Light at the end of the tunnel...?
The start of June always seems to arrive with a thump, as the realisation hits home that no matter how busy things have been so far, they are about to get much busier! It's only a few weeks now until Birmingham Beer Bash is upon us once again - for most people that is something to look forward to but naturally when you're organising such an event then it means there's suddenly a whole load of things that need doing in order to make sure it runs successfully, or to be honest that it even happens at all! And of course it *will* happen, but there are always a lot of loose ends to tie up before the doors open to those first eager customers: glassware to order, beer lists to gather together and publish, volunteers to encourage, last minute changes to the brewery list, security, music, bulls, then list goes on!
And it always comes as a shock because there's always something else going on at the same time as the event draws near, something else to be focused on. In recent weeks that something has been a brewery / bar build - not our own of course, but more on that in a moment. As per previous posts here and elsewhere our host brewery Offbeat has been undergoing some changes and we've been very much in the thick of it helping to get everything set up and running. At the time of writing, subject to a last minute fitting being obtained, the first brew on the new kit is imminent, meaning attention can shift to finishing off the bar side of things in time for the anticipated planning permission to come through to allow more regular opening times on a weekly rather than monthly basis.
So once the new Offbeat kit is up and running, and Beer Bash is out of the way, where next for Otherton? Well while the new brewkit going in is going to provide a lot of flexibility and variety for a brewery making beer three times a week, for a once-a-month brewer it really is too small to be viable in the long run. Added to that there isn't any spare fermenter capacity, so the opportunity is also somewhat diminished. All is seemingly not lost however. Various changes in circumstance are finally (fingers crossed) starting to materialise which means a better future plan can start to be firmed up. We've all-but-settled on an aim to get up and running on our own kit that will be about 50% larger than cuckoo option, meaning enough beer can be made in one go to just about be worthwhile commercially; at the same time this is slightly smaller than our aspirations had been, but will make it much more practical to start using a wider range of yeasts which will potentially be a step change in getting to the finished beer we've always been aiming for, as well as making some significant capital cost efficiencies.
This won't all happen at once though, amd so the likely first step is to introduce a dedicated fermenter at Offbeat which will be a little oversized for a few more cuckoo brews there but will then transfer easily into the final new setup. That will be accompanied by some extra kit for propagating the yeast we need so we can bring that change to the process from the outset. In the meantime we'll be gradually preparing our own site at Audley with the intention of moving in there eventually with the rest of the full new brewkit.
So there you have it - a plan, for now, which sees a small scale return in the autumn and if all goes well another step up sometime during 2017. Depending how things go there's also growth capability through a second fermenter (allowing a double brewday once a month, doubling capacity without doubling the time involved). Like all plans it may be subject to change, but it is adaptable enough that we can make those changes if required.