In his house at R’lyeh, dead Brewthulhu waits dreaming…

It has been a long journey from conception to delivery, but Brewthulhu has finally arrived.

Brewthulhu’s story begins in 2018, like most with an idea. My wife and I were planning renovations to our home that included a new garage. We wanted something that could not only house our vehicles, but also serve as workspace for our respective hobbies. Hers: Gardening. Mine: Brewing.

We went through the process, architects, builders, city planners, and permitters. The renovations began in earnest in September of 2019.

Like most renovations there were issues and complications, and oh yeah, a pandemic. The reno job took longer than we anticipated, cost more than we wanted, but ultimately got finished. The bulk of the work was completed in 2020, and luckily this included the garage space

The garage was purpose built, with high ceilings bright lighting and most of all plenty of space for everything it was designed to hold. We had a window paneled roll up door installed in the back so I could enjoy the weather when it was nice, and at least have daylight when it wasn’t. There are future plans to install a bar on the back patio with tap lines and a sink but that, as they say, is another story.
Things started out simply with a couple of tables and my then current system, 2 Brewie brewing systems. The Brewie was a novel thing. it was a 20 liter (5 Gallon) system that was semi-automated. Whenit worked properly it was amazing. You input your recipe with the mobile app or the onboard touch screen, you connected it to your water supply and routed hoses to a drain or sink. It would then brew your beer, going through the process of mashing, sparging, boiling, and cooling the wort.
You could then press a button and it would pump the wort to the fermenter of your choice. Like I said, when it worked, it was great, but many times it would fail, an ill omen that foretold the fate of the company that produced it, and when it failed it was usually in spectacular fashion. Burning up wiring, boiling over and frying electronics, or failing to heat the boil tank up at all leaving you with lukewarm barley tea, not Ideal.

Originally, I had planned on getting a Blichmann Pro Pilot system. I had it spec’d out and was gathering funds to purchase it. It was going to be a 1BBl (31 gallon) Gas fired HERMS system (Notice the gas line in the last picture). Once again, the pandemic reared its ugly head and created supply chain issues. The vendor I was working with told me that Blichmann was no longer shipping systems to Canada, where I happen to be, and I would need to contact Blichmann directly to see if they would ship to me directly. I did just that, and was told that they could but it would be extremely costly, and they would in fact still ship to Candian vendors, but there would be a 48-54 week lead time, as they were focusing on US customers. Well, what is an intrepid brewer supposed to do with that knowledge? Hit the Internet and look for other system builders, perhaps something domestic… Turns out that the brewhouse builders in Canada are pretty much all large system builders only. If I had wanted a 3BBL or larger system, I would have had my pick of builders but 1 barrel pilot system, not so much. Truth be told I was originally looking at a 5 BBL system for the commercial brewery we planned on starting, but again, that’s another story.

So, after a longer and frustrating search I ended up where lots of people end up, China. Specifically, Alibaba. If you’ve never been to Alibaba, it’s a wholly non-navigable mish mash of vendors hawking, what many times are, the same exact goods with different labels on them, BUT there are a few exceptions, these are in the industrial sector. You can think of Alibaba like a giant bazaar with just about anything you can think of, and unlike its consumer cousin Aliexpress, it is more geared to business or, in my case, a hard-core hobbyist.

It turns are there are quite a few companies making 50-500 liter brewing systems. I ended getting quotes from 2 of them, Hulk and Carry Brewtech. Hulk is the elder of the 2, having been in business for 15 years, Carry is the 5 year old upstart who, as it turns out, used to be a subcontractor for Hulk. Both companies offered insanely short turnaround times, 45-60 days from payment to completed system.

After going back and forth for a few weeks with both, mainly due to time differentials, I decided to go with Carry Brewtech. Now, only time will tell if that was the right decision, but they were more responsive to queries, and seemed to be available at all hours of the day. They worked with me to custom design a system that would do everything I wanted. They added little niceties without me asking, such as double walled vessels to help with efficiency, “free” transfer hoses, a boat load of extra tri-clamps with gaskets, and they even offered to put my logo on the system vessels.

All in all, I had a good experience with them all throughout the process of designing and spec’ing out the system. then came the hardest part, wiring a sizeable deposit to a company on the other side of the planet that you don’t really know. With a bit of nervousness, I went to my bank and did a wire transfer for 50% of the total cost and I waited to see if I had just lost my money.

Three days later I get a message via WhatsApp, they love WhatsApp, saying that they had received the payment and would begin working on my system…

Continued in the next post

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