picture-017.jpgLarry Chase is the Worthouse/Brewery Manager for , a new local Brewpub located in Creve Coeur. Larry was kind enough to answer some of my questions about how they brew their beer, how the ferment it and what some of his favorite styles are. (You can read my initial thoughts of GCFB here.)

STL Hops: How many styles does GC produce in a year?
Larry Chase: GC serves 4 regular house beers: Northern Light Lager (pale lager), Brother Benedict’s Bock (bock), Duke of Wellington IPA (IPA), and Broad Axe Stout (dry Irish stout). We also brew 6 seasonal beers. The current line-up includes Burning Barn Irish Red Ale, Ostara’s Spring Ale, Wag’s Wheat (Hefeweizen), Belgian White Ale, Oktoberfest, and McK’s Scottish Ale. All locations have one 350 gal batch of the seasonal to serve.

STL Hops: How much room for experimentation do the brewers have?
LC: Our head brewers experiment with recipe improvement through process controls and lab testing. Certain seasonal beers are sometimes tweaked on a year to year basis to improve flavor. Experimentation for developing new beers is limited given that the current seasonal rotation is set in place.

STL Hops: Can you quickly explain how the Fermentus Interruptus process works?
LC: Granite City’s business model for beer production is designed for flavor consistency and attractive financial leverage across a multi-unit restaurant concept. We are a restaurant with a microbrewery. A centralized brewery for wort production gives us the opportunity to consistently control the flavor inputs of the brewing cycle. We also remove from the restaurants both the capital cost of brewing equipment and the square footage cost of a manufacturing facility.

We then ship the wort in a customized tank truck to each location. After off-loading into fermenters we pitch yeast and finish the production cycle through fermentation, maturation, and filtering.

Shipping wort instead of finished beer allows us to avoid the complex legal hurdles of shipping alcohol across state lines.

STL Hops: How does the wort arrive at the stores?
LC: The wort is shipped in a straight tanker truck. Our trucks have a series of 4 or 6 individual pods (all insulated) at 400 gal each. This set-up lets us ship multiple styles of beer to multiple locations in one trip. We use hoses and a pump at each restaurant to transfer the beer from the truck into the fermenters.

STL Hops: How do you avoid problems like contamination?
LC: We follow standard cleaning, sanitizing, and testing procedures like all breweries. We simply pay attention to the extra step of wort shipping. The wort is chilled to 40oF and stored in a 37oF cooler prior to shipment. Like all breweries we have the constant challenge of maintaining clean and sanitary conditions.

We have a lab at the central worthouse for on-going sample testing.

Every brewery manager is trained and follows a set of SOP’s for the brewery operations at each restaurant. Our brewery field manager, trained in brewing science, oversees the work of all brewery managers.

STL Hops: How do you deal with things like aging with the limited capacity at each store?
LC: We serve 2 ales and 2 lagers as part of our regular beer line-up. We have enough tank space (5 fermenters, 8 cellar vessels) to ensure our required maturation time for each of the beers. Through our volume and usage reporting system we are able to schedule deliveries to ensure each location has wort on a just-in-time basis.

Running out tends to be only an issue when we experience mechanical failures with equipment at the restaurants. That’s no different from any other brewpub.

We only serve one batch of each seasonal. This increases the demand and the urgency for customers to come try the beer before it is gone.

STL Hops: What’s your favorite style of beer right now?
LC: I lean towards hop flavored and bitter beers. The bigger winter seasonal beers are always fun to drink during this colder time of year.

Thank you again Larry for providing STL Hops readers with a little more information on how your process works.