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The Journey from Noob to Pro - First Post

Posted by Half Day on 7/14/2015 at 03:22:51 PM

OK, so I jumped into the home brewing game just like everyone else, a total Noob.  My differentiator; I plan on going pro in 5 years.  Yup, that is a very daunting thing to say considering I have less than 20 batches under my belt and absolutely no background in anything related to brewing.  It’s a pretty daunting thing to broadcast across a community of home brewers also... You are going pro in 5 years?  Are you crazy?  Do you know what that takes and what the real world of brewing entails?  I kind of feel like someone just unexpectedly shoved me onto a stage at a talent show and I have nothing prepared whatsoever... maybe I can find a few things to juggle?  It is going to be a very challenging journey to say the least but one I am prepared for.  My buddy (we will refer to him as jlaw from here on out) and I registered an official LLC at the beginning of the year and ponied up $3K each to invest in brewing equipment.  I have about 5 all grain batches under my belt at this point and jlaw has 0.  So what you have here is two brewing noobs, a business plan, a $6K system budget and 5 years to make it work.  $6K sounds like a lot of money in terms of a spending spree on a home brew system but if you think of it like a business startup cost, it isn’t that much (That is what we told the wives anyway).  It is crazy to think about establishing an LLC, opening up bank accounts, and drafting up business plan documents before one batch of beer was brewed, but that is what we did because we are approaching this like a business, not a hobby….So Half Day Brewing was born.  By establishing an LLC we can also take advantage of some tax breaks as we are spending all this money (that is what we told the wives anyway).

Now that Half Day Brewing is established and funded for the first few months, we got to ordering everything.  We decided to go with the as our primary resource.  We ordered a 30A control panel, 50 foot HERMS coil, the heating elements, and anything else the Electric Brewery sells pre-assembled.  We also purchased everything we could through the links on his site to help support The Electric Brewery.  Kal, much like other home brew sites/blogs, have a TON of info out there for the taking and I am a firm believer in supporting them anyway you can.  Ordering the panel was easy but it took about 16 weeks to be delivered.  Understandable as it is, we were itching to get started and didn’t even have our kettles yet anyway.  Between the time we ordered the control panel and the time it was delivered we received the brew kettles and everything needed to convert them so we started drilling big ass holes in our brand new Blichmann G2 20 gallon kettles.  Regardless of how confident you are, it is still nerve racking putting a big hole in a $500+ kettle.

So the conversions all went well.  It took us a few rounds of leak testing and additional tightening but we got there.  The next thing we needed to do was build a brew table (that is what I told jlaw anyway).  I already had somewhat of a two tiered frame made out of T-Slots like the ones found here from my former brewing escapades.  T-Slots are very easy to work with and you can configure them however you want so we disassembled the two tier structure and started re-designing a brew table….yes, I seriously said re-designing a brew table.  I know there isn’t much design behind a flat surface but we are working with parts from a different configuration and see what would work best.  We ended up having to purchase a few more t-slots rods and lot more connection pieces.  It ended up costing us about another $150 for everything and a few nights of frustrating labor (frustrating like two sets of big banana hands trying to screw in tiny little bolts in tight spaces).  We could have totally found a functioning table on Craigslist for less than half of that $150 (that is what jlaw told me anyway) but I felt pot committed to the T-Slots for whatever reason.

The control panel arrived in April of this year and man is that thing a beast.  All functionality aside, the control panel is made with some serious love.  Even the packaging and foam it arrived in is custom made to protect everything.  When you open up the panel you can see how precise something as simple as wiring can be.  It also comes with a serial number which I think is real cool, mine is 0273 so I am assuming there are 272 other lucky brewers out there that felt the same excitement as me.  Kal is also very responsive with any questions, his customer service is only second to his product... err... wait.... did I say that right?  You get the point.  If you have the cash and desire, I highly endorse The Electric Brewery.

Here we are now in July and 8 batches in.  That may not sound like a lot of brews for a couple of guys trying to dive into something that takes a TON of trial and error but we are averaging around 2 brews a month which is our minimum.  Some of the lessons learned to date are so basic and stupid that they are embarrassing to admit considering the money we have spent already but you know... brew and learn.  For example, I kept reading about cold crashing and without really knowing what it was tried to cold crash our first batch of beer immediately after bottling it.  Yea, that kind of stupid.  I am happy to report that we have learned something new from every batch and they continue to get better.  Out of the 8 batches brewed, 2 have been good but not great and definitely not consistent.  Regardless, nothing is more encouraging than enjoying one of your own home brews.

So that’s it for my introduction post.  I plan on writing a post whenever the mood strikes me and for every batch we brew as I am sure there will be at least one lesson in there somewhere that we can share.  Thanks for reading and I welcome all comments, critiques, and questions.

Here is the control panel getting the mash temp up to 150... the last few degrees seem to always take the longest, but we can typically get up to temp within 45 mins.

Here is the inside of the panel, I have other pictures but you know... it is just wires and stuff but you can see the detail behind the wiring.

This is on the inside of the panel also, serial number 0273... awesome!

I had a 15 gallon Blichmann before we decided to go bigger on the brew system.  I wasn't sure where it would be best utilized since the other two kettles are 20 gallons and we are anticipating 10 gallon batches.  We chose to use it for the HLT since it we can put the mash water in the Mash Tun and run it through the HERMS to get it up to temp leaving us with up to 15 gallons of sparge water.

Interesting shot, right?  This is the Boil Kettle in all of its glory.

Here is the Half Day Brew system up and running, just a few short hours short of some serious Noob mistakes!

Everything is in the garage so we like to cover her up when she isn't in use.

Just me showing some r/Homebrewing love and support

Tags for this post: half, day, homebrewer, pro brewer, electric, blichmann

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Awesome, can't wait to follow your journey!

posted by MrDustpan on 7/16/2015 at 08:13:30 AM

Good for you man! Have and plan and work to make it reality. That's working hard and smart. Can't wait to see what you come up with.

If I may suggest your next blog topic, maybe you can talk a bit about how you are deciding what to brew and whether or not you have decided on some beers or beer styles that you want to have in your brand lineup and what they might be. I'd love to hear how you plan to make up your beer lineup as well, will you have year rounds, seasonals, one offs, etc?

posted by testingapril on 7/16/2015 at 08:23:42 AM

> tried to cold crash our first batch of beer immediately after bottling it

That's a new one! Welcome! I'm excited read what you've got coming.

posted by CentralCalBrewer on 7/16/2015 at 09:06:24 AM

Thank you MrDustpan!

testingapril - Thank you for the suggestion. I can definitely do that, I have a few other topics burning a hole on my keyboard but will definitely add the brew line up to the list. I will always be writing about what we are brewing :)

CentralCalBrewer - yep...and thanks!

posted by Half Day on 7/16/2015 at 09:18:12 AM

I agree. I'm interested to read about your possibly lineup of beers. I know that it's pretty far out, but it's pretty central to the subject.

posted by homebrewdad on 7/16/2015 at 09:20:52 AM

Are you the half day brewing company in Lincolnshire, Illinois? Just asking as they seem to be open and having beer available already.

posted by peterschroder on 7/16/2015 at 02:25:59 PM

Hi peterschroder - No, we are not affiliated with them but thanks for bringing that to our attention. We registered "Half Day" and they registered "Half Day Brewing". Not sure it is so much of an issue now but definitely something to be aware of.

posted by Half Day on 7/17/2015 at 08:44:58 AM