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28 June 2011

Finch's Brewery - Process Photos - Film

First off here's some 4x5's. My scanner doesn't do a great job with them since it's for film that's you know... not 4" by 5".

This was taken on my phone. In person they're like prints in and of themselves. You can drum scan them to hundreds of gigabytes if you pleased. Basically the amount of information in them is staggering.

This is the canner.

The cooking platform.

An accidental double exposure of the fermenters.

More of the cook platform.

The single exposure of the fermenters.

Now the B&W 120 film. The negatives measure 2 1/4" x 1 3/4" (56mm x 42mm) and the film is Kodak 400 TMY-2 if you were interested.

This is what you would see if you were delivering say a pallet of grain.

The grain silo.

All stainless fermenters.

The keg washer and filler.

The grain mill.

Cleaning the grain out of a batch that just got cooked. They had multiple dumpsters of spent grain. Seems like an opportunity for a productive reuse if someone would come haul it away (big if). The guy who makes our moonshine in NC has a flock of "wild" turkeys that eat all the mash. Supposedly they're delicious.

This machine places the tops on the cans.

Cooking station.

Glass House

This is a house that was designed and built by one of my professors, Thomas Roszak (wiki article).

A more complete set of photos will accompany these shortly.


Denmark, Germany, and Europe in general is betting on a more pedestrian centric city by making it harder more expensive to own cars. It's a little hard to imagine if you haven't been there but the US is going the opposite direction which I think over time will prove to be the wrong decision.

I'm not a big fan of articles about how college is or is not worth the cost and time. It clearly is with some caveats. This article from the NYT does a great job of breaking it down. To put things into perspective:
[C]ollege tuition in recent decades has delivered an inflation-adjusted annual return of more than 15 percent. For stocks, the historical return is 7 percent. For real estate, it’s less than 1 percent.
Someone finally puts solar panels into window assemblies. (Hat tip: Hass)

Food label 1 & 2 design seems to be getting a lot of press lately. Problem - if I walked around the street right now and asked people very basic but entirely relevant questions about food labels/general nutritional knowledge most people, as in 80-90%, would utterly fail. Until people can somehow understand that there are three major sources of nutrition (carbohydrates/sugars/saccharides, fat/lipids, protein/amino acids) what does it matter if you show how many grams of fiber are in something? Conversely, when I visited Google in Palo Alto they have a simple and effective system. Everything gets a color: red is unhealthy, yellow is in between, and green in healthy. In a society where people think that lower taxes decreases debt levels I think that's more the level we need to be shooting for.

27 June 2011

Finch Brewery - Process Photos

I went to a BBQ at Finch's Brewery a few weeks ago at 4565 N. Elston. Afterwards I asked one of the owners if I could photograph his brewery and oddly enough he said yes. And that's why small companies rule. This is the digital portion of the results.

The warehouse was really nicely done. I've been in a lot of factories so I have a fairly good idea of what a good fit and finish looks like industrially. These guys spent some money up front and ended up with a really nice place. They're busy too. The day I was there they had about six or seven employees working - it didn't hurt that they were all really nice and entertained my usual battery of questions.

This is their main room where all cooking and fermenting happens.

Keg washer. The kegs get rinsed with pressurized acid to eat away any build up, then iodine to sterilize them, and (if I remember all this right) are finally rinsed with water. This same station handles keg filling.

After being washed the kegs are stored in the fridge to get the ready to be filled.

Beer making is at least 50% sterilizing everything. Hence, there's sterilizer everywhere.

This is the grain grinder.

It has it's own dedicated room (Update: this is supposedly because grinding grain causes a fine dust to accumulate in the air that becomes an explosion hazard).

Their milled grain connects directly to a silo via a system very similar to those vacuum tubes used at banks. I'm not actually sure what mechanisms move the grain around. I'm assuming an auger attached to a motor.

The silo sits right next to what I'm going to call the cooking station.

Cooking station. Update: The vessel on the left is a boil kettle where the wort is boiled to the desired gravity. The one on the right is a combination mash/lauter tun where the grains steep in water to extract their starches (sugar).

This is a PLC (programmable logic controller) LCD screen. Everything is automated - it's incredible how similar this is to the concrete plants I work at - the output here is just more interesting.

No open flames at Finch's hence the steam boiler. Never seen one of those before...

This is a heat exchanger that removes heat from the freshly brewed wort (pre-beer) so that yeast can be pitched. This is a much bigger version of the tiny copper coil that Evan and I use to chill our massive 5 gallon batches. Finch's does a 1000 gallons at a time. If you don't cool it down the yeast will die and fermentation will never start - at least not with the bacteria that you want. I think they run city water through this then chilled glycol (more on that in a bit). I think I'd increase my surface area and lower my delta T (city water is pretty cheap) but they seem to have their system pretty well worked out.

The grain needs to get cleaned out of the mash/lauter tun. A tad bigger than our 3 gallon stock pot.

These are their 1000 gallon fermenters where their beer will sit for several weeks.

The yeast gives off CO2 as it converts sugar into alcohol, but air cannot be allowed back into the fermenter. Hence, an air lock. In this case a 5 gallon bucket filled with sanitizer. This one was really bubbling off.

These are 5 gallon kegs that I would normally help Evan fill with beer. In this case this is what they use to hold their yeast. 5 gallons of yeast to 1000 gallons of beer! They propagate all their own yeast.

That's a food grade hose. Everything is stainless, seamless, and sterilized.

This is part of their glycol system. The fermenters are jacketed. That is, double walled. Chilled glycol is circulated around them to keep them at whatever temperature is wanted.

Glycol supply and return lines

A solenoid and control precisely control the temperature.

This is the reservoir/make-up tank for the glycol. As you might be able to tell from the number of photos I was really impressed by this system.

Once fermenting is done the beer can be either bottled or put into kegs. This is the canning line.

If the beer is to be kegged it makes its way to the manifold (bottom). All the fermenting tanks connect to this. Very nice. Much easier to open a valve and let gravity and pumps do the work.


"When making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or a profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves. In the important decisions of personal life, we should be governed, I think, by the deep inner needs of our nature." - Sigmund Freud

Not a huge fan of Freud but that one reminds me of one of my favorite passages from Hagakure:

"Among the maxims on Lord Naoshige's wall there was this one: 'Matters of small concern should be treated seriously.' Among one's affairs there should not be more than two or three matters of what one could call great concern. If these are deliberated upon during ordinary times, they can be understood. thinking about things previously and then handling them lightly when the times comes is what this is all about. To face an event and solve it lightly is difficult if you are not resolved beforehand, and there will always be uncertainty in hitting your mark. However, if the foundation is laid previously, you can think of the saying, 'Matters of great concern should be treated lightly,' as your own basis for action." - Hagakure (27)

This is my friend Garret Santora playing at the Streetside Bar in Chicago.

This is a random unedited video of them playing that night: