly 10 cases worth of 16 oz cans).
The pilot system only has two vessels in the brew house and is pretty primitive, but we love it for developing ale recipes. It’s where the M43 and the Boxer got started.
The second brew house is in the back of the building, behind all the big tanks it fills. It’s a 4 vessel 40 barrel system and it was made to handle any style. Lagers, wheat beers, rye beers, big ales, anything. It gives us a lot more control over the brewing process from the time the grain falls into the first vessel (the mash tun) until the resulting wort (the liquid which will become beer) is sent to the fermenters for the yeast to go to work.
The demand for the M43 has allowed us to use both brewhouses to develop new styles relatively quickly, improving them at every step. It may feel slow when folks want as much beer as they can get, but we’re sure it’s the best, fastest and most stable way to develop new recipes at Old Nation.
It works like this: First, the three Brewers at Old Nation agree on what beer to make and develop a recipe. Then we take that recipe to the pilot system, where Matt Gwynn brews the first batch. It’s always solid, but sometimes needs recipe or process tweaks we didn’t think about in the initial development discussion. We’ll tweak whatever needs to be tweaked and brew another small batch. That’s our ” 2nd development” batch and is usually really close to what we want. Then we’ll do a third batch on the pilot system to make sure we have the recipe down.
Then, we do the same thing in the 40 barrel brewery. First batch should be really close, second batch should be there, with only efficiency issues and questions raised. The third batch on the 40bbl system – and 6th of the entire process – is the finished beer. At that point, the recipe’s done, the process is solid and all SOPs are in place. Then we can scale up to the bigger fermenters we have in house and start brewing as much as 3 guys in a brewery can brew.
The sixth overall batch of M43 is now in the fermenter, and the Boxer is on batch #4. We’re really excited to show off the new batch of Boxer this Sunday, and just as excited for our “Final Target” batch of M43 to hit the streets in two weeks.
As soon as that happens we’ll start brewing for volume. We anticipate Mid March as the time when we’ll be able to provide the quality of NEIPA we’ve developed over the last few months every time to as many folks as want it. We’re really excited, and we are so thankful that so many beer fans have come out in support of the ales we’re making now.
Form California to Oklahoma, from Chicago to Vermont to Berlin to France and back home again, the response has been overwhelming. It would be easy to rush the development process to fill demand, but we’d run the risk of putting out bad beer. Even if no one else could tell that the beer wasn’t stable, or fermented perfectly, or that the timing of hop strikes was right on target, we could. Nate and I have been professional brewers for a combined 30 years. We can handle making good beer that people don’t like, aren’t interested in or don’t understand, but we won’t stand for making unnecessary mistakes because we chose a “short nickel over a long dime”.
This is all a long way of saying thanks, and letting you know that we’ll be fully producing as much IPA as the brewery and the people in it can knock out by Mid March.
Thanks for sticking with us so far. We couldn’t be more excited about the brands we have, the brands we’re developing for the coming year and the new friends we’ll meet as we go. Don’t hesitate to make suggestions about styles you’d like to see us tackle and feel free to ask any questions about new styles as we develop and release them. Sharing our old knowledge about beer is fun for us, and hearing new knowledge from you is what keeps us going.