Hob Knob Brewing Company

Monday, November 26, 2012

Brewday - Follow along each step in the brew day with Hob Knob's Brewmasters!

It truly has been too long since a hob knob post!  With it being a long weekend for thanksgiving, the wife and I decided to document the entire brew day, and get some great shots along the way!  :)

Sit back, enjoy, and feel free to ask questions!

Bring the sparge water up to temp.  This is brewed in a 20g tank/pot with a 5500w element that is connected to a 240v line.  It is incredibly fast at bringing 20g of water up to temp in no time flat (typically <1 hour).  

Here you can see the self installed 5500w element and the whirlpool arm in the sparge tank, which also doubles as my boil kettle.  The upgrade to an electric element from gas is a must if you're using propane.  I use my home's electric breaker which is located in my garage to turn the element on and off.  Total cost for the upgrade was around $60 (if you have all the tools you need), which is easily offset by all the propane that is saved.  A 240 line is recommended, though not a must.  Visit this link for instructions on how to add an element to any brew kettle!

I don't have a pH reader, so I do the easy thing.  I add 5.2 to my sparge water.  I have excellent tasting well water, and the 5.2 get's the water to the ideal level for sparging.  For those of you on city water, there are additional additives you'll need to add to your water to remove nasties like chlorine and fluoride, or you can do the easy thing and just grab a few gallons of spring water or distilled water.

 The Brew Stand is up to temp.  Now to grind the grains and add them to the mash tun so we can get our all grain mash going.  Today, I'm doing a Mild Brown Ale.  We'll be adding the water at 158.2 degrees F, and hoping for a final mash in temperature of 148 degrees. 148 will produce a drier beer, as the sugars produced by the enzymes at this level will be more fermentable.

Hob Knob!  Represent!

Weighing the specialty grains.  This is 1# of C60 getting set to go into the barley crusher.

We used US 2 row & Marris Otter as our base grains.

In go about 16# of base grains!

The barley crusher comes preset at a good grind width to get your grist just right.  You're looking to keep the husks intact to create a natural filter for your grain bed in your mash tun.  Too fine, and you can get too much flour which adds undesireable tannins to your mash.  Too thick, and you'll kill your efficiency because not enough of your grains are getting cracked.  The default settings the barley crusher comes with worked well for me.  We're saw efficiencies of about 75-80% on this last batch.  Our original gravity going into our fermenters was 1.051...well above the 1.043 we were expecting!  This is an overhead shot of our barley crusher with the 7lb hopper.  It's powered by my air drill and compressor.  Good rittens to my old corona mill.  My arm would be numb by the time that thing would finish grinding grain!

Almost perfectly at 158.2...must be time to sparge!  I used the batch sparging for this mash, and finished up with a fly sparge at 168 degrees to get me to my 12.74g of preboil volume.  The grain bill was 12lbs of marris otter, 4lbs of 2 row, 1 lb c60, 1lb c120, 8oz pale choc., 4oz black patent malt.  The hops used were 2oz of East Kent Goldings.

 The mash is ready!  Time to pump in our water!

 Mash In!

Checking our mash temp.  148 on the dot!

 After a 75 minute mash, we begin vorlaufing.  Vorlaufing is the process of pulling off some of your wort, and gently pouring it back into your mash tun to create a natural grain bed filter.  You'll notice that the more you pull the slower and clearer your wort becomes.

Remember, the key is to gently pour the wort back over the top so you don't disturb the grain bed!

After 75 minutes, we begin draining the mash tun, and fly sparging the grains.  Batch sparging is essentially covering the grains with water, and soaking them for a period of time.  Fly sparging involves a continuous flow of water through the grains.

A march 809 pump powers the fly sparging water up to the top of the mash tun where it trickles over the grains.  Temperatures are about 170 degrees, as we're doing a mash out to stop the enzyme action.  It's important to not exceed 172 degrees with your fly sparging water, as this could lead to the release of tannins, which could result in unfavorable taste attributes in your final beer.

Ahhhhh.  Soon to be a beautifully colored mild brown ale! Can't wait!

With the 5500w heating element on a  50 amp line, it takes no time at all to reach a strong rolling boiling.

One thing you'll notice about the boil is a lack of any type of head.  The reason for this is the grain bill that was used is very low in proteins.  Proteins actually are the primary contributors of 'mouth feel' in a beer.  With the low ABV% expected from this particular brew, and the lack of any real head during the boil, I expect and easy drinking, light, session brew from this mild brown ale.  There was a single 2oz hop addition of East Kent Goldings at 60 minutes.

One of the good things about being on a well system is a virtually unlimited supply of cool water.  After the boil is complete, we hook up a plate chiller to the March 809, and recirculate for about 30 minutes.  The ample water flow and plate chiller bring down the temperature of our wort from 212 to 68 degrees extremely quickly.  

With our wort now at 68 degrees, it's time to transfer to the carboy and pitch our yeast.  I use a funnel that has a small filtration screen in it as well as the thin mesh filtration screen that goes over the funnel.  The hops still manage to clog both on a routine basis, so keeping a sanitized spoon handy to keep the wort flowing is essential.  I sanitize everything with star san.  Don't fear the foam.  It's ok to leave it on your vessles and utensils.  The foam actually breaks down to a yeast nutrient. :)

Overhead shot of adding the wort to my fermentation vessel (a 6.5g glass carboy).

Fermentation Underway!  Fermentation is the single most important step in the brewing process.  Happy yeast, make happy beer.  Depending on your strain, you typically don't want to exceed 68 degrees to keep the yeast in an environment they can thrive in.  You should also familiarize yourself with the different stages of fermentation.  Just because you're bubbler isn't bubbling away doesn't mean the fermentation is done.  The yeast need some added time to clean up after themselves and remove some off flavors.


 For those of you anal about the clarity of your beer (like me).  There are numerous ways to help clear it.  You can add whirlfloc tablets to your boil which helps remove chill haze.  You can add polyclar to a secondary.  You can add gelatin to your keg.  You can filter.  Here, I'm filtering in a 2 stage process.  I use co2 to pressurize the keg to prevent oxidization of the brew.  The filters are 5 micron and 1 micron.  You *can* use a 1 micron by itself, but it will take 20 years to filter your beer. I'm filtering my 90 minute IPA in this shot.

The Hob Knob keg, representin!

Prost!  The final product!  Man...that's makin me thirsty.  Enjoy :)

Hope this article helps everyone gain a better understanding of the all grain brew process.  Feel free to post comments or questions below, and I'm happy to help.  Until next time!



Monday, June 25, 2012

Contest - Help Hob Knob Find Our New Location!

We're looking for some help from the Knob Nation (like the name?  I just made it up!)!  We've been looking for the right building off and on for the last 18 months, and nothing, nada, zip, zilch, nichts!  Just when we're on the verge of signing on the dotted line last week here in downtown Statesville, we get shot down so Statesville could get it's 3rd BBQ place within a 3 mile radius.  BBQs, 3 - Breweries, 0.  

I've looked for the last few days, and nothing seems to be the right fit for us.  The goal is now to be up and running by the end of the year, and we're enlisting the support of the Knob Nation to help get us off the ground and find a building!  We're going to make it interesting.  The Knobber who finds our future location get's their first month of pints/growler pours ON THE HOUSE!  So, put on your thinking caps.  Here's what we're looking for (we're trying to get as close to this as we can but realize that no building is perfect):

Somewhere between exit 25 Huntersville, and exit 49 Statesville.  That includes the cities of North Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, Mooresville, Troutman, and Statesville.

At least 3000 sq ft.


We're looking for a building with some character.  Historic buildings, unique buildings, etc. 

Building Features
  • Move In Ready, Low Up-fitting Costs
  • Concrete Floors (Trench Drains Would Be A Huge Plus!)
  • Climate Controlled
  • Patio/Outdoor Entertainment Area 
  • Not Out In The Countryside, But Not Prime Commercial Real Estate
  • Cellar
Contact me via facebook if you find anything worthy! :)



Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Hob Knob's Future Location

Hey folks, looking for advice on Hob Knob's future location! We've almost settled on a system, and are about 90% sure we'll be going with a 3BBL system built around speed to double/triple batch. We just checked out another location that was PERFECT, but it's in Statesville...which if you know the area, the craft brew following is in question, though the city did just invest a few million to spruce up the downtown area, and it actually looks pretty nice. It's within walking distance of where I work (2 blocks), but the city is questionable, and don't really want to be away from home 6-7 days a week (which is in huntersville). Right now, it's just 4-5 days a week. Anyways...seriously considering it because it was dang near perfect with hardly any upfitting costs, and with a little tweaking, rent could be reasonable. As for the building itself, it's a little rundown in certain areas, but it has an incredible amount of storage space with the 2500sq ft that make up the main floor...It's got a cellar that would be perfect for the fermentation tanks and possibly barrel aging, and it's small enough that a window unit could keep it at a constant temperature. Building has pretty nice old-timey character. The only work that has to be done is partitioning a wall for a cold room and the bar, which could be done in less than 2 days I think. Please check out the attached pictures of the building. Location is questionable and risky. It's in the middle of a small downtown area, but the town has no real beer 'yuppie' factor that I know of. Since we'll be primarily production based, and I commute 30 minutes a day, delivery to accounts up and down my commute won't be any real issue. There's about 6 towns in between where I work and live, though our biggest market, Charlotte, NC, would be about 40 miles. I suppose we could always look at a distributor, though that would probably exceed the capacity of a 3bbl system. There are NO other brewerys/brewpubs within about 25 miles, which is a good factor, and only one other small brewery within about 40 miles. I think the brewery could host some pretty large parties...the tasting room had to be close to 1200sq ft by itself. The biggest question is, can the local market support it? Would that even be an issue with a production brewery and delivery radius of 50 miles? It allows us room to grow if we need it, and has 15' ceilings that could hold some serious tanks. A drawback is no garage door, so making sure everything would fit is priority #1. Here's a link to google maps, you can use street view (drag the little yellow man to the location marked by the blue pointer) to see what the surroundings look like. It's the building with the open flag. Click Here. Images of the site: Tasting Room 1:
Tasting Room 2:
Brewery Floor 1:
Brewery Floor 2:
Brewery Floor 3:
The other location we're considering is much less public than the Statesville location and off bailey road, $800/month, includes 1200sq ft, and is about 1 mile from my house. You can walk across the parking lot to Assclown Brewery, which is currently getting setup as well (not entirely sure that would be a good or bad?) It's in the heart of yuppieville central and 3 towns, but not in any real type of retail area (in a business park). There's not really any room for a tasting room though, and we could run into an issue with parking as well for any type of large groups. Upfitting wouldn't be any major cost, as they already have a separate room that could be used as a cold room by just adding the insulation. Here's the link to this location. Click Here Pics of the building are here: Cornelius Location The problem that we are seeing is that there are no real ideal spaces around the area we really want to be in which is the cornelius/davidson area. I don't want to go south of cornelius because of where I work and live, so it has to be between exit 25 & exit 49 on I-77. If you look at retail locations, they all want $14/sq ft or more, which just isn't in the budget. Everything else that has around 1500-2000 sq feet either has a crappy location or they want too much for the space. So what's a brewer to do?

Monday, May 14, 2012

One Hour - Five Kegs - Our First Festival

First and foremost, thanks to everyone who dropped by. The event was more successful than we ever imagined, and we averaged around an 8/10 on our beer rankings. Our most popular was Pedro's Lager!

With a week's notice, we got invited to the NC Brewer's & Music festival at Rural Hill by Charles Willett from our local home brew club. It meant we'd have a busy week preparing! Time to batten down the hatches! We had 2 kegs ready to go, but had 3 in secondaries that needed to be transferred and carbed. With a little help from Shawn McBride and a few tips on flash carbing the brews, the beer was ready to go by Friday! But we still needed some beeraphenalia! We had no sign, no t-shirts, no nothing! Enter alpha signs & graphics in Statesville. Andy over there had us squared away on Tuesday, and everything was ready to pickup by Friday. Andy and Phil did some great work on our banner, and we highly recommend them. Here's a shot!

So Saturday morning, we loaded up the ramblin ranger and headed for rural hill. It was our first time there, and I must say, rural hill is a beautiful venue to hand out beer and listen to some great bands! As soon as 12:45pm hit, we started passing out the brews. Before the clock struck 1:45pm, we were dry as a bone! All 5 kegs were gone. We got great reviews from all sorts of people - from hard core craft brewers to the person trying craft brews for the first time. To say our brews were popular would be an understatement. Just check out this line!

Overall, it was an extremely inspiring event, and I must say, we're more committed than ever to getting our brewery up and running as quickly as possible in the Cornelius/Davidson Area! Thanks again to everyone who dropped by, and especially Mathew Taylor for helping us get everything put away before the canopy collapsed lol! Until next time!



PS...Took the gopro camera to the event and took a time lapse video...one shot, every 60 seconds.  Please ignore the last shot!!! :?)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tee Shirts For Sale!

Hot off the presses!  Hob Knob Tee Shirts For Men (Sizes L, XL, XXL) and Women (Sizes S, M)
$20 +$3.99 shipping.

Email Jeffrey.Lever@Gmail.com to pick your's up today :)



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Brewing with A.D.D.!

Hob Knob Brewing Co., Cornelius, NC

I figured I'd write this to help myself as much to update everyone on Hob Knob.  Putting my thoughts down on paper has always helped me in organizing them, and made me consider things I possibly hadn't thought of when rambling through dozens of thoughts per minute.  Such is the mind of a person with ADD.  Some consider it a weakness, but I've come to look at it as a strength.  While it is true that focus is more difficult, the fact that your mind bounces around to 50 different things a minute presents opportunities and considerations that a more focused individual might overlook or not even think of.  Another difficulty associated with ADD is obviously your attention span.  Things that interest me typically only do so for a very short time period.  The question is can you stay focused on something long enough to become truly successful at it.

My brewing 'prowess' has slowly, but steadily increased over the last 2 years to the point that I can make pretty good beers.  That doesn't mean I know jack about running a brewery, and only slightly more about running a business.  Knowing your weaknesses is a key in any business.  Knowing mine mean I need more people.  I need someone who knows breweries and machinery.  I need someone who knows the intricacies of the brewing process, namely yeast, malts, water profiles, etc.  I need someone who can keep the business focused while not restricting creativity.  I need a 'by the books' individual who can run the day to day operations and manage accounting, the government, new accounts, etc. In the end, I need a group of talented individuals with their own unique set of strengths in the brewing world.  Starting a production brewery like this would be futile by myself.

Which brings me to one hell of a difficult decision.  Do we offer shares of ownership in exchange for people's expertise, or do we keep the brewery in the family and pay out the wazoo for other people's expertise?  I'm very averse to offering partnership to anyone outside the family because of the inherent problems one inevitably finds in any partnerships.  Even in the family, they are never easy because of differences of opinions.  Still, through partnerships, you can work out of better locations, brew better beer, make fewer mistakes in starting up.  I guess the real answer to that question is how much startup capital can you amass, and can you survive the learning process if you want to go it alone.  There's no doubt about it, a partnership would be much less of a risk, but would it be worth the problems?  At 31, I've already been involved in both, and neither are easy.  Perhaps the best choice is a little bit of both.  The dogfish head brewery is an excellent model.  While Sam Calagione is the owner, his employees are all part of a profit sharing plan - all the way down to the dock workers.  As of right now, that sounds like it's probably the best option along with bringing my dad in, in a family partnership.  He's got a lot of strengths that could overcome my individual weaknesses.

So that brings us to the next difficult decision.  Where should you put Hob Knob?  Craft beer lovers tend to be yuppies (like me!).  They appreciate quality over quantity, and price for the most part is only a small consideration.  We've considered Statesville, but that doesn't really have the market for a craft brewery, nor does downtown Mooresville, which was another consideration. As my friend Todd said, both areas tend to be lager Mecca's, or as I put it, more country and less yuppie.  That leaves a few prospects - around downtown Davidson, near the Birkdale area (yuppie central at Lake Norman!), or in the business park that's about a mile from my house and near my friend Matt's brewery - Assclown.  All have their strengths and weaknesses.

One of the obvious considerations for the building is how appropriate it would be for Hob Knob, and at what level do we start.  Naturally, we want to prove our beers first and come up with some solid recipes.  The real question is in what format do you want to do that.  You can get the ball rolling with the gov't, and a small hole in the wall place to begin creating a buzz about the brews that you make, but you'd have to move up to a larger facility and production capabilities when you're successful.  That would be time consuming to say the least!  The other option is to continue doing what I've been doing.  Remain an enthusiastic homebrewer.  Obviously, there's no costs involved which reduces your risk, and allows you to put more money away faster for a much larger scale brewery.  The real question is the size of the steps.  Do you go from homebrewer straight into a 7-15BBL system - maybe, with the right personnel, but it still sounds risky.  The alternative is to take progressive steps.  Start immediately, and go from homebrewer, to glorified home brewer (but with commerical & gov't licenses), and then take the next big step into a 15BBL system?  

The scary thing is things are coming to fruition.  What have been dreams up to this point have reached the point of crystallization. My entire family is 100% behind me.  By the end of this year, we'll have the access we need to capital to go bigger than we ever thought possible a year ago.  I've got an incredible knowledge base to pull from both from people that have walked this path before, and from my brew club, the Carolina Brewmasters.  I've got just about all the literature I can bear to read on starting a brewery and perfecting the brews. 

What will our next steps be?  Make sure to like us on facebook and keep up to date on all the happenings.  I'll also be brewing like crazy, and will have more than enough to go around.  I'll be looking for feedback, so let me know if anyone would like a growler!



Monday, March 19, 2012

System Up Up And Away-Grades!

The move to our new building for the family answering service business is finally complete! My new office has officially been dubbed the "boiler room" where nothing but big deals will get inked (Hey...a guy can dream can't he)!

The ideas of what Hob Knob will eventually be are still swirling in my brain like fresh wort in a whirlpool tank! Though the timeline has been pushed back with the new building acquisition and upgrades to the 'boiler room', the wife and I are still committed to bringing Hob Knob online sometime in the near future. Pops has always said the hardest thing was to set aside capital for a new business, and he was spot on (he sure would get a kick out of me saying that, no doubt with that corny 'I told you so' grin of his)!

Some day, the dream will become a reality. I've got a really cool business model for it that won't be like anything we've seen up to this point from other breweries.

The system has got some new upgrades! I now have an aging chamber, aka a new 12.4 cubic foot chest freezer with a temperature control module that ages the brews at 40 degrees. I've upgraded the HLT to include a rudimentary HERMS system controlled by the RANCO temperature controller. I have yet to try it out, but may give it a trial run this Sunday!

In the meantime, I've been brewing, brewing, and more brewing. The latest are an Oud Bruin (Old Brown Ale) modeled after one of my favorites - Adriaen Brouwer. If you don't know who Adriaen Brouwer is, he was definitely a man who lived life to the fullest (eventually having this great gold ale named after him)!

The one just before that was a variation on sweetwater 420 (dubbed Wellwater 840 lol). The 840 was colored for St. Patty's Day of course! Note the tint of green at the bottom of the tulip! :)

Happy Brewing Everyone! Until next time!