At home, I have settled in to a brew-in-a-bag process with a ten gallon brew kettle on a commercial-grade induction hot plate. This allows me to brew in the basement and negates the need to haul buckets or carboys full of recently boiled wort downstairs from outside or the kitchen. This after doing mini-mash plus extract batches on the stove for a couple of years and brewing with others using the more traditional, three-vessel, coolers & kettle or keggles on a brew stand methods.
At the pub, there is a three-vessel, seven-barrel, American-made system and four fermenters glassed in behind the bar – the “brewquarium” you’ve seen before if you’ve been in more than a few brewpubs. I showed up at 6am just as the assistant brewer was arriving. The night before another employee had warmed up several barrels of water to 180 degrees in the brew kettle which meant we got a running start on the mash.
Both the brewer and his assistant enjoyed having an extra set of hands eager to do as much grunt work as they directed for the day. I started and finished the process of loading grain into the mill, in the middle of that process; I went in to the mash tun and paddled for a while. I monitored the sparge, raked out the mash tun, and participated in most of the steps of the brewing process. As usual, the biggest part of a day brewing is cleaning and sanitizing. The steps in making beer in the brewpub and an all-grain batch at home are similar, but there are some key differences.
Chief among the differences is scale. As you'd expect, all of the equipment is bigger; this makes the stakes higher in terms of slipping hazards, potential to be burned by hot metal and steam, and exposure to chemicals during cleaning. The big surprise for a guy used to brewing in one vessel: plumbing parts and gaskets and tri-clamps, oh my! I will not be surprised to hear one day of a brewer whose casket is sealed with gaskets and tri-clamps.
My day in the brew house confirmed my suspicion that years of brewing at home are not the only training a person needs before stepping into a commercial operation. Commercial brewing requires more mechanical inclination that brewing at home. I was chiefly occupied with the batch of beer, but during the course of the day, the head brewer also ordered ingredients for future brew days and tinkered with a glycol chiller that was acting up. The assistant brewer emptied a bright tank by transferring the last several gallons to kegs and prepped a jockey box for an outdoor serving station later in the day. We finished for the day at about 2pm. There is always plenty to learn when observing something you know in a different way and from a different perspective. The work was physical and hot, I am not sure I would want to do this a few days a week, every week; but I had a lot of fun learning about brewing on a much bigger scale than I am used to and with new people. It was an opportunity not everyone gets, thanks guys!