January 27, 2011
Grand Teton Brewing Company has begun a major period of physical plant improvements.I’ll use this space for regular updates to report on our progress.
We’re nearing completion of some key components. Our new, state of the art keg cleaner/filler is fully operational and has already saved us time, lost beer, and warehouse space. Going forward, this upgrade (perhaps the only brand new piece of machinery we’ve ever purchased) will make us much more efficient and better able to deliver draft beer in a timely fashion.
Ron Paradis, Brewery Engineer, and Ed McGlynn, Operations Manager, now have insulated office space (we’ve converted Ron’s old shop.) “All” that remains to do is move desks and a workbench in to the new space, then organize the storage there.
Two new storage trailers are closed in with man-doors and a deck for access. The heaters should be installed this week, with the shelving and electrical to follow early next week. As soon as the shelving goes in, our Warehouse Manager Dave Perrica will begin the process of moving most, if not all, of our “hand-stackable” materials to the new trailers. This will include POS materials, merchandise, and supplies like labels and tape. That should free up significant space on our warehouse racks for palletized materials.
Right now our old bottling line is working well, which is very good news. The Packaging Team might have set a record Tuesday, January 25, bottling 1108 cases in a single (10 hour) shift–including changeover from beer to soda. The plan is to move the entire line out of the bottling hall on Friday, January 28. Ron has a team of electricians and other helpers lined up to make sure that goes smoothly.
Saturday, January 29 we’ll host the Persephone Pils Release Party in the pub. Retail and Merchandise Manager Jen Chiappa has organized an exciting night of Greek food and Beer Olympics events.
Ron’s A-Team arrives Monday. Bob August, former Sierra Nevada Packaging Manager and Krones guru will be here to rebuild the labeller. Dustin Hanna, master brewery stainless welder, is driving down from Portland with his fully-qualified “helper.” Finally, Ron’s bringing in his ringer, Ship’s Engineer Bert Knox, for three weeks as Ron’s right hand.
On Monday January 31 we’ll move three 90 barrel fermenterss and our 90 barrel brite tank out of the way so our concrete specialists can rip up the floor. They’ll be installing floor drains and sloping the floor under our newest tanks. In addition, we’ll be cutting into the floor new chases for stainless steel hard-piping from the brite tanks to the filler and keg machine. This will eliminate the “snake farm” of hoses we’re stumbling over now, reduce air pickup, and improve sanitation in the packaging hall.
While the concrete work is happening, Dustin will be installing upgrades to our mash/lauter tun which should make the brewhouse much more efficient, both in raw materials and in time. He’ll also do some pipe-work that should translate into lower air pickup and better quality on the “hot side.”
Concurrently, Ron and Bob August will be working in our new “Clean Room” (formerly the Warm Room) to disassemble and rebuild our Krones labeller. This is really a complete rebuild, as all wear parts will be replaced, the controls upgraded and new parts will be installed to allow automatic labelling of our 750 ml bottles. In addition, we’ve purchased the necessary parts and redesigned our neck labels so they’ll wrap correctly around our bottles. Not cheap for a purely “cosmetic” issue, but it should add to the professionalism of our bottle presentation.
As soon as the concrete work’s done we’ll land our “new” filler. This is a significant upgrade for us, both in quality and efficiency, as we’re replacing our old machine’s epoxy-coated brass bowl with stainless–much easier to clean and sanitize. We’ll also be able to run 750 ml bottles on the new filler, which will reduce air in the bottles and will be much more efficient than our old manual fill and cap process.
We’ve worked hard all month to develop a supply of packaged beer to sell through our turnaround. Our January sales have been so much stronger than expected that we have not been able to build up as large a supply as we’d hoped. Even so, my numbers still indicate that we’ll be able to meet projected demand for almost all products. Kegs should not be a problem, as the keg machine will remain functional throughout the month, and we will have plenty of beer in the tanks.
A warning: we were able to bottle only half of the Sweetgrass we had planned for this week. That does point toward potential shortages at the end of the month IF the bottling line project is delayed. The plan is to begin bottling again the third week of the month. If we can stick to that schedule, we won’t have supply problems. I’ll keep you posted.
Please feel free to call or email me if you have any questions or concerns.
Brewmaster and C.O.O.