A Day at the Brewery: Tanks to 12oz Bottles
An amazing day at the Veteran Beer Company brewery
Our beers have been brewing for the better part of a month in Cold Springs Minnesota, where the Veteran Beer Company brewery is established, but unless you’re really into the finer points of the brewing process, those days have been a little… dull.
That all changed yesterday. Just before 5:00 in the morning, Eric and I watched as the first batches of the beers he crafted for sale went from the tanks to 12 ounce bottles. The production line up at the Veteran Beer Company brewery is a fascinating collection of mechanical devices that perform an array of tasks that come together to package the beer that is the result of more than a year’s hard efforts. The empty bottles go from pallet to production line, being first washed, then rinsed, then filled, then capped, then pasteurized, then labeled, then packed in six-pack carriers, then packed into their 24-bottle case carriers, then packed into pallets, and finally loaded into the waiting semis.
The 750 barrels of beer we brewed (that’s 10,000 cases–240,000 bottles total between both the Veteran Lager and the Blonde Bomber) took more than 12 hours to bottle and package. At every turn, Eric and I found something else in the process to enjoy. The first sight of our cardboard case carriers (complete with our artwork on them) being made into boxes by a complicated machine that hummed and hissed as it worked never got old for us, just as the thousands of bottles appearing from the steamy mist of the pasteurizing machine provided an eerie image of slow-moving triumph.
Wearing our compulsory hair nets, we pulled random samples off the line and tested them for purity, consistency, color, and quality. We set aside the first cases to come off the production line, to be auctioned off for Veteran’s charities. The first such event is the “Swords to Plowshares” charity being held in California. One set of the first cases is on its way west, heading out to help raise money for Veterans at a Thursday night event. Because of the timing of that charity dinner, the Swords to Plowshares will, officially, be the first Veteran Beer Company product publicly available. Ever.
While the beer was still doing its elaborate production ritual, we spent hours with a meticulous reporter from NBC network news who had traveled to the Veteran Beer Company brewery in Cold Spring (from Chicago) to cover our first bottling. We had a cup of coffee in a small diner in town before sitting down to a pizza lunch back in the Veteran Beer Company brewery. That was the moment of truth, because we were tasting The Veteran and Blonde Bomber for the first time, exactly as it will be sold to the public.
A taste that was just right
I’d like to tell you I wasn’t nervous, but I was. After all, we have a lot riding on the way this beer tastes.
My reaction upon first tasting the beer was perfectly spontaneous: an unreserved smile of joy (and relief) and a high-five for Eric. The consummate professional, he just nodded a confident smile back at me.
And really that’s what we’re trying to show the world—that hiring Veterans and working with Veterans and trusting Veterans (even in roles you might not traditionally think them suited for) is really a low-risk proposition.
You see, Eric had a mission; and mission accomplishment is what we’re all about.