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Tapping the Market: Beck's Pub to Debut Beer Brewed In-House

By STACEY PALEVSKY, Courier Staff Writer*

WATERLOO --- The first locally brewed beer arrives on tap in the Cedar
Valley next week.

No long trip from a brewery in the Rockies. No temperature changes. No bottles.

Unlike wine, beer's taste does not improve with age.

"Beer is like bread, the fresher the better," says Brewmaster Jon Downing. "It's like the difference between plastic-wrapped bread and a loaf coming out of a bakery."

Beginning Jan. 26, Beck's Sports Brewery will debut five beers brewed right there in the restaurant.

Owner of Beck's and Barmuda Corp. CEO Darin Beck got the idea to open Waterloo's first brew pub last year on a trip to Las Vegas. There, at a restaurant and bar convention, he learned that even a beer novice could start a microbrewery, courtesy of Micropub Systems International.

In the late '80s, the Micropub developed a high-tech, user-friendly brewing system that was compact enough to fit in most restaurants, including Beck's Sports Brewery.

"One of our primary goals at Barmuda is to improve the quality of life here," Beck says. "I think our community's been lacking this type of thing. We want to bring things to our community that larger markets have."

Shortly after the shiny brass brewing kettles arrived at Beck's, Brewmaster Downing arrived.

Downing, who attended the United States Brewers Academy in New York, trained the Beck's staff for a week earlier this month. He has traveled around the world helping restaurateurs start a Micropub. Beck's is Downing's 98th location.

"It's always quite a buzz for people to come in and see the equipment
sitting right there," he says.

Beck's will sample its first batch of homemade beers on Jan. 26. Selections include a red ale, a pilsner light, a Mexican-style, and a wheat beer.

The bar will offer fruit extracts --- like strawberry, blueberry and raspberry --- that can be added to any of its tap beers.

The restaurant will still serve Bud Light, Miller Lite and Guiness on tap.

Beck's will also brew a homemade root beer.

Beck's beer recipes were created by Downing, and are used at other locations around the world. However, since beer is 95 percent water, no two recipes taste alike. Local water is what creates the difference in the product's taste..

In 1986, when Downing moved from the United Kingdom to Canada, where he currently resides, there were only 30 micropubs in North America. Today, Downing says, there are more than 1,500.

For now, Beck's beer will only be available on tap at the brewery, located on University Avenue. If all goes well, Beck says in the future he'll consider bottling and kegging it to make it available for home consumption.

"Quite often, you'll find that a lot of brew pubs have gone onto greater things, becoming regional beers," Downing says.

An official grand reopening is planned for February.

With respect to signature opening beers Beer Brewmaster Jon Downing says:

Red Dragon red ale "Think of beers like Killian's or Caffry's. This is very smooth and malty, not too highly carbonated or acidic. It's got a light hop balance."

Frogs Leap Light crown pilsner light "It's a low alcohol, low carb beer. It's very smooth. It's got a taste most people would associate with a regular draft light beer, but because it's a microbrew it's got more body and taste."

Thirsty Buzzard Cerveza Mexican "It's in the style of Negro Modelo or Dos Equis. It's a little stronger than a light beer and a touch darker."

Bald Eagle Hefeweizen wheat-unfiltered "This is a heavier-bodied beer. It's a more natural product, and the yeast gives it an almost dusty taste, but not dry dusty taste, which gives it more character."

Bald Eagle Kristallweizen wheat-filtered "Clearer than the hefeweizen. Goes well with fruit flavorings."

So how is Beck's beer brewed?

Step 1: Fill brew kettle with 250 gallons of water. Heat to 210 degrees.

Step 2: Depending on beer type, add sugars, hops, wheat, barley or malt.

Step 3: Let brew for one hour. Let liquid cool to approximately 70 degrees.

Step 4: Transport beer from brew kettle to fermenting tanks. Add yeast.
The sugars will convert to alcohol.

Step 5: Gradually cool fermenting tanks down from 70 degrees to 32
degrees, and no lower than 27 degrees.

Step 6: Filter beer.

Step 7: Store filtered beer in 120 gallon tanks.

Step 8: Carbonate beer.

Step 9: Serve and enjoy!

*Re-printed with the permission of the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier
Here's an article written by a representative of Reggie's Restaurant and Brewery, at Fort Irwin, Calif. extracted from a military food and beverage magazine:

Irwin's Successful Brew

By Lee Mason, Reggie's Restaurant and Brewery, Fort Irwin, Calif.

In November 1998, Fort Irwin purchased and installed the first microbrewery in the Armed Forces stateside, as part of a renovation project to improve the quality of life on post. By transforming a section of the old Leader's Club into Reggie's Restaurant and Micropub, Fort Irwin has set the standard for the rest of the MWR community, by not only knowing what the community wants, but also providing it with style. When Fort Irwin purchased the brewery they decided on an eight-barrel Micropub® Brewing Station from Micropub Systems International, Inc. As part of its "turn-key" package, Micropub Systems supplied Fort Irwin with complete installation oversight and brewer training on the system.

So in early November, the company sent its brewmaster and installation coordinator, Jon Downing, to California. The system was installed without a hitch in about three days, and Jon spent the next few days training myself and my assistant, Christopher Williams, on the mechanics of brewing beer on the Micropub® Brewing Station. After about six days and four "training brews," we were ready.

On the Nov. 23, we opened the taps to the Fort Irwin community for the first time with two microbrews, a Munich Octoberfest and an American Light. The response from the community was fantastic. Both batches, almost 32 kegs, were gone in just over two weeks. The beer was a hit. Our initial intent was to keep four microbrews on tap at any given time and to rotate a seasonal brew as our fifth. There was only one catch. The beer was going out the door as fast as we could make it. The best we could do was to occasionally have three microbrews on tap.

Our 10 reusable kegs were in very high demand. The sports bar simply wasn't getting any of our beer at all. The support and patronage we were receiving from the community was tremendous. We felt that we owed it to our guests to make good on their expectations of a wider variety of world class microbrewed beers. It was apparent that if we were going to meet our desired production level, and our guest’s expectations of four on tap and one specialty brew, we would have to expand our system.

We just added another fermentor and two more holding tanks. With the additional equipment we will not only provide our guests with the beers they want, but we will also be able to supply other facilities on post with premium beer at less than half the cost.

Two of our primary concerns when considering the brewery in the first place were cost and space restrictions. When the Reggie's renovation project began the idea of a brewery was just that, an idea, and it therefore wasn't included in the new floor plan. We didn't have a lot of money and we certainly didn't have a lot of space. The answers to both of these questions were in the type of brewing system we chose and neither of these concerns proved to be showstoppers. For these and other reasons, we decided to go with Micropub® Systems and their extract brewing system rather than a full-grain brewery. The difference between the two systems is that the extract system uses concentrated malt eliminating the need for costly and space consuming equipment such as the hop grinder, mash tun, lauter tun, and steam boiler.

We could purchase the Micropub® Brewing Station at a fraction of the cost and put it in a very small space but we still had the cost of labor to consider. Professional brewmasters can cost a company upwards of $50,000 or more in wages, in a full-grain system, that is. With the simplicity of the extract system, anyone can learn to brew world-class beer in about a week, eliminating the need for a high-priced brewmaster. Micropub® Systems also provides all of the brewing ingredients and recipes, so we are confident that each brew will be great every time.

The restaurant and brewery fall under the leadership of Donna Vernon, General Manager of Reggie's and the Leader's Club. Vernon is the 1998 winner of the coveted James A. Carroll Award for Excellence in Management in the Food Beverage and Entertainment category. When asked how she feels about having the first extract brewery in the entire U.S. military, Vernon replied," I'm proud to have the brewery in my facility. The beer is excellent, our guests enjoy getting involved with the different brews, and it's making us money. What's not to like?"

The brewery is run by Williams, who started at Reggie's as a custodian, and myself, a bartender turned brewer. We recently brewed a batch of Amber Bock and shipped 10 kegs of it to Chicago, compliments of Micropub® Systems International, Inc., for the 1999 IMCEA conference, where a Micropub® Brewing Station was on display. To say that the beer and brewing system were very well received would be an understatement. There were representatives from posts, bases and camps from all over the world, and the most frequently asked question was "How do we get one of these systems?"

Dragon Hill Lodge in Seoul, Korea, just, installed a Micropub® Brewing Station in June. Tim Mitchell, from Dragon Hill Lodge, recently visited Fort Irwin to see the system in action and sample the beer for himself. "There are a lot of folks looking forward to the opening of this brewery," he said. "And after seeing your brewery and tasting your beer, I'm confident that we can duplicate your success."

Fort Irwin's success with the extract brewery system is evident in their financial reports. The system has paid for itself within the first year!