BACK OF THE YARDS — In about a week, Whiner Brewery will pour the first batch of saison beer into aged barrels to begin building its long-awaited craft brew inventory.
The team is now waiting to receive the proper licenses to sell their beers. Meanwhile, the Whiner team been keeping busy with brewing and planning the brewery's taproom.
Taylor and Neri recently gave DNAinfo Chicago a tour of their 17,000-square-foot brewery at The Plant, 1400 W. 46th St. Here’s an early look inside:
The Whiner process starts upstairs, where you’ll find sacks of malt — the dried grains used to make beer.
Taylor uses what’s called a “two-row” mill to crack the husk of the malted grain before the malt is loaded into a grist case.
Once the malt has been rolled through the milling machine, Taylor loads it into the grist case, which feeds the grain through a pipe leading downstairs and into to the mash tun, where the malt is mixed with water.
When Taylor’s ready to brew, he opens a slide gate, and the malt rushes out of the grist case.
Mash Tun, Lauter Tun and Whirlpool Kettle
Up a flight of metal stairs, you’ll find the heart of the Whiner Brewery. There's the mash tun (center), a large tank where the starch of the crushed malt grains is turned into sugar for fermentation.
The lauter tun (left) is another tank used to separate the liquid and spent grain to get “wort” — which is basically sugar water.
The whirlpool kettle is where the wort is boiled with hops.
The platform where the brewery's heavy machinery sits was built on stilts to allow easy access to the manual valves that control the brewing process.
“You have so many pipes and valves and pumps that could go wrong, so you need to get under there all the time,” Taylor said.
As the brewery grows and starts profiting, Taylor plans to install automated valves, similar to the ones used at bigger breweries.
Fermenters and Bright Tank
Whiner has one 30-barrel fermenter, two 60-barrel fermenters and a 60-barrel bright tank.
Inside one of the fermenters, you’ll find Whiner’s first batch of saison, but it’s not ready yet. During the fermentation process, yeast is used to eat up all the sugar to create alcohol. Once the saison is finished, it’ll sport an alcohol percentage of about 7 percent.
The finished beer goes into what’s called a bright tank (above).
Here is where you’ll find towers of cabernet barrels shipped from the Sonoma Winery in Sonoma, California.
The barrels, which still smell like wine, will be used to store Whiner’s inventory. Eventually, Taylor will store the beer in 30-barrel “foeders,” which look like giant barrels.
This is where the Whiner team will have conferences and business meetings.
The space was once used as a flash freezer, where workers ran ammonia through pipes to freeze food to -60 degrees in a matter of minutes.
Taylor and Neri hope to land their sales licenses by December.
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