Why Pilot Batch Brewing is Important for Fat Head’s

Will Kmetz brewed on the large production system for Fat Head’s Brewery for a little over a year and also had experience in the cellar. Teaming up with owner Matt Cole to head up the small-batch production for the Cleveland-area brewery is an important aspect to keep the innovation (and taps) flowing for 365 days a year.

“I have an understanding of how the large-scale production works, and with [Matt’s] decades of experience and in brewpubs, we work pretty well together and have a pretty good relationship and how to translate beers from a small scale to a large scale, it’s really our goal here,” Kmetz said.

“We wish we could make Crumbleberry on the production level, but can’t just because of the sheer amount of blueberry puree that’s in there. But that’s probably the most popular one out of here. We keep that on tap at all times.”

IPA brands like Strange Magic and Groovy Juice were birthed on the system and scaled up to production levels.

“There are some things that we can do here that we can’t do there and vice versa, so it’s really just coming up with what’s the best compromise between those two,” Kmetz said. “How can we create a product that’s similar on both sides. That’s where Matt and I’s relationship comes in.”

Co-founder Matt Cole (who is the subject of Brewer’s January/February cover story) explained that the 15-barrel pilot system was brought in to complement the 70-barrel production facility which was built in 2018 to give the expansive taproom more variety, some extra barrelled stuff along with some seltzers, Lagers, and experimental hop trials along with competition beers that are sent out. It’s worked wonders for the multi-time GABF winners.

READ MORE: Why Developing a Sensory Language is Key

“Even some of our beers that, even though they don’t always scale up, pound for pound. I think a lot of conceptually start here,” Cole said.

Brewing around once a week, Kmetz said the brewhouse makes about 600 barrels per year, a step down from the 45,000 barrels the production facility puts out.

“But it’s here for restaurant, variety, and R&D, and we’re not particularly worried about pumping out a whole bunch of beer,” he said. “We will make stuff over here but really we only plan just like a few months in advance to try and get a feel for, ‘Can we do it over there?’ Or is it something that we’re looking to do over there even?”

Smaller seasonals are a good idea to look into as Fat Head’s makes Spooky Tooth Pumpkin Spice Ale in production, but the pilot system instead makes Pumpkin Chucker, an imperial chocolate Stout.

“So a lot of stuff like that, we’re filling the gaps in seasonality,” Kmetz said.

Photo courtesy Fat Head’s Brewery

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