- Moved across the country from Albany, NY to amazing Oakland, CA.
- Traveled back across the country on a 5-week national tour as a stage assistant for Brett Dennen.
- Completed a draft of my entire doctoral dissertation. (I'll be a doctor by May!)
- Landed a job as a Production Assistant at The Rare Barrel, an all-sour brewery in Berkeley, CA.
I sincerely tried to get rid of a bunch of homebrewery stuff when we moved from New York to California, although you wouldn't know it now. I did sell all my grain, a few corny and one sanke keg, and my grain mill stand and hopper (this last was a toughie).
I also vowed to update the Wittbrew system, which was previously called the "5000." I'll call the new iteration the "Wittbrew 5500," for no other reason than it seems a logical procession. Here's a brief photo-essay on the current system, starting with what it looked like when I left Albany:
|Here's the new system, the Wittbrew 5500. It is still a direct-fired RIMS with a single pump. In addition to having some welding done for the reconfiguration, I also replaced all my brass qds with stainless camlocks, and replaced my really old silicone hoses too. I use the blue 55-gallon drums and a submersible pump to capture and reuse my chiller water (actually Star-San), eliminating any waste water from knockout. (We're in a severe drought in California.) They also come in handy for sanitizing things in the brewery.|
|The Hot-Liquor Tank (HLT), on the far right of the brew sculpture. No bells and whistles here. There is an old 1/8" sightglass port that I temporarily blocked with a stainless bolt and bulkhead.|
|The interior of the HLT.|
|The Mash Tun (MT), on the far left of the sculpture. It has a burner underneath and recirculates the mash using a pump, mounted below. I've been using this "direct fired" technique for years and have never scorched the mash.|
Friends in Albany knew my homebrewery variously as "Zephyr Brewing" (a name now claimed by an unrelated commercial brewery in Denver) and "Monarch Bear Brewery" -- a reference to a 1200 pound California grizzly bear (one of the last in the state) captured and put on display in Golden Gate Park by associates of William Randolph Hearst. The story of Monarch is in my mind a parallel to California itself, whose emblematic and essential wildness has been captured, annulled, and forgotten in tragic ways. With the move back to California I feel justified naming the homebrewery after the iconic Monarch Bear.