My New Brew House

Okay, it’s not a real brew house like this is a brew house.

It’s more of a brew sculpture.  But I like to call it my brew house.  Friends and I have been working on it for about 2 months now and I have used it to make two batches.  I haven’t published this post since I’ve been making modifications to the brew house ever since I first used it a month ago.  I like where it’s at right now and ready to share this post.

First, I want to thank a few people who helped put this together.

My wife, Shelley, is first on this list.  She has done quite a bit with this over the last few months.  Just a sampling include:  Putting up with this project in the garage for the first few weeks; letting me borrow her truck for parts and supply runs and kicking her out of her garage bay; running errands to Edge Construction to buy stuff I had forgotten; giving me pointers and tips concerning the O2 system for the brew house as well as helping with its cost.  Not only those things, but just being super encouraging during the planning of all this since November.  Without her help and support this would not have happened.  Plain and simple.

I also want to say thanks to two of my brother-in-laws and nephew, Travis, Hawk and Noah.  Travis and Noah have given up a few of their own days off to come over and help construct this as well as teach me how to run propane gas piping.  I can’t say enough about Noah and the paint job and machining he was able to do for the brew house.  Hawk has been helping on the water quality side of things concerning recipe creation.  I’ve learned a lot from both of them and their help has been invaluable.

Then there is all the businesses around the valley I’ve been annoying for the last few months with Do-It-Yourself questions and mistakes.  Everyone of them have been more than generous in helping me out and taking the time to answer my questions and give me advice on putting this thing together.

I’m going to start with Marcus and his crew at Home Brew Stuff.  I’ve asked him so many questions (sometimes twice over the course of weeks) and he’s been super patient with me and taken the time to walk me around the store and help put stuff together so this project will be a success.  Not only that, but the customer service at his place is beyond reproach.  I’ve had to exchange items (because I bought the wrong stuff) as well as returned items that had issues.  Every time they have been super nice and taken care of me with my questions and problems.

There is also Don and Corrie at Edge Construction Supply.  That’s the place I bought the Unistrut material for the framing of the brew house.  I’m not an engineer and only had some paper drawings made with a pencil and ruler, but Corrie helped me select the stuff I’d need and helped me out with questions about the material.  Then, because I’m not an engineer and didn’t know if I had enough supplies, I ended up buying more than I needed.  That’s where Don’s patience paid off.  I had to bring all that stuff back and return the parts I didn’t use.  If any one out there is reading this blog and want to know where to buy their material, Edge Construction is the place to go.

Those are the two big places I got lots of help from.  But I also had help from Suburban Propane (wish I could remember the guys name.  He was super nice and patient.); Brian at Norco here in Boise and Doug with Oxarc in Nampa.  House of Wheels (down near Anne Morrison Park) was another place I bought stuff, then returned stuff, then bought more stuff.  They were great to work with as well.  House of Wheels sent me to Gem State Metals down in Garden City where I bought the axle for the wheels.  The piping for the project was purchased with the help of the guys at Andy’s Supply.  Finally, I can’t leave out Ace Hardware and the Big Orange Box, Home Depot.

After all that, I didn’t even blow myself up.

In deciding to do this project, I did a lot of research into what type of stand and material to use.  I found this guy’s blog post on his brewstand.  I don’t know much about welding or anyone with that ability that I could get for free, so I decided to use Unistrut for my material like he did.  It made the stand heavier (with all the brackets and nuts and bolts) but it allowed me to build the stand without real detailed drawings.  If I screwed something up, it seemed that it would be more forgiving to making mistakes.  I can make my share of mistakes.  It went together in a weekend like a grown man’s Erector set.  I think that’s why Travis and I had so much fun that weekend.

I also didn’t want a complicated system that a RIMS (Recirculating Infusion Mash System) or HERMS (Heat Exchanged Recirculating Mash System) system entails.  In my research they seemed more complicated than a gravity type or direct infusion system.  Really, it comes down to personal preference.  I’ve seen some real nice RIMS and HERMS out there that have made me jealous and there is certainly no fault in going that direction.  I simply chose a 2-tier, partial gravity system.

I built this brew house to be expandable.  The stand is large enough to hold up to a 45 gallon kettle.  In the event I end up making larger patches I won’t have to build a new stand.  That’s why I have larger burners, a larger frame and a taller HLT tower.  The HLT had to be tall enough to sit over a 45 gallon pot on the mash-tun burner.

So, here are some pictures of the construction beginning on day 1.  That’s Travis grinding on the Unistrut to enlarge one of the pre-drilled holes that wouldn’t quite line up.

After getting the framing done, I turned the project over to my nephew, Noah.  He took it into his garage at his house and gave it a great paint job.  Two coats of Emerald Green and a nice clear coat.  I didn’t want black.  Everyone has a black brew house.  I wanted something with some color, but not bright.  Here is the painted stand back from Noah.  Travis is working on the gas piping.  You can see a metal shelf between the mash tun burner and the boil kettle burner.  I ended up with problems with the size of that plate and ended up making it smaller.  You can see this in the final photos at the bottom.

One of the three burners, specifically, the mash tun burner.

Here’s a photo of the gas manifold and pipe.  The brass connector on the far left is where the hose line to the tank screws on.  Each burner has its own regulator.  Some may ask why the manifold is where it’s at.  It doesn’t look all that convenient.  As you see later, it’s due to how the stand and kettles will be stored.  More on that below.  Down at the bottom left of the brew house is the axle brackets for the wheels.

A close up of the manifold.

I attached a 40 plate wort chiller to a side support and hooked up a homemade aerator to the output side of the chiller.  The brass hose bib attachments were also added to make it a bit easier to reach the connections with a hose.

I used the brew house as shown above for the first time about a month ago and it worked fine.  The biggest weakness to the whole thing was a lack of wind protection.  So prior to my next brew, I added wind protection to the outer frame.  This made a huge difference.  It added a little big of weight, but at the same time I was able to remove some parts since the wind walls also added structural support.

I also decided not to put any permanent feet on the upper, left side of the brew house.  When the brew house is stored, I’m just going to set it on wood blocks instead of attached feet.  I just didn’t like any of the ideas I came up with for the feet.  They all ended up being about shoulder height and I could see someone walking around that side and hitting them with their shoulder or head.  So I bagged the whole idea.

Here are the final photos of what the brew house looks like right now.  Besides the wind walls I also cut the metal plate between the mash tun and boil kettle down a little bit.  It overhung the boil kettle burner too far and started to warp from the heat.  You can see the marks from that experience below.  On the right side of the brew house I added some handles to make it easier to lift and move the brew house around.  It is heavy, but it is surprisingly easy to move around over a hard surface like the patio.

The last two items to install on the brew house are the pump and the wort chiller covers.  Both are made, I just need to install them.  My next brew isn’t till April 28, so I have some time.  Both of these additions are precautionary as I have not had any issues with spillage………….yet.  It will be nice to get them on.

When I store the brew house, the plan is to store it on its end.  The three kettles will be stored inside the frame work to reduce the amount of space I need to take up in the house.  All three kettles will fit inside the frame work.  The below photo shows one kettle.  The other numbers show where kettles will sit.

There you have it.  I hope to get a post up about my first two experiences with the brew house in the coming days.  I also created a nice fermenter wagon that I want to show off as well.  Now that I have some pretty cool equipment, I just need to make a tasty brew.

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