Story about AC Golden Brewing Co – Colorado
Here’s something interesting. If anyone’s had a chance to try the Herman Joseph’s Private Reserve, please let us know.
AC Golden’s craft beer comes of age
On bottling day, AC Golden brewers add final touches
By Roger Fillion, Rocky Mountain News
A loud “pop!” reverberated throughout the concrete room.
Shoulders hunched up, startled by the noise.
Brewer Troy Casey, however, took it in stride.
“A bottle broke. It happens,” said Casey.
Nearby, a large machine filled brown bottles with beer amid the cacophony.
A crew member switched off the line. The broken bottle was retrieved from the machine’s innards.
It was packaging day on a recent Friday morning at tiny AC Golden Brewing Co. The upstart brewery is housed deep inside the vast brewery here operated by MillerCoors, the joint venture partnering Coors Brewing and Miller Brewing.
AC Golden is MillerCoors’ new wager to develop a craft-style beer. The aim: Get beer drinkers to quaff the brew in the enthusiastic way they now drink Coors’ popular craft-style wheat ale, Blue Moon Belgian White.
It’s been five weeks and two days since a small team of AC Golden brewers began making batch No. 4 of Herman Joseph’s Private Reserve here. Since then, the German-style lager has had a chance to ferment, age and be filtered.
On this day, it was undergoing the final leg of the beer-making journey before getting trucked to nearly 30 Denver-area restaurants.
After the bottle broke, workers pulled nearby bottles from the line so consumers wouldn’t get a brew with glass shards and dumped the beer down the drain.
The bottling line soon roared back to life.
Bottles resumed rumbling single-file along the line until they reached a filler jet. There, they got a quick injection of Herman Joseph’s Private Reserve.
The bottling is a hands-on operation. It teamed a motley crew of less than a dozen. Two of AC Golden’s brewers were on hand.
So was Peter “PJ” Coors, a business area manager for MillerCoors and the son of MillerCoors Chairman Pete Coors. AC Golden’s retail marketing manager, Brittany Grass, checked bottles to ensure they were filled with the correct amount of beer. So did MillerCoors spokeswoman Aimee Valdez.
Even two employees from engineering company CH2M Hill helped out.
Ordinarily, the hard-hatted duo perform maintenance work at the MillerCoors campus. But now they opened empty beer cases so they could be filled with bottles of Herman Joseph’s Private Reserve.
“We just give them a hand when they need it. We’re not here all the time,” said Harley Bartosh, one of the CH2M Hill workers.
It’s a far cry from the industrial-scale MillerCoors brewery, where the bottling process is entirely automated – a machine, for example, puts the bottles into their cardboard cases.
Not at AC Golden, where only about 200 cases of beer were being packaged on this day.
Casey, the brewer, deftly picked up cases of empty bottles, flipped the box, and emptied the bottles on a conveyor belt to begin their journey.
For each bottle, it’s about a five-minute trip along the line. A scanner zapped each one with a date 17 weeks out – essentially setting a “best by” deadline of Jan. 11, 2009, for when the beer should be drunk.
It was then a topsy-turvy ride. The bottle automatically was flipped upside down and rinsed; flipped back up; filled with beer pumped from a “bright” tank; capped; rinsed again; pulled off the line by hand; eyeballed to ensure all was correct; and placed by hand in a hinged case known as a “Bliss” box.
“If you’re a bottle, this is a big day,” quipped Jeff Cornell, senior technical brewer at MillerCoors who also assists AC Golden.
But it’s the beer that’s going inside the bottle that boasts the starring role.
Rewind to Aug. 13. The fourth batch – about 30 barrels – of Herman Joseph’s Private Reserve has just been sent from the brew kettle up one floor into a fermentation vessel. Yeast was added to help break down the sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
On Aug. 19, the beer was sent to an aging tank to sit for about three weeks. “You’re taking the rough edges off,” said Cornell.
Next stop, on Sept. 10, was the blending tank where the alcohol level – 4.96 percent by volume – and the carbonation are fine-tuned.
On Sept. 17, a small team prepared to send the beer through an old Enzinger filter. To compare, the brewers sampled some Herman Joseph straight from the blending tank. The beer had a slight haze.
“It could be proteins. It could be yeast. Many things,” said brewer Steve Fletcher.
It then was sent through the filter. No haze. The beer was brighter. It had a color that its creators describe as deep golden.
“You’ve got to just cross your finger and hope it’s going to work out,” said Casey, the AC Golden brewer, before taking a sip. His colleagues also took a quaff.
Success, they concurred.
Two days later, on Sept. 19, the beer was sent from the “bright” tank to the bottling line.
Packaging day is loud and busy.
The bottling line was fed not only bottles and beer, but caps, or crowns, to top off the bottles.
To that end, Fletcher grabbed a 7-foot pole fitted with a metal scoop.
He buried the scoop in a container, then hoisted up a scoopful of crowns. He poured the crowns into a feeder unit on the bottling machine. The routine was repeated every five to 10 minutes.
By 11:42 a.m., the last bottle rumbled toward the end of the line to be inspected and placed in a case.
Fletcher likened the operation to a popular 1970s TV show in which two twenty-something women shared an apartment and worked at Milwaukee’s fictional Shotz Brewery. “It’s like Laverne & Shirley,” he joked.
Birth of a beer
Here’s a timeline of key dates in the brewing of AC Golden’s fourth batch of Herman Joseph’s Private Reserve:
- Aug. 13: Beer is brewed and sent to fermenting tanks.
- Aug. 19: Beer is sent to aging tanks; aging continues until beer is filtered.
- Sept. 10: Beer goes to blending tanks.
- Sept. 17: Beer is filtered and sent to bright tanks.
- Sept. 19: Beer is bottled; about 200 cases made.