Learning From Early Mistakes

Learning from an early mistake, be it in a beer release or a bad fermentation, can help lead your brewery into future successes.

“Some of the new breweries coming on line today don’t know how to balance for risk management, and if they don’t, and don’t learn fast, then they’re hosed from the start,” said Blue Pants Brewery owner Mike Spratley. “We have had our duds over the years, but fortunately we made our mistakes at a time when we could, when it was okay that we did because it was manageable.”

“We certainly couldn’t do it now.”

Mistakes do happen, but with fickle consumers that can reduce mistakes to such a razor-thin line.

Spratley said he recently walked into his Madison, Alabama brewery and smelled something that definitely wasn’t right.

“I’ve smelled enough things that are wrong over the years that I can tell when there’s a problem,” he explained, “So … we can fix it before it causes any more issues.

“Things like that have just taught us to always be looking out for potential issues so as not to run into them again down the line.”

Spratley said poor sales have helped shape the portfolio of packaged products by Blue Pants.

They had two beers — a Black IPA and a beer called Knickerbocker Red — when they first started that went over very well in the taproom.

“When we packaged them to sell they just never really took off in the market, so it just wouldn’t have been worth it to distribute,” he said.

One of those bad moments also came for Boulder, Colorado’s Upslope Brewing early on in its development. Fortunately it became more of a “happy accident.”

Head brewer Sam Scruby said a temperature sensor malfunction led to a change in how the brewery fermented its Belgian Style Pale Ale.

“We would brew into two 15-barrel fermenters and blend the two batches into our 30-bbl brite tank,” Scruby explained to Brewer. “We brewed our Belgian Pale ale into both of ‘The Twins’ and left for the weekend. Unfortunately (or maybe, fortunately), our temperature sensor crapped out on one of the tanks and the beer fermented at a much higher temperature than what our yeast provider recommended. We found out about the error on Saturday and came in to expect the worst.”

Yet, when Scruby and his team tasted the fermenting beer in a side-by-side comparison, they preferred the higher temperature fermentation batch more.

“We decided the errant fermentation was more in line with what we wanted,” he said, noting that the beer has gone on to win numerous awards. We are very happy to have discovered this fermentation tweak via “Murphy’s Law,” he said.

1 Comment

  1. Jerry Alvey

    June 9, 2018 at 5:16 am

    Nice article. However I would like to point to the picture of the young brewer that has face within inches of an in line site glass. I have 40 years in the industry as a brewery Enginneer and to see a un-shielded site glass install in that manor is terribly dangerous. Site columns of that type should always have protective screen or shield over it and installed in a stable or ridge manor to prevent it from bending or twisting and blowing up out. The 4 stay bolts are not enough to keep it ridge. I suggest using bulls eye site glasses for portable situation. Murphy’s Law applies here as so.

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