Made in the U.S.A

Beer, but also beer equipment

I am patriotic. I love our flag and what it represents, which sometimes is better in theory than in practice. I also believe that brewers - no matter what country they live in - feel patriotic as well. This is because as brewers we use our hands and skills to actually make something. This is no small thing.

It seems to me that the big bucks are earned by generating paper, then moving that paper around and selling it, whether intellectual property, designs, legal briefs, or stock and bond trading. But it’s the woman or man in the brewhouse, sweaty and dirty from tank cleaning, that is making a real product that you can touch and feel and enjoy. America is best when it is building, creating, and inventing.

I really enjoy the Facebook group Milk the Forklift. Basically it shows brewers and their inventions - mostly spur of the moment - to get through a brew day. What brewer hasn’t had to invent something really fast to prevent a leak or accomplish a tricky pump repair? This is the essence of the American spirit.

When we first started our Colorado Boy Immersion course, I would explain how you could Frankenbrew a kettle. The problem back then was there weren’t very many American brewing equipment manufacturers. Canada and Europe for sure, and China was really coming on strong with very inexpensive equipment. I remember thinking, “why can’t we make this stuff in America?”

I approached a friend, Tom Bennett of Bennett Forgeworks here in Ridgway about building a kettle. We had a student who needed one and we gave Tom a Grundy tank and some quick drawings I made up and he went to work. Well, he is an excellent welder, and after the first one was done, he said he could just build them from scratch and they would be nicer and in the long run less expensive. And so Bennett Forgeworks got in the game and their brewing equipment is now all over the country.

Down the road in Montrose, Colorado another one popped up, Rocky Mountain Vessel. I worked with them to create an Econo-line that is sweet. Then there is Portland Kettle Works manufacturing excellent quality up in Oregon. When I do a search on American manufacturers of brewing equipment, the list is huge.

When we needed a mill for Colorado Boy in Ridgway, I looked around at used mills and new ones. Most were made outside the U.S. and expensive. So I started tinkering with adding a motor to a home brew mill, which I can tell you doesn’t work at all when milling over 400 pounds at a time. I brought the problems to Forgeworks and we started experimenting with different configurations. I think we made four mills in total, trying each one out on a brew. The first three failed, using parts that were available off the shelf. Then Tom Bennett decided to just build everything from scratch, and came up with a bomber mill that we have used now for years with zero change in quality. The first one looks very Frankenbrew, which warms my heart and is still being used in the Ridgway location, but all the rest that are sold on his web site are things of beauty MADE IN THE U.S.A.

This July 4th, I’d like to raise my pint glass to all the brewers out there, whether commercial or home brewers, who are using their hands and skills to make a real and enjoyable product right here in America.

Cheers, Tom