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Our brewhouse is finally in place and the first tests are running, but, in North Carolina, the season has shifted. Warm, sunny days have given way to cool, foggy mornings and the relaxed feel of summer is slipping away. This seasonal slide adds a new sense of urgency to the construction in Mills River because until very recently, all the brewing work we did took place alfresco, as they say–out in the open air.
Because of the scale and the complexity of the equipment itself, the brewhouse vessels and process piping had to be rooted before the surrounding structure was complete. We literally test brewed with no roof overhead. The kettles had no stacks, so steam vented directly into the room, and a stiff breeze brought with it dust, debris, leaves and the occasional late-summer downpour.
Now that the equipment is in, the work begins erecting the building structure around the brewhouse.
Lately, we’ve made huge strides toward completing the brewhouse building. Massive cranes reached high into the sky to hoist steel roof trusses atop the concrete walls. The trusses were assembled on the ground and lifted gingerly into place as steel workers shimmied along the 65-foot spans, welding them precisely into place.
Last week, another crane hoisted the polished copper kettle stacks into place through the web of structural steel and seated them on the brewhouse vessels.
Additionally, well above the brewhouse floor the attic decking went in, which houses vapor condensers and steam collection. The steam from the brewhouse vent stacks is a valuable resource and, with sustainability always a priority, we utilize a heat recovery system to recover and redirect some of the residual heat back into the brewing process. That means less energy to heat our kettles.
Finally, we installed the high-peaked building façade—large concrete slabs that fit together like a puzzle several stories off the ground. The crane operators, steel workers and industrial contractors worked in a coordinated effort to swing these massive pieces of building delicately above, through and around one another to effectively seal the brewhouse in a matter of days.
With luck, the rain will hold off and the slate shingle roof will go on quickly so that the work of making beer in Mills River can move forward as planned—warm, dry, and out of the open air.