A Craft Brewery In Progress

Brewer's Blog #6

  • December 29th, 2016
  • By Stephen Rich

Building a brewery and brewing beer are closely related on many levels. When you sit down to consider a recipe for a new craft beer, the brewer will contemplate a myriad of factors: flavours, intensity, bitterness, colour, ingredients, mashing profile, yeasts, ageing, temperatures, package types, and more. Brewing is as much an art as it is a science. Since we began our journey — from dreaming of and then constructing Cowbell Brewing Co. — we have quickly learned that building a craft brewery is part science and engineering, as expected, but also part art.

Early in 2016, we made a momentous decision in Cowbell’s young life — we chose our brewery manufacturer. Newlands Systems Inc. (NSI) from Abbotsford, British Columbia would be the architect and maestro that is designing, engineering, and sculpting the stainless steel equipment that our team will soon use to craft and engineer world class craft beer. Working with Canadian-made equipment is important to us, as is our relationship with the men and women at NSI, and the craftsmanship that is going into building our centrepiece equipment.

The Cowbell Team Visits Abbotsford, BC

Recently, three members of our team and I visited NSI in Abbotsford to see the progress on the build. NSI continues to refine and engineer small details of the brewery which will come together to create a miraculous facility that is beautiful, efficient, safe, and a pure joy to work with. NSI’s shop includes four manufacturing facilities totalling 92,000 square feet. Between these four sites, 170 employees engineer, design, fabricate, weld, test and build breweries and brewing-related tanks and equipment. The NSI team also includes everyone who handles sales, service, automation, management, inventory, and production.

Our time at NSI was fast and furious; in the 27 total hours we spent in BC, approximately three hours were spent travelling to and from the Vancouver airport, eight in meetings, four touring the facility, and four visiting a wonderful brewery with an NSI system — thanks for your hospitality Josh and Field House Brewery! We managed to eat some great food, enjoy a few wonderful beers, and sleep somewhere in that time, too.

We’ve been having bi-weekly update meetings over the phone, and I am in regular contact with the NSI team as we get closer to equipment delivery. However, nothing can compare to the face-to-face contact of getting to see our brewery come to life.

A walk through the fabrication floor introduced us to our equipment, but more importantly, it acquainted us with the skilled men and women who are painstakingly crafting our work-of-art craft brewery. It was clear how passionate and proud the team is, especially when one of the team leads raced over to show me his welds on a piece of equipment, “Look at that! Just like a zipper!” Well done.

A Local Craft Brewery from a National Team

A big thanks to the entire NSI team for accommodating us and spending the time and energy to make our trip productive, educational, and fun. Thanks also go out to the Cowbell team for seeing the value in the trip and taking time from their busy schedules to join me.

To Cowbell, building a brewery is much more than just signing a piece of paper and waiting for the delivery. Building a craft brewery is a relationship that involves countless skilled and passionate people collaborating across many disciplines, companies, and provinces. We’re not finished with our journey yet, and while this has been one of the most exciting and satisfying experiences of my professional career as a brewmaster, I know the best is yet to come.