Raleigh, N.C. — Being the head brewer at Lonerider Brewing Company might seem like a glamorous job where you get to drink beer all day but it is actually a lot more involved than you think.
To find out, I spent some time with Lonerider's Galen Smith to find out what his typical day is like. Smith has been a brewer for 11 years (five of those professionally) and at Lonerider for the past three. He typically works six days a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., mostly on the managerial side. He steps in to do the day-to-day brewing when one of his three other brewers on staff are out sick.
On the day I joined him, Smith was starting a round of Shotgun Betty, their very popular German-style hefeweizen, after getting there around 7 a.m.
Here's a breakdown of Smith's day:
7 a.m. - Start the day, which will consist of brewing 30 barrels of Betty.
7:30 a.m. - Mill the grains and start the mashing process. The water has to be softened for Betty and hardened when they are making Sweet Josie. Smith spends a lot of time checking the time on his phone to determine when the mashing process will be done.
8 a.m. - First mash is done, then it is time to lower the temperature and run the mixture through a series of pipes to help separate it from the grains. Another round of waiting, watching and checking - brewing is all about multi-tasking.
8:30 a.m. - The first batch of Shotgun Betty is ready to go into the boiling kettle.
While Smith waits for Betty to finish there, he mills some grain and checks in with another brewer who is tasked with checking PH levels and analyzing cleaning solutions to make sure everything is working as it should.
The brewers we have spoken with in the past said it and it is true - brewing is 20 percent brewing and 80 percent cleaning!
With a few hours until the first batch of Betty is ready to go into the fermentor, Smith takes time to answer emails and get some office work done. He said he gets questions constantly from Lonerider fans who want to get the recipe for Sweet Josie, an American Brown Ale that is one of their flagship brews, so they can try to make it at home.
"Even if I was able to give out the recipe, it most likely wouldn't turn out the same. There are a lot of steps in our process and each one is very crucial to the way the final product turns out. It's not as simple as using the same ingredients and mash and boil schedule," Smith says.
1 p.m. - The first batch of Betty is ready for the fermentor and Smith focuses solely on his office tasks like scheduling how much grain needs to be ordered for the next week. He is also working on quality control. Once a week, the brewers do a blind taste test of a current batch versus vintage batches of their beers. With a shelf life of 90 days, they are tasting batches that are one to three months old versus the current ones. This helps maintain consistency in the brand.
4 p.m. - The day is done and it's time for Smith to kick back and enjoy a beer with his co-workers.