Thursday, January 25, 2007

Root Beer, Orange Cream Soda, Grain In, Parts

We go through a lot of root beer here at Gottberg. Not only do we sell pints and growlers galore over the bar, but several wholesalers in Nebraska and one in Iowa take kegs out of here by the pallet. So today's big task was to make 28 barrels (868 gallons) of root beer. We also sell a Red Cream Soda that's not nearly as popular as the root beer, but it does have a loyal following. We alternate batches of Red and Orange Cream Soda, and since the Red tank was nearly empty, I kegged it off and made 7 barrels (217 gallons) of the Orange.

Soda is really easy to make. (Actually, it's pretty boring compared to brewing beer, but it pays the bills.) So much hot water, so much flavor extract, a dash of citric acid for bite and a dash of sodium benzoate to help keep it fresh. And then there's the sugar. The sugar comes in 100-pound sacks that I carry up the six-stair platform to the kettle and dump them in. Two hundred and fifty pounds of sugar per seven barrels. That's 2.3 ounces of sugar per pint. That's 260 calories per glass, nearly twice what's in the beer. But like I said, it pays the bills.

Once it's all mixed up and the sugar has dissolved, I run the soda through the heat exchanger to the dedicated soda tanks in the cellar and force-carbonate it. After a day or two, it's fizzy enough to keg or to serve right out of the tank. Seven barrels of root beer lasts us about a week; the same amount of cream soda lasts a couple of months.

A shipment of yeast arrived today, so tomorrow I'm planning to brew seven barrels of our All-American Gold, our second-best-selling beer. Since I've got time to kill while the heat exchanger cleaning cycle runs, I can get the grain ready for the brew. Three hundred fifty pounds (seven 50-pound sacks) of malt get carried up the five-stair platform and dumped into the grist case. There it sits until tomorrow morning. I also got tomorrow's fermenter and hoses cleaned and sanitized to save a bit of time.

Getting the grain ready. Photo by Bill Blake.

Also newly-arrived on my desk are a boxful of parts to rebuild all of my keg couplers, which are in desperate need of cleaning and maintenance, and a seal kit for my beer filter, which has been leaking beer and DE and generally making a mess. Those two projects will happen early next week.

Had a couple of beers at the bar, then it was time to go home.

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