Visiting a brewery and discovering new favorites is an exciting venture in and of itself. But actually being able to partake in the art of crafting that brew from start to finish? That’s a whole new ballgame.
The Craft of Brewing Brewery, or TCOB for short, in Ashburn offers just that experience to its patrons.
TCOB opened in March of 2018, and despite some interruption caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, has already processed over 725 customer-crafted beers.
Where did the idea come from?
TCOB CEO Douglas Travers credits two things with inspiring him in bringing TCOB and their ‘brew your own beer’ experience to life.
Number one, the existence of the Speidels Braumeister.
“I had become somewhat enthralled with home brewing, and like many home brewers, I wanted to find a way to enhance and simplify the process of brewing,” Travers says. “My garage was quickly getting out of hand with brewing equipment and my need to over-engineer my DIY equipment.”
While doing some research for a beer he has been planning on brewing, he came across the Speidels Braumeister.
“It was the perfect all-grain system in my eyes for what I was doing,” Travers adds. “I quickly realized that for the beer I mainly brew, this was the epitome of brew systems that quickly solved the problems with enhancing and simplifying the process—and made all my overly engineered equipment irrelevant.”
Additionally, Travers says a visit to a brewery in Cleveland, which offers brew-on-premises (BOP), also served as a source of inspiration in his venture.
“My wife is from Cleveland, and we had gone back for Thanksgiving several years ago, and when we were there, one of her family members wanted me to check out a place in the area called the Brew Kettle,” says Travers.
While The Brew Kettle offers brew-on-premise, their system is a little different.
“They offer BOP with liquid malt extract [LME] and a steam system,” says Travers. “As a home brewer, I feel that all-grain is the way nature intended beer to be, and many die-hards feel that LME is not real brewing.” That’s when Travers had the idea of using an all-grain system like the Braumeister.
TCOB features over a dozen all-grain brew stations that basically serve as miniature versions of what is used at the brewery to make their beer. Customers can bring their own favorite recipe or choose one right at the brewery, and they’re ready to get started.
How does it work?
Be sure to plan on investing a good part of your day when going to TCOB to brew your own beer.
“The brewing part—or making wort—takes about four and a half hours,” says Travers. “Fermentation, however, takes on average about two or three weeks.”
The process is broken down into seven steps, depending on the recipe:
- Recipe Creation—This step typically takes between 15 and 30 minutes and involves choosing which style of beer you would like to create
- Milling—Crunching the grain to break open the Epidermis to access the inner and outer Endosperm
- Mashing—This activates the malt enzymes and converts the grain starches into fermentable sugars
- Sparging—This involves rinsing of the mash grain bed to extract as much of the sugars from the grain as possible
- Boiling—This part of the process does several things including inactivation of residual enzymes from the mash and sterilization of the wort
- Casting—In this step, the wort is removed from the kettle and placed into a fermenter using a pump and heat exchanger
- Pitching the yeast—Last, you pour the yeast into the fermenter and the fermentation process begins
After customers finish the brewing portion, they come back following the fermentation period to collect their brew.
Customers can choose from bottling their beer or having TCOB put it into their own keg for them.
“I wanted to create something that was close to the professionals, but on a home-brewers scale for people who may be interested in a really cool hobby,” says Travers.
Megan Herr is an editor and writer residing in the Shenandoah Valley. She graduated with a degree in journalism from Penn State University.
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