When it comes to beer, the more, the better for Telluride Brewing Company (TBC). Earlier this week, the brewery welcomed a new member to the team: a brand new fermenter 90 beer barrel (BBL) tank. The new fermenter is so big, that a hole had to be cut in the ceiling for a crane to lower the giant tank into the brewery at Society Drive in Lawson Hill.
How much larger is this tank? There are 31 gallons in one BBL, so the new tank can hold up to 2,790 gallons of beer. The old fermenter tank had a capacity of only 45 BBL or 1,395 gallons.
Brewmaster and co-founder of TBC, Chris Fish, said they came close to purchasing a new fermenter tank two years ago but decided against it once COVID hit and they were dealing with the uncertainty that came along with the pandemic.
"We stopped spending money on anything that was not essential. We had no idea if we would survive," Fish said.
The tank is from a company out of Escondido, California called Premier Stainless. The company makes equipment for large and small microbreweries as well as pub-breweries. Like the one at TBC, fermenter tanks are specialized tanks that control temperature and maintain ideal conditions for fermentation. Fermenters are the vessels in which the wort, or beer starter, is held as it ferments into beer. TBC's tank is mid-size — fermenters available from Premier Stainless range from 3 BBL to 200 BBL.
The tank will boost the capacity at TBC and make the entire operation much more efficient, explained Fish. With the addition of the new tank, TBC will be able to keep the beer in the tank long after the product has "crashed." Crashed is the process when a beer is finished with fermentation and is ready for the temperature to be turned down below freezing.
"The longer we can keep the beer in the fermenter at 32 degrees (to a point), the more separation we get and thus a better yield from the batch. More beer in the glass and less beer down the drain!" said Fish.
Including the new fermenter, TBC has made many efforts to increase efficiency, such as purchasing new equipment, reducing water usage, and side-streaming as much waste as possible. Fish said they want to do everything they can to reduce waste at TBC.
While the brewery on Lawson Hill never shuts down, TBC uses the mud season as an opportunity to build up inventory for the summer season, or what Fish referred to as "beer season."
In past years, TBC struggled to keep up with beer demand in the summer. Fish hopes this new tank will allow the brewery to keep up with the busy season ahead. He also added that TBC is launching the brand beyond Colorado. TBC beer will soon be sold in Arizona, which marks the first time the brand will cross state lines.
"Their busiest time of year is when we are slow, and so opening the new market will help us smooth out the peaks in valleys in our sales," Fish said.
Local Sales and Distribution Manager, Matt Sommer, is excited about the increased production efficiency the fermentation tank will bring along with it. However, he said not much will change from a front-of-house point of view.
"From a customer's perspective, we will be business as usual as this is a more behind-the-scenes modification to our production systems. TBC beer will continue to be the fresh, delicious, local beer our customers expect and love," Sommer said.
TBC is constantly changing out what beer goes into what tanks depending on the current and seasonal demand. Fish said as of right now, the popular Mountain Beer will be the first beer brewed in the new tank.
The Taproom in Lawson is currently open 2 p.m. 7 p.m. Mon-Thurs, and hours will be extended around mid-May. The Brewpub in Mountain Village will reopen for the summer May 26.
"The beer garden is open for business, too!" said Fish, "We love being open for the locals."