Will my current Grist or Grain Mill work? A variety of malted grains can be processed with a grain mill. You can probably use your existing mill to crush the malted grains or purchase pre-gelatinized flakes of cereal adjuncts from your malt supplier to add to your mash to increase the alcohol content allowing the operator to have a higher yield in the distillation phase.
What’s different in the Mash/Lauter Tun process? Traditionally the hot liquor and grist are heated to 140F (60C), the wort is then drained and a second mash is typically done at 158F (70C). Many current single step infusion and mash-out procedures can emulate this. Wort clarity is not as important as it is in beer production but a short vorlauf (recirculating the wort though the grain bed) and careful run-off will make downstream steps easier.
Kettle and Wort Chiller processing? Flavors created by bacterial action on the wort during mashing and early fermentation are carried over during distillation, so management is required.
A short wort boil to pasteurize the wort will give control over this and yeast nutrients can be added at this stage. For spirits that require some bacterially derived flavors, the deliberate kettle sour-mashing techniques now followed by craft beer brewers can be utilized prior to boiling.
Wort aeration and knock out at 68F (20C) into the fermenter are done as with beer
Would I need different Fermentation Vessels? Your brewery’s modern, aseptic, temperature controlled, stainless steel, cylindro-conical fermenters are also the state of the art for the modern distilling industry. Yeast strain selection and fermentation temperatures have the same importance as they do in beer production, following the same principles.
CQ – What was the biggest mechanical hurdle you had to overcome when adding the distillery to your production line?
Brandon Wright: “We planned to incorporate distilling into our facility from the begining of construction. I think that was lucky since retro-fitting a facility for everything seems like a nightmare. The biggest consideration we had was the significant load we would put on systems during peak production. We have a lot going on here at any one time.”
Clark McCool: “We were able to convert an old Barn on the property into our Distillery. The Barn was used for Root vegetable storage when Edgefield was the Multnomah County Poor Farm operating in that capacity from the early 1900’s to mid 1950. The design of the Distillery production space was to create intimate distilling room with older beer grundy’s to hold spirits and several separate rooms of barrel storage.”
Eric Howard: “We had to figure out the distillery process and equipment needed, plus we were on a tight budget.”
Yusuf Cherney: “We had to build our own equipment.”
Yeast removal Pre-Distillation? Yeast removal is accomplished using the same techniques used for beer (crashing, fining, centrifuging). The beer doesn’t require aging before distillation so you will only need to tie-up a Bright Beer tank for a short time.
What’s the Distillation process? The basics and history of Liquor distillation are covered in the Distillation content in the library.
Staffing: Most artisans’ report brewers are able to quickly cross-train as distillers with a little help. The American Distilling Institute has useful resources such as conferences and training courses. Equipment manufacturers should also provide support and training on their specific equipment.
CQ – Did you add a professional distiller to your staff or were your brewers able to accomplish the additional production?
Brandon Wright: “I spent two years reading, going to distilling courses, and working on recipes. My decade of work as a professional brewer and a graduate of Siebel Master Brewer Program gave me a good foundation too.”
Clark McCool: “We did rely on a few distillery consultants early on to point us in the right direction, but our first head distiller was Lee Medhoff, a long time brewer for the company. He was extremely interested in distilling and had enough a passion to take on the title of head Distiller.”
Eric Howard: “I’m doing it all myself. Distilling was why I originally got into brewing. Since I couldn’t home distill, I got into home brewing.”
Yusuf Cherney: “We did it ourselves. We visited ADI conferences for tips/contacts.”
CQ – How did your production crew adjust to the addition, was there a difficult learning curve?
Brandon Wright: “Since we started out making spirits in addition to craft brews since day one, it’s all we’ve ever known. The feedback from our team has been positive with regard to juggling the complexity of our operation versus other breweries that they’ve worked at. We stay very busy and going back between the two disciplines keeps our days from being anything but mundane. But I’d be lying if I said that the complexity doesn’t add some headache to the job.”
Clark McCool: “Our first Distiller was a longtime brewer for our company so the production of whiskey wash wasn’t such a big thing to integrate, the most difficult thing was to decide what was our primary whiskey going be, the experimentation has never really stopped since.”
Eric Howard: “It’s just myself involved in the distilling. The production crew helps me with the mash and pumping it over into the holding tanks.”
Yusuf Cherney: “It was easy. We visited some I other distillers for help.”