Probably one of the basic truisms in brewing is that, what ever size system you put in, sooner or later you’re going to want a bigger one. And of course, sooner or later you hope you’re going to NEED a bigger system. After all, building a thirsty customer base is what it’s all about.
So when Steve Powell dropped a 1.5 barrel system (for those who don’t have all that “conversion stuff” in your head, that means every time Steve brews he only makes 3 half-kegs of beer) into Pietro’s Pizza’s new Kirkwood Highway location and started up Argilla Brewing, he probably hoped that one day, he’d need a bigger system. And maybe that time has come. Steve has been so busy brewing at Argilla that he recently brought in some additional fermenters and brewer Bryan Taylor to help out with the load.
But even though Steve appears to be looking towards “bigger”, he’s also focusing on “smaller” through his Five Gallon Fridays. The concept is simple, every week Steve brews a five gallon batch of beer (equivalent to the size a home brewer would make when first starting out) and then several weeks later taps it at 5:30 on Friday. The size gives Steve the flexibility to try new ingredients and techniques allowing him to do what amounts to small scale test batches.
Small batch experimental beers aren’t anything new in the brewing world, lots of breweries do them. But when you stop to think that most brewery’s “small batches” are magnitudes bigger than Steve’s regular output, it’s pretty amazing.
I’ve been stopping into Argilla on regular basis to check out the Five Gallon Friday beers, and I have to say I’ve been very impressed with them. And so must the rest of his customers considering that the 5 gallon beers tend not to last to long. The most recent one (Bryan’s first contribution to Argilla), an Oktoberfest, kicked in 1 hour and 15 minutes, beating the previous record held by a Honey Habanero (no lie, no one was more shocked than Steve) by 15 minutes.
Of course doing small batches for the sake of small batches is one thing, but the overall goal is to find recipes that Steve can then scale up and offer on a regular basis. When I asked him how his success has been so far he replied, “Yeah we just brewed up a big Juice [De’ Wit] yesterday. It is our first 5 gallon Friday to make the leap. The Honey Habanero was also a big hit but we’re working on scaling up the proper pepper ratio before we brew a 1.5 barrel batch.”
If you want to check out the exciting things Steve and Bryan are doing, stop on by to Argilla Brewing. If it’s a Friday, chances are I’ll be there. You can also check out Argilla Brewing at the Kennett Brewfest and The Delaware Wine and Beer Festival.