Sunday, June 24, 2012

Real Ale Brewing Company

Every Friday Real Ale Brewing Company in Blanco, Texas opens their tasting room for free beer from 2:00-5:00, and gives a free half hour tour of the brewery.
Jim, our tour guide, says he started out with a home brewing kit, advanced to apprenticing in small breweries, and is now one of the two master brewers for the Real Ale Brewing Company.  He says brewing is an art and a science. Listening to Jim speak, it was obvious that for him it is also a passion.  The tanks behind him hold the barley and hops.
This is a view from the ground level floor to a storage area above. The steel beam and cement flooring overhead is built to hold a semi-truck full of goods. The hopper is what removes the hulls from the grains.  Those grains are then fed into a couple of tanks to make the mash.  Once the liquid part of the mash is completed the residuals are used by a farmer, as feed for his cattle.
Real Ale Brewing Company began brewing in Blanco 16 years ago. It started in the basement of a downtown business, with two tanks the size of the white horizontal tank in the forefront of the picture.  They have been operating out of their own building for 8 years, and are steadily growing.  They brew several beers, of which, Fireman Four is the most popular.  They brew a dark ale in the Summer that Roy particularly enjoys, named Devil's Backbone after a local scenic highway.
They have several of the large tanks pictured. Each holds over a thousand gallons of beer! They also have several wooden barrels of beer.  The brewery can make a batch of beer in 4 hours.  They currently brew four days a week at 24 hours a day!  The company has 40 employees.
The pipe going into the bucket of water is a vent for the fermentation process. The employees monitor the splashing of the water, as to the activeness of the fermentation going on in the tank. They also have a spy glass into the tank to monitor for clarity. The spray bottle holds a food grade disinfectant for spraying all connectors prior to hoses being hooked-up. Any bacteria other than what is introduced by the brewers can taint the beer. Testing is conducted to be sure they are running at 0 bacteria contamination.
Here is Roy striking a "look at that" pose in the bottling area. Jim stated that everything is automated now, but that when they started out, they had to individually pop-up the 6 pack bottle cartons, hand glue the bottoms, and place the bottles by hand into the cartons. They currently only bottle beer, but at the public's request are getting set-up to package their most popular Fireman Four beer in cans. Apparently bottled beers are not allowed at some events and recreation areas.
This picture is just for perspective on the layout of the facility. The people are entering a refrigeration area between the facility that we toured and a new building under construction that appears as big or bigger.
This is the refrigeration area.
This facility will house a new tasting room, the packaging equipment, and shipping. Jim didn't say what was going into the area where the current packaging equipment is, but I suspect more metal tanks or possibly the racks of wooden barrels.
This is another section of the new facility. Prior to the new building, supplies were kept in semi-truck trailers on the property. I always find it interesting hearing how people start out doing something they love on a small scale and it grows into having an impact nationally.  
These are the barrels of beer aging in the new storage area. I found it interesting that they test the contents of the barrels by drilling a small hole in the barrel for a stream of the bear to come out of. Once they've gotten their sample, the hole is plugged with a stainless steal nail.  The tour was exceptionally informative, and I highly recommend taking a brewery tour. Who knew there was so much to making beer. Roy and I were ready for a couple cold ones at the end of the tour, and we were obliged free of charge in the tasting room! We timed our tour just right in that the brewery is prepping for its annual anniversary picnic.  It will be held June 30th, and will provide free beer and barbecue for all from noon until 5:00!!! Yee Haw!!!