Friday, August 6, 2010

That new Iron Hill tank

Call it a birthday present to the brewery and another canvas for the artistes who work there.

Even before Iron Hill was throwing that one-year anniversary party last month in Maple Shade, the folks there were doing something for the next year and beyond, as well as giving the two guys who create the beer – head brewer Chris LaPierre and assistant brewer Jeff Ramirez – more leeway to practice their craft.

A 30-barrel fermenter was installed on the penultimate day of June, muscling up the brewpub's capacity by about 25 percent. (Iron Hill opened with six single fermenters and a double; the new addition gives them two doubles.)

More tank space, yes, but Chris sizes things up a little differently.

"I don't really look at it as a boost in capacity though. It would certainly boost our capacity if our goal were to crank out as much beer as possible," Chris said via email today. "It's more about making it a little easier on Jeff and I to keep up, and more so about making it possible to brew more specialty lagers and slow-fermenting beers."

Like a brace of brews fresh to Iron Hill's Maple Shade digs: The Cannibal (Belgian golden ale) and Saison (Blegian farmhouse), both national gold medal winners for Iron Hill that need two months' fermenter time. "That's why we haven't brewed The Cannibal or Saison in this location until now," Chris says. "The new tank is what made those beers possible."

In the run-up to the 2010 Great American Beer Festival (Sept. 16-18 in Denver), The Cannibal and Saisaon will get tapped next Wednesday along with two other brews, Caprice (American Belgian ale) and Hopfenweizen (Bavarian wheat), all of which figure into Iron Hill's GABF entries for this year.

Contests aside, you might think it's the sign of a red-hot business to be expanding before the first anniversary. But, again, there's a business logic at play here.

"We usually undersize our breweries by a bit when we first open, figuring it's easier and more financially sound to buy and install a new tank if things are busy, than to sell and remove one if its not," Chris points out. "Also its much better for morale to install a new one than take one out!"

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