Archive for August 2011

Lack of Keg-Sight


We’ve been spending a lot of time lately scrubbing some used kegs we bought.

The kegs came to us very dirty, so dirty that the nice automated keg washer can’t get them clean even with repeated cycles of hot caustic and acid. We’ve tried everything from soaking to pressure washing, but the only thing that seems to work is good old fashioned elbow grease. It wouldn’t be so bad if there were only a few to do, but we need to clean more than 500 of them.

After the first couple days of scrubbing, I had to admit that I had made a big mistake purchasing these kegs, but not for the reason most people would think. The kegs are solidly built. They have new valves and the price was very reasonable, even when accounting for the large amount of labor spent on cleaning. So why am I kicking myself? Because I did not identify the source of the labor correctly.

I thought I could hire someone at minimum wage to scrub kegs. We tried that, but the results were not acceptable. Our kegs need to be flawless inside before we can put beer in them. That means inspecting each keg with a critical eye. Even a faint hint of any remaining residue stuck to the keg is unacceptable. Scratches bad welds, and similar imperfections are also forbidden. It takes someone that is deeply invested in our beer to hunt out these flaws — and even then it requires the ability to detect these tiny flaws. That limits the labor pool to two of us: Chris Kennedy (our head brewer) and myself. We are the only ones who we trust to verify that a keg has been cleaned properly.

Therefore, the problem is that this keg scrubbing is taking Chris and I away from other tasks important to growing the business. When Chris and I are scrubbing and inspecting kegs for days on end, we lose out on the opportunity to work on other tasks. We’re still getting beer brewed and packaged. We’re still getting beer out to the retailers and distributors, but this whole keg thing is slowing us down.

That was my big mistake. I assumed that almost anyone could clean kegs. When I ran the numbers on buying new versus used, I did include a lot of time for cleaning. Continue reading ‘Lack of Keg-Sight’ »

Harder Than It Looks


It all seems so simple on paper. You brew the beer, stick it in some packaging, then sell it to the thirsty hordes. How hard could it be? It isn’t rocket science, right?

Well, each individual aspect of running a production brewery isn’t very hard. For example, ordering supplies for brewing, not so bad. You need to make some predictions, you need to research quality and price, you need to have your timing down so that the materials are there when needed, but not so early things go stale or take up too much room in the brewery. And the brew day itself isn’t too tough. It is really just a matter of getting the right amount of grain crushed, transferred to the mash tun, starch converted and sugar extracted, boiling, chilling, pitching yeast. Continue reading ‘Harder Than It Looks’ »