Wednesday, October 05, 2005

GR from Denver via the Twin Cities

Ok, we made it back from Denver. It's not as easy as it sounds. We had a great time, and enjoyed a very nice response to all of our beers. We did not, however, take home any hardware. So it goes. Beer competitions are a funny thing; while you love getting medals and they're wonderful recognition, you have to be o.k. not getting them. It sounds like a huge "We're all winners" rationalization, but it's the way it is. They can mean a lot if you win 'em, but they shouldn't mean anything if you don't. The actual tasting notes can be very helpful though, so we'll look forward to those.

We had a chance to stop in the Twin Cities on the way home and limp through some interesting places. We looked at some equipment in the morning, before getting into the defunct Minnesota Brewing Company, formerly Heilleman, formerly Schmidt. A huge pre-prohibition brewery that still had kettles and fermenters in place. An 8-story sprawling campus, mostly shuttered, cob-webbed and in need of a buyer. At its peak in the Heileman days, the plant put out over 2 million barrels. I was stunned by the idea. At one point, Brett said out loud what I had been thinking, "There are lessons here."

What those lessons are can be tough to narrow down, but I was amazed that you could be putting out 2 million barrels and then be gone. It's the old addage, "Everyone is replaceable." You never want to believe it, but all that capacity is being made somewhere else as something else; time has marched on. I take it as a challenge to be remarkable, and a challenge to look forward with an eye for continuity and perseverance. It's somewhat sad to take a tour of a defunct brewery with its former assistant brewmaster. There are lessons there.

I intend to find some good books about that era; the decline of the middle-tier brands and breweries to learn more.

The flip side was the impressiveness of it all. It had to be glorious in it's day.

Later we toured the Rahr Malting plant courtesy of Brewer's Supply Group. Another impressive display. They are the largest single-location malting plant in North America. They bring in barley from all over the US, age it properly, before malting it. We use Rahr as our base two-row barley and use Brewer's Supply Group for a number of our malts. Thanks to Bob, Chris, Todd and JP for the continued support.

We continued the limp home and finally got in to GR around 10 pm Monday night.

Back to the grindstone - Pilgrim's Dole is on the way.


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