I began my Saturday in a way I thought I would never would; waking up early and volunteering. However, this volunteer session was at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery. As a craft beer geek, I have always been very interested in what goes on behind the scenes at a brewery. On Saturday morning, some of my curiosity was finally satisfied!
I always want to learn as much as I can about something I’m passionate about. Craft beer has been a passion for the past couple of years for me, so learning anything I can about how a brewery operates is a treat for me. This past Saturday I volunteered at Hardywood to help clean some kegs. I never knew that a brewery had their own set of kegs that they were responsible for cleaning before filling them with beer before the distributor takes them away.
From what I can gather, the kegs come back to the brewery after they are completely used at the bar/restaurant. First the beer (and whatever other) residue that has built up on the kegs is cleaned off. Then the kegs are hooked up to the hot water tank of the brewhouse to rinse the kegs of the leftover beer inside. That is then blown out with compressed air into a drainage system (note: after indulging in some fine beers the night before, having to catch a whiff of that air is quite unsettling). The third step of the cleaning process is filling the kegs with a hot caustic cleaner and flush it with compressed air. This step is done twice. Another hot water rinse cycle is performed to rinse the remaining caustic chemical from the keg. This rinse and flush is done three times. From there, the keg is filled with a sanitizer and flushed again before being filled with the delicious beer!
All in all, a very simple process. I was extremely excited to do this because it gave me a chance to meet and hang out with some of the staff of the brewery. All the people I spoke with were extremely nice, knowledgable, and just all around great people. While working, we got to drink some of their beer. I was finally able to try their new Reserve Series beer Hoplar. This beer is a dry-hopped Imperial IPA that was conditioned with Virginia Tulip Poplar wood. Simply put, Hoplar is an awesome beer. While it is said to be rated at 100 IBUs, it a refreshing bitterness to it; not something that will make you pucker your lips. If you’re in the Richmond area and are a fan of IPAs, I highly recommend you get your hands on some. I know they will be bottling it within the next day or so, but you can get growler fills at Hardywood’s tasting room.
Stay tuned for news about Hardywood’s Festival of Hops event coming this April 28!