Final touches/First Brew Soon

I had a bad day last week. Our heat exchanger (HX, from here on out) in the brewhouse, I discovered (rather late in the game), is single stage, not two stage. This means that the hot wort (unfermented beer) coming out of the kettle is being cooled by only the ambient temperature water coming in from the city line and not with water AND glycol (coolant). I guess I just presumed that it was two stage because why would anyone ever just have a one stage? I’m not going to go into why it’s bad to only use water, but trust me, it leads to many serious problems.

So I panicked and called the HX manufacturer and ordered retrofit parts to make the thing two-stage. 2 weeks and $2K later I came to find out that the parts totally changed the configuration of the HX, a configuration that the brewhouse is specifically engineered to work with, so I shouldn’t use them. That discovery was the beginning of my bad day. I wasn’t thinking too clearly after that and started pulling the HX apart anyway. Bad move; those things never go back together quite the same way. I was sweating bullets pulling apart and putting back together that thing while totally cramped up underneath the brewhouse deck between the mash tun and kettle. This exhaustion directly led to me getting sick that night.

Long story short, I got the HX back together and in working order. We have found an alternate solution with a supplemental chiller which chills the water before it goes in to the HX. Not as effective as a two stage with separate water and glycol but it will do the trick. I did have to get one pipe cut though because, of course, it was now magically too long to connect the HX to the tank which receives the now hot water (it took the heat from the wort).

That pipe led to this story (if you’re my friend on Facebook, you may have already read this…):

I was walking to the bus at 5:45am today. When I was nearing the bottom of my hill there was a car awkwardly parked at the intersection, kind of strattling the corner. I could tell there was someone in the driver’s seat. It looked like he had some type of badge around his neck. Sure enough, he got out of the car as I approached and as he stood red and blue lights began to flash where his windshield met the roof of his car. He closed the door and walked towards me. “Excuse me, I got a report of a man walking around this neighborhood with a pipe in his hand,” he said.
I looked down at the two foot long stainless steel pipe in my hand.
“I knew this didn’t look good,” I said as I pulled down the hood of my black hoodie. “I can explain. I’m a brewer. I’m bringing this pipe to my brewery.”
He stared me straight in the eye making sure to keep a safe distance just in case this armed man in bright orange cut off shorts took a swing.
“See, I take the bus to work. That’s where I’m headed right now. The bus.”
All I could think was that I was going to miss that bus.
“You live around here?”
“Yes, Chaucer Court.” I pointed back up the hill.
“Alright then, you’re free to go.”
That was it. He didn’t ask me for my ID or nothing. Only in Marin county does a hooded man with a pipe in his hand get let go with no hassle.
Moral of the story: Not all people walking around the streets with pipes in their hands are bad. But don’t hesitate to call the cops. You’re not going to hurt their feelings. Mine weren’t.

So, yeah, I’ve bounced back and I’m ready to brew in a couple of days.