Craft brewing a labour of love

5 a.m. — The alarm goes off; the sun will not be rising for at least another hour. The solo brewer puts on his coveralls and boots, grabs a quick bite, and walks the four minutes to the brewery. While many across the province were enjoying the fruits of his labour last night, Matt Kenny was sound asleep. Yeast never rests until their job is complete, so Kenny has to be ready to wrangle them at most any hour of the day.

5:30 a.m. — With two separate brews scheduled (like they are for the majority of days at Tatamagouche Brewing), there’s lots to be done. Thankfully, the grain was milled last night, so the brew’s mash-in can begin promptly. “This is my favourite time of the day,” says Kenny. “It’s quiet in the brewery, and I can open up the garage doors to get some fresh air in, and let the sweet smell of the mash out into the street.” The tantalizing smell of grain meeting water fills the air. While the conversion from carbohydrates to sugars takes place, there are plenty of odd jobs to do to fill the time: cleaning, sample-taking, cleaning, number-recording, and more cleaning.

9:30 a.m. — The boiling of the sweet wort has begun. Usually taking anywhere from one to one and a-half hours, the time is used by Kenny and his assistants to weigh out hops for later additions and set up hoses for transfers. The second batch also begins its mash-in with about 30 minutes left in the boil of the first batch. Double brew-days don’t just mean extra work; they involve perfectly-executed planning and timing, so that equipment is used to the maximum efficiency, without any one piece being tied up too long.

11 a.m. — Once the boil is complete, the first batch is cooled and transferred to the fermenter, while the second batch is prepping for its own boil to begin. Hopefully, there’s just enough time to grab a quick lunch.

3 p.m. — By now, the second batch is boiling. The scrubbing out and cleaning of the mash tun can begin, more hops are weighed out, and the grain for tomorrow’s double brew-day is milled. Brewers design the beer, of course, but usually end up helping out with plenty of odd jobs throughout the week. Throughout the afternoon, there’s always something to do, with some chores depending on the day — Thursdays, for example, are delivery days to Halifax, while Mondays and Fridays are canning days. Like most other professions, things don’t always go as planned: equipment breaks down, ingredients run low, and sometimes yeast just don’t cooperate, to name just a few.

“I actually do like the troubleshooting aspect,” says Kenny.

“I can honestly say I am learning something new every day”.

5:30 p.m — Finally, both batches are in the single, large fermenter, and the yeast have been pitched and will hopefully be working their magic soon. In the meantime, it’s time for more cleaning! The hot liquor tank is topped up with water to pre-heat overnight for the next day’s batches.

8 p.m. — The brewery finally empties, until it all starts again early the next morning; it’s been a 12-plus hour day. After supper, and some quality control of beers in the cellar, it’s early to bed to start again tomorrow. No one ever said being a craft brewer was a glamorous job, but for some reason that perception exists in the minds of many. In reality, it is repetitious, back-breaking work that involves a multitude of tasks. With the help of excellent employees, fortunately, the beer gets brewed and finds its way to the glasses and mouths of the many happy consumers across the province, and beyond.

“I think it’s one of the most rewarding things about the job, to see and hear about people enjoying our beer,” says Kenny. “Kind words as well as constructive criticism will help us improve as we move forward.”

For Kenny and many other craft brewers across the province, what they do is a labour of love. While not an easy profession, brewing can be extremely fulfilling, as long as the brewer can find the right balance between art, science, and physical labour. And cleaning. So much cleaning.


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