by San Diego TapHunter Alex Flores.
Automatic Brewing; a nanobrewery or the future?
So far it would seem that nanobreweries serve two primary functions within the brewing world: first a way to graduate to bigger brewing rigs or, like with Hess Brewing Company (Nano-Article 1), a way to truly test the legitimacy of a nanobrewery. Lee Chase, of Automatic Brewing and Blind Lady Ale House, however, sees the nanobrewery a little differently. More specifically he sees it as a drawing board. Chase has been around beer for most of his life. He has worked at several breweries and had his longest stint at Stone Brewing Company when they were just starting. He also went to UC-Davis and received a degree in Malting and Brewing Science. Let’s just say that Chase knows his way around brewing.
Within San Diego’s flourishing beer market, it takes unique beer and exceptional marketing to bring appeal to a specific brewery. Further, if a nanobrewery is to be noticed, among the big guys, it needs a strong platform. Chase has Blind Lady Ale House, a nationally recognized bar, as his platform. He brews in the shadows of Blind Lady and has released two beers thus far. Both beers, “Chocolate Rain, Too” and “Sex Panther,” have been well received. Having Blind Lady as a medium for Automatic Brewing almost seems too easy, and with this in mind, Chase said, “Easy is not always exciting.” Chase commented on his latest lascivious brew, Sex Panther, “This batch was as much about testing some systems as it was about making a beer…maybe even more so.”
You see, Chase is a problem solving, innovating brewing, madman. Yes, he makes great beer and yes, he has brewed at many places (including Sierra Nevada’s beer camp), but to express his true passion, Chase is using his nanobrewery as a workshop. He wants to advance the latest environmentally-friendly and cost-efficient methods of brewing and enhance his current repertoire and, of course, make beer. Lee is taking a part in perpetuating these new methods. Perhaps, that’s what the craft beer industry needs; a new way.
While these methods may only be confined to a nanobrewery setting, for now, let us look at his research as if it were a pilot batch of beer. Although early in his mission, Chase has specific goals in mind: to lower the initial financial hurdle of a brewery, to limit water waste in brewing and to improve quality assurance.
Knowledge of brewing? Check. Brewery? Check. People to drink the beer? Check! Lee Chase has it good; though, he is humble all the same. He has worked hard to get where he is and we as beer drinkers should be thankful.
Chase encourages a great talking point: Are the industries current methods of brewing the most efficient? Currently, yes they are. They seem to be most efficient, anyway. Are they the most cost efficient? Probably not. A traditional brewery is not accessible to many people, and, unfortunately, that includes great brewers. The price tag of equipment and facility alone is enough to make owning a brewery laughable. Chase feels that currently it’s a “rich-man’s game” and seeks to correct it by allowing small-batch brewing to become more accessible; because “brewers should own breweries.”
During the brewing process, Chase hopes to cut back on waste water. Currently most breweries are at a waste-water to beer-produced ratio of 5:1. Unfortunately, this number is mostly in the large, highly-automated breweries, such as Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors. In the case of smaller breweries with limited automated technology, this ratio is sure to be much higher; conceivably, 10:1. A fact even more astonishing is that “When all’s said and done, it can take anywhere from 8-24 gallons of water to produce a single pint of beer.” (That number includes brewing and sanitizing equipment.) Although that ratio is an extreme case, it is still a cause for concern. Lee chase anticipates that he can lower the ratio to 3:1.
Of course, improved quality assurance can also help breweries limit the amount of wasted product and waste-water. “Dumping beer down the drain is a huge waste…A few bad batches can financially cripple a brewery.” Chase believes that with some innovation there can be a system that is both environmentally-friendly and affordable.
I know, I know, as I write this I can see how far-fetched it sounds. I can hear the masses in unison “Do you think we haven’t thought of this before?” But let me ask you a question- How many breweries have you gone into with the same setup in varying sizes? Almost every one! Now, how many breweries are creating new methods? I won’t answer for everyone, but honestly, I have not heard of many until recently in this article, “Breweries Committed to Water Preservation.”
Albeit on a nano-scale, Lee is working towards more cost-efficient and environmentally-friendly brewing. I realize it isn’t solely the equipment and methods that make craft beer expensive, but also the amount and quality of ingredients; but there are other ways, better ways, to achieve the same result. Lee Chase is joining a small, yet, growing collective searching for those ways. The future of brewing has to continue its evolution and it is doing exactly that at Automatic Brewing.