The Birth of a Brewer 12-25-14

Those of you who read last week’s post will recall that this week’s blog entry is being contributed by our brewmaster Craig Cauwels. I thought it would be nice for you all to get to know a little more about the origins of Morgan Territory Brewing from his perspective as well as a little about the man making your beer. So without further ado take it from here Craig:mtdiablo2-brandThe Birth of a BrewerBrewing started for me back in college when a buddy of mine got a home brew kit from his girlfriend for a birthday present. We were both biology majors and I was fascinated by the science of brewing. This began my journey into craft brewing throughout my undergraduate and graduate years. After many years in the biotech industry, that same buddy who began hobby brewing with me was starting a brew pub of his own in Antioch, CA so of course, I invested. By then I was director of the genomic laboratory at Dana Faber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA. When my buddy called and jokingly asked “what would it take to get you to move back to California?” I replied, “Make me your brewer.” The universe must have heard because a few weeks later, his brewer resigned because his wife transferred with the Air Force.Now I faced a decision – could I make a career out of brewing? With the support of my wife, we sold the house, packed everything up, and drove across country to begin a new adventure and I’ve never looked back.

My first day at Schooner’s, I began learning the professional system and the tricks of the trade from Shawn Burns and Chris Hendricks. The secret of success for me was to document the process and the details of each brew. I have collected binders full of brewing details over the years and can refer back to my award winners whenever I want to recreate the results.

I also began networking with other professional brewers in the Bay Area who generously shared their experience with me. I’m thankful to Steve Altimari, JJ Phair, Arnie Johnson, James Costa, and many others.

Becoming a professional brewer has turned out to be one of the best decisions. It marries my love of craft beers with great flavor profiles with my scientific approach to the process.

Making Morgan Territory

After making the difficult decision of closing Schooner’s Grille & Brewery, I turned my focus to the next chapter of my career. This opportunity to build a brewery from the ground up is phenomenal. Morgan Territory is the accumulation of my brewing experience, industry best practices, and my background in science. Together with my partners, we’ve designed the brewery with the goal of producing high quality beer consistently.

We began our search for the perfect building. We wanted to find at least 10,000 square feet of space with plenty of power, recessed loading docks, and easy freeway access so we could bring plenty of folks into the Tap Room. The location at 1885 N MacArthur Drive in Tracy fit the bill perfectly with 15,000 square feet, two recessed docks and three surface level docks.

Next we wanted to work with an experienced architect who’d built breweries before. Mark Thieme has been working with Drake’s brewery build out and we are very lucky to have him on this project. Having already designed a brewery, Mark knew some of the challenges we would face with the building departments. His plans aligned perfectly with our needs to have a large brewing system, keg storage, cool room, and an appealing Tap Room for guests to experience our craft beers at the source. We have the space to add a bottling line eventually and easily distribute from this great location.

Jamil Zainasheff, the owner of Heretic Brewing, has been very generous with his time and advice, sharing some critical tips that influenced the layout of the designs for the brewhouse and helped us select the best equipment manufacturers.

We were looking to invest in equipment that would be reliable, offer minimal downtime, with opportunities to expand as we grow. We also are designing the layout to accommodate future expansion such as concrete engineered to support 120 barrel fermenters, a glycol refrigeration system to manage the larger volumes, and a bigger boiler that can handle the system today and the future 30 barrel brewhouse.

The plan is to leverage the 15 barrel system we moved from Schooner’s and as we grow, we will add a 30 barrel brewhouse and convert the 15 barrel system for pilot batches. We also have brought an accumulation of the best hops from Schooner’s and our award winning recipes.

In October, Morgan Territory Brewing received its full license as a brewery from the State of California. Despite our best efforts, the building permit process has run longer than expected and has delayed our intended March Grand Opening to May, 2016. In the meantime, we are brewing small batches to refine new recipes and we just got label approval for our keg rings.

Our next step is to start signing with local distributors and keep the build out on track for a Happy New Year in 2016.