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We’re working furiously to put the finishing touches on the Taproom and Restaurant at our Mills River brewery as we prepare to open in just a few short weeks. The building is humming with activity as crews work on every aspect from choosing fabric for seat covers to installing HVAC to keep air flowing.
Last week we got down to the business of installing the draught system that will service the Taproom and stand as the front lines for beer at Sierra Nevada. The system has been a considerable challenge due to the sheer number of beers available (20 draughts at all times!) as well as the number of stations where beer will be poured. "So what?" you may ask. "There are plenty of bars and restaurants with more than 20 taps."
You’re right, there may be places with more taps, but we can guarantee there are none like this.
In most draught set-ups, a beer line is hooked to a keg and gas pushes the beer from the keg up to a tap where beer is poured. In our new Taproom, the draught "box" holding all of the kegs looks more like a heart machine than a beer cellar. Various gas regulators, pumps, and ports custom built at our Chico brewery allow the kegs to do what we ask of them—and we’re asking a lot. The Taproom will have five different stations where beer will flow all from the same kegs: a front bar, back bar, service bar, automatic growler filling station and, eventually, each beer will make the run up two stories to our live music venue.
Draught beer is a science, but we don’t often consider it. We walk in, belly-up to the bar, and order a beer we expect to arrive quickly and seamlessly. Behind the scenes, draught beer is a web of mechanical, physical and chemical properties woven into a tangle of temperature, pressure and resistance. When it’s working correctly, it fades into the background; when it’s out-of-whack, it can make for a really bad day.
For us, the beer has always been the centerpiece of what we do and the reason everything else exists. We put as much care into ingredient selection and brewhouse skill as we do into draught design and presentation of the finished beer. The small things are very important to us: spotless style-appropriate glassware, serving temperatures and pouring technique, so each beer is presented the best that it can be, in the right glass with a tight compact head of foam.
Many of the 20 taps will be brewed in our pilot brewhouse located inside the Taproom and Restaurant mere feet from where the beers will be served. We have three large serving tanks, which will take beer fresh from the cellars and into the Taproom without even a pause to be kegged.
The Taproom should be a temple to beer, a place where beer is venerated and served in all of its perfect form—but of course, when things are going well, the mechanics of service are seamless and invisible, so maybe, the Taproom should just be a really great place to stop in for a pint.