My new brewery

Mongrel Brewing Company

After much debate, I’ve brought my brewing setup indoors.

Of course many homebrewers, myself included, start indoors–on the stove top. Like other brewers I know, I eventually took it outside to avoid destroying and tying up the kitchen. Cleaning up a boil over with a hose is so much easier. And a propane burner is faster than my stressed out stovetop.

But now that I’ve moved to the cooler winter climes of Iowa, brewing outdoors has become less attractive. It’s freakin’ cold here. Aside from my personal shivering, it’s tough for my mash tun to maintain its temperature. And it takes “a coon’s age” (as they say around here) for my wort to come to a boil–not to mention all the propane involved. Fortunately, my very own Room of Requirement has revealed itself in my basement. The room has a cement floor and cinder block walls, a window for ventilation, space for storage shelves, a sink and a floor drain. Could I safely brew here?, I wondered.

Using propane in a confined space is a good way to die, or cause an explosion (and die). I consulted with other brewers, reasonably intelligent folk, as well as a friend–a heating-and-cooling guy. Some people seemed quite concerned about the idea, others not. After weighing all considerations, I decided to give it a shot.

First, I conducted a few propane test runs by roasting my coffee beans inside. I opened the window for ventilation and all seemed well. With a brew day approaching and the mercury well below freezing (not to mention the wind chill), I decided to give it a shot. I double checked my system for leaks, set up a fan in the window above my brewing system, and opened other windows to ensure fresh air.

The brew day went well. I didn’t pass out. My house didn’t burst into flames. And the beer seemed to have potential, as well.

Great as this is for winter brewing, I’m actually looking forward to using my new brewery in the summertime as well, since the basement’s very cool in the blaze of July and August, not to mention shaded.

In closing, I really should say that bringing my burner indoors was not a decision that I took lightly. My dad (ardet nec consumitur) died in an explosion while performing the routine (albeit occasional) task of lighting the pilot on his hot water heater. I consulted with a number of people on the issue, some of them professionals related to all things gas. And even then, I thought about it a while longer. For my basement, this seemed a workable undertaking. For another basement, it might not be a good idea. If anyone else were considering this, I’d recommend caution, common sense and the expertise of professionals. I’ve still got tweaking I plan before calling this brewery permanent, but today, I’m pretty pumped about my setup.

8 Responses to My new brewery

  1. Jay, I just found your site from Teri Fahrendorf’s reference to your post on “6 women, 6 decades, 6 beers.” Very interesting! Makes me want to give it another shot, with my “I don’t drink beer” 79 year old mother in law.

    But, to this days post and homebrewing. I really appreciate your caution and notes on using propane indoors. It’s just not cool to blow-up the old house! I’m fortunate to live in California (even if it is the northern part), and can run my system in the garage, with all the doors open. But, I still worry about it. Must just be part of getting older (60). Anyway, I really like your system. I’ve been using a three tier setup for several years, but just have a “turkey fryer” as a brew kettle, and 2 “Rubbermaid water coolers” as M/T & H.L. I recently got one keg and after seeing the picture of your system, will definately be looking for two more.

    On my last brew, I had the top H.L. tank’s pipe connection pop loose, and shoot ~200 degree water out – right at “eye level”. Fortunately it was aimed away from me. So I am definately switching to all metal.

    Thanks for your informative posts.

  2. Wilson says:

    Glad you found me. This system’s nothing fancy, just welded together from an old bed frame. I bought it from a guy that used a short, fat Polarware pot in the center, and he reverse engineered the height based on that. Which means that I need to raise the upper tier to accommodate the height of my middle keg to be able to access gravity for my hot liquor without raising it precariously as you can see in the photo. A second pump would make me not care about that effort…It’s not pretty, but it works great.

  3. Wilson says:

    A word on the photo. I never bother writing descriptions in the little box labeled, “description” when I upload photos, but for this one I did. However, near as I can tell, the surfer can’t access those lovely tidbits. So, since there’s a lot missing in this photo, and it would have been a waste of space for visual blah to include other photos of this simple concrete room:

    To the left, there’s space for shelving, which will be dedicated brewing equipment. Just to the right, there’s a large, deep sink, with a floor drain beside. You can see light from the window above the brewing system, however, it doesn’t open as far as I’d like, thanks to the pipe that runs in front of it. I’ll reconfigure how that window operates and install a less makeshift fan situation.

  4. Brendan says:

    Have you considered using natural gas? Some of the homebrew stores sell natural gas burners, and since this is in the basement, the gas lines are already there. You could then lay your fears to rest.

  5. Adam says:

    You know if your really worried about CO poisoning you could always get a carbon monoxide alarm, they are relatively cheap like 20-30$?? from the hardware store. Like the setup, I’ve been thinking about doing something similar, I’m getting a little tired of waiting for boil when it’s really cold outside, not to mention propane really isn’t that cheap.

  6. Glenn says:

    Well you didn’t die, so thats a positive. You didn’t get frostbite so thats good too. So I’m glad all went well and you can keep brewing on!! So when do I get to try some of your beveragešŸ˜‰

  7. Thats CRAZY! Is that legal though? I can understand having a beer machine or mr beer but a mini brewery like that? If so well I’m setting one one soon. I’m just getting into beer making and glad I found your blog. Looks quite professional I must say.

  8. Celeste says:

    Great sight! Love it!

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