Are you great at multi-tasking? Can you handle hoses like a fireman then switch gears and follow a recipe like a cook? Do you have the skills of a mechanic and the mind of a scientist? Are you both artistic and consistent?
That is what I learned from shadowing Angel City Brewery brewer Layton Cutler during a normal brew day amongst the tanks of the brewery. The day started at 6 a.m. with the first brew of three for the day. Angel City brews around 10 batches a week. Some days they tackle just a single brew, but other days two or three batches are destined for fermenters.
This day we started with the Angel City Wit followed by two Double IPAs back-to-back to keep up with the demand for hoppy beers. Before that begins you have to do the glamorous job of turning on the boiler, then checking the hot liquor tank to make sure that the water will be at the proper temperature. Then check that the grain’s milling had been prepped the night before.
With only cleaning staff spread out, it is quiet and you can hear a low equipment hum before the grains and water are mixed together to create the wort that will end up as the Wit. It is hypnotizing to watch the spinning and the steam drifting upward. There is a wonderful smell of grain on the brew deck but once the first batch is going, it is time to start prepping and then cleaning. There is much to do.
The rest of the crew – Tyler, Simon, and Cooper – roll in and with them the music starts up. The Baltic Porter needs to be filtered, the Berliner Weisse needs to be kegged. There is dry hopping to do and fermenters to clean. Cutler seems to have an internal clock that allows him to work in one area, answer questions, and then head back to the brew deck just in time to adjust this or that. There are so many things to keep track of, from the valves and hoses that are everywhere, to coaxing the ancient freight elevator to work.
Soon the Wit is ready for the coriander and orange and I am tossing hops into the tank. Then it is time to clear the spent grain out of the tank next to that so that it will be ready for upcoming brews. Container after container of used grain is filled and then carted away as the beer is going from mash to whirlpool to fermenter, making incremental steps towards its final stop in your glass.
My day is done, but there are more tasks to be completed. Harvesting yeast, Tetris stacking kegs into the cold-box, taking readings of the beer in process. You can call Layton Cutler a brewer, but like all brewers, they have a job description that includes so much.
Last week’s BEER OF THE WEEK numbered three, and this week I am upping the ante with Four! Cellador Ales has released Saison de Chuchotements [shoo-shoo-mah] which translates to “Saison of Whispers” in French. A base saison has three variants with light touches of fruits not normally seen in beers. You can get cherimoya, melon or pear. That would be a flight of fancy, or fancy flight of Saisons.
Your HOMEWORK is to catch the Simmzy’s tour. The whole team of Greg Bechtel (LA’s only Advanced Cicerone), Head Brewer Brian Herbertson, and Founder Mike Simms will be making stops at all the Simmzy’s locations and will feature a special tapping of a first time limited release. The last half of the Simmzy’s stops will be at Manhattan Beach on August 29, followed by Long Beach on August 30, finishing in El Segundo on September 2.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.