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Apr
24
2014

How I started a nanobrewery in Venezuela!!!

I found this fascinating story on a homebrewing forum. Venezuelan brewer, Daniel López, tells a great yarn about overcoming the challenges he faced making craft beer in his country. It was published in 6 parts which I’ve reproduced here. The English is not perfect but that just adds colour to the story, giving it the authentic feel of a story being told by a Spanish speaker.

Part I

Hi to all, this is the history of how i became a home brewer and how i make my nano brewery here in Venezuela. I think that this can help some homebrewers to reach their beer dreams ;D .

I will try to write in English but maybe it will be some errors in my writing, because my English is not perfect, so I hope that you can understand this post.

My name is Daniel López, right now in 2014 I have a little microbrewery (or nano brewery) here in Venezuela, the name of the brewery is Old Dan´s, you can find us in twitter as @olddans.

The idea of write this history in some way is to share with others brewers my dream of make good beer in Venezuela and build from nothing a microbrewery, I think that I will write in parts and post it here one part at a time.

When, why and how all started

Back in 1995 I think that make beer in your house it was something impossible, I think that only big breweries has the equipment to make this wonderful drink, this is the most popular drink here in Venezuela ( 83 liters of beer per capita in a year), in that time my father works in a international organization here in Venezuela, and he has to travel a lot, in one of his travels he find in a bookstore in Quito, Ecuador, the Dave Miller´s Home brewing Guide and Karl F. Lutzen Brew Ware (great books to become a home brewer and build your own stuff). These book inspire my father to make beer here in Venezuela, this idea was one of my father’s dreams, in the next 2 years my father read all the books and find another lots of book, make a big research about the making beer science.

In this time I was finishing my high school studies and prepare to begin my university career as a biologist, so in that moment I prefer to drink the awful commercial beer find in Venezuela than make my beer. I never imagine that several years later I will begin my brewery.

In 1997 I make a vacation trip to the US, and in that time I bring with me a Hydrometer, 3 airlocks, 3 rubber stoppers, a bottle capper and a few books. My father think that find the ingredients in that time in Venezuela it will be an easy task, but no, it was the greatest mistake in his brewing career. After a year of looking all over the country for the ingredients my father decide to put away the home brewing project.

Thirteen years passed and all the stuff that I bring to make beer was in the bottom of a box, in that time I always talk to my friends about make home beer as an interesting topic in some conversations, but I really never think to start home brewing in all that time. But this talk whit the friends it was an important point in all these story.

In September of 2010, one of these friends that lived in Ireland brought me a great gift, 500 gr of saaz flower hops and 4 packs of dry yeast, these was a special moment because after these, my life change in an excellent way.

In these moment I have hops and the yeast, but one problem!!! Yes, I don’t have the malt, big problem again. This time I was the one that search for the ingredients and it was very difficult to find something.

In Venezuela you can’t grow hops for its climatic conditions and the barley to make the malt it’s inexistent in the country, so what can I do??

In that time I tried to make grow some kind of barley that I found, but it was a disaster, so I tried again and look in some naturist shops and I find a very rare item. In this shop I find a malt extract used to make some kind of natural beverage, I bought some, look for the forgotten things in the box and make my first batch of beer, a 4 liters batch cooked in a small pot in my house kitchen, so I wait a few weeks and then my first bottle.

This first batch it was very different than the beer I make today, but it was my first little baby and it was great for that time. This first batch was not beer, I was something like an apple cider or a champagne but it was ok for the first batch.

I make several batches and it was evolved to a better kind of beer, but it was still a low quality beer, but my friends love this beer because it was something different, it was something new.

One day looking in a website similar to ebay or amazon here in Venezuela, I found malted barley, hops and yeast. I bought a lot of ingredients and make this time real beer!!!

This is the end of part I. I hope this help someone to make more and better beer. I will post the part two soon.

(originally posted at http://17crew.com/forums/index.php?topic=1774.0)

Part II

Before we continue with this long story I think that I have to explain a little about the political and economic situation of Venezuela.
Right now we are in a deep economic and political crisis, I will try to take no political sides in the story because is very complex and boring for this post, but I think it will help you to understand all the sacrifices that we make to have a good glass of beer.

  1. The liquor law of Venezuela practically it was create basically by the big rum and beer companies in 1970 or 1960 I really don’t remember, this law looks like it was made to avoid the existence small breweries, in fact it was very efficient in that function, because in Venezuela you can only find two big breweries and two small ones, these last ones only working in Caracas and with a very small production, the other old breweries in Venezuela disappears long time ago. This law makes illegal any brewpub or any craftbeer. (Yes in Venezuela you can’t find a brewpub and the craftbeer is illegal too). The corruption in the country is one of the biggest in the world so try to change the law is an epic adventure that will consume all our energy and money.
  2. In Venezuela exists a currency exchange control by the government since 2002, what these it means? It means that I can’t buy dollars freely, the government gives to every company or person a tiny amount of dollars to be bought in a year period, and if you reach that limit you can’t find any dollar till the next year. These are very important to us, because if extremely difficult to find dollars to buy all the ingredients that we need. You can find dollars in a black market and this it’s very expensive. This is more complex than this but I think that is enough to explain a little one of the problems in these beer story.

As I tell in the part I, finally I find ingredients in Venezuela, but they are a very basic ones, just one kind of yeast a malted barley without any specification and a very old hops.

First’s moments as a homebrewer

So, we are sometime in 2011, with these ingredients I make a lots of batches, I learn to roast the barley, so I can give color and flavors to the beer (try to import specialty grains it´s impossible at that time, because it’s to heavy and it will be costly, in that time I don’t have any money to make big investments), using my small amount of legal dollar to bring good yeast and good pellet hops, I begin to upgrade my recipes and as result my beer it was better, but just a little.

In this time I make my first brewery, a 19 L (5 gallons) three level stand tower using the brew ware book. This tower was made all from scrap metal and recycled things. I only bought a small aluminum pot and adapt a thermometer on one side and a ball valve in the bottom.

The experimental brews

With my new brewery I try lots of crazy ingredients that I find here and of course inspired by the tv show BrewMaster by Sam Calagione. In this period I discover and use some of the basic ingredients that I use in my actual recipes, like molasses, honey, mangoes, strawberries, coffee, chocolate, coconut, pumpkins etc.

I tried some beers using corn, rice and cassava to make my grains efficiency go higher (remember it was impossible to find grains) but finally these ingredient doesn’t give flavor to the beer and make the process more difficult, so since that moment all my beers are made of malted barley and some flavor adjuncts.

I think that In this moment i discover CraigTube (by the way, thanks to one of his videos I discover 17crew), immediately I become a loyal follower of the brewing videos of CraigTube, and learn a lot from these videos and understand all Craig complains about the difficulties and cost of finding ingredients were he lived (it was something like my situation). As I said I learn a lot from him and I will thank him for the videos.

Two years after my first batch, i think that it was on august of 2012 is when I decide to sell my beer to my friends and create a twitter account to sell my beer to anyone. But the task it was too much work to do for one person, so I call a friend (another biologist), explain my idea and invited him to be part of the Old Dan´s Project. In that time this friend it was unemployed, and he rapidly said yes to Old Dan´s Brewery (in this time I worked in the UCV, Universidad Central de Venezuela as a Biologist in a project in a water reservoir in Venezuela).

All these time I think that I was the only homebrewer in Caracas, but suddenly I discover on twitter a craftbrewery here in my city, I sent a direct message to these guys explaining that I was a homebrewer too, and asking if we can meet, they answer immediately, and explain to me that in two days it will be some kind of a meeting in Caracas where it will be a great number of homebrewers of Venezuela and everyone it will take beer to the meeting. We have some beer in the fridge and two days after we meet a great number of homebrewers and discover a very advance movement of craftbrewery in my country.

(originally posted at http://17crew.com/forums/index.php?topic=1779.0)

Part III

Before we continue, I want to explain another thing about Venezuela, in the last 40 years the only kind of beer sell in the country is a Pilsen Lager, all the commercial breweries here, make this beer only, so the people here was used to this kind of beer and they doesn’t has the choice to try other stuff. These breweries in one occasion try to put on the market other kinds of beer like a bock or a munich, but in time they disappear, I don’t know if it was due to the cost of production or was just that this kind of beer doesn’t like to the buyers.

In these 40 years almost all the breweries disappear and only two big ones are on the market now. Other thing to have in mind is that in this time the economic situation of the country it was deeply deteriorated year after year and the result in the beer is a critical one. The big breweries every year put more corn, rice or cassava to their products, as an obvious result the quality of the beer is worse every year.

So here in Venezuela the people are used to and love this pale yellow water, in 1999 opens a new microbrewery in a German immigrants town outside of Caracas, this was great because maybe we can drink another kind of beer, but sadly the only kind of beer they sell was a pilsen lager. In 2005 appears another microbrewery in the country and for the first time in Venezuela you can drink a different beer and it was a Red Ale. In the first years of this brewery this beer was pretty good but as always happens here, the difficulties getting ingredients make this brewery lower the quality of the beer and today this beer it is an a pale amber water.

All this, make me think at that time a simple question, Venezuela it is ready to the strong flavors of a craft beer?

The answer: We will see later in future parts!!! Hehe.

Well it was august 2012, the meeting was a perfect day, we have opportunity to offer and hear the comments of another experimented homebrewers (in this time we made beer practically without any real knowledge about beer making, we are beginners brewers), there was great beers that day. We offer that day a molasses amber ale and a coffee stout (all the grains was roasted by us), and we received a very good feedback from our new homebrewing friends. In this moment we know that we have to work harder to make a better beer, so we began a never-ending research on the internet and magazines to learn everything about brewing and try to upgrade ours beer making skills.

We sell our first bottle

At first we have two simple beers recipes to sell, an American Pale Ale and one of my favorites an Amber Ale, after these two we make a lots of different batches like a coffee porter, pumpkin ale and a 9% abv red ale (today we have 5 regular beers and a lot of seasonal beers).

On september 2012, I design our first label and a week after we have our bottles ready to the world, we sell our first bottle of beer on twitter, in that time we use a 333 ml bottles recycled (I will put a photo of these first bottles in this post) from commercial breweries here in Venezuela (we use this recycled bottles because the situation in Venezuela is critical is almost impossible to buy new bottles). One month later we sell our first box of beer in a bar, this was possible thanks to these first brewers that we meet on twitter a few months ago, they talk to the bar owner to get us in.

Our production in that time was almost nothing, something like 80 to 160 L (21 to 42 gal) per month, but we sell everything, this moment was difficult because we have two big problems:

  1. We have no experience on the management of a brewery, so when we upgrade our production we never think about the inventory management so rapidly we get out of stock of hops and yeast. If you live in the US or Canada you may think that this will be a minor problem, you can just simply put an order and in one week max you have your ingredients. But here I have to wait something like a month in the best scenario to get my inventory full again (and that is if I find dollars in the black market). So it was difficult to learn all these stuff, remember that we are just two crazy biologists selling illegal beer in Venezuela.
  2. In January 2013, we suffer the worse nightmare of a brewer, CONTAMINATION!!!!!!! As a biologist I understand perfectly the risks of a bad technique of cleaning and sanitation, and in a tropical country with high temperature and humidity the bacteria and wild yeast are everywhere. So we have a very strong protocol of cleaning and sanitation to avoid contamination. But in January we lost 3 of 4 batches produced, we was nearly to close the brewery because it was so frustrating. We clean everything millions of times, change the fermenters, the hoses, the chiller and the contamination doesn’t disappears, one of our new brewers friends told us that they the previous year has a similar problem and lost something like 300 L (79 gal) and the only solution was to put more hops in the beer to fix the contamination problem.

Not convinced with the hops solution idea, i have an another theory of where is the problem in the brewery, and my theory is this: we have a five filter water system, because the water here in Caracas is a problem (I work in that time in the water reservoir that gives water to Caracas and I know the problems there, and the quality of the water is horrible), after the filtration we use salts to make adjustments on our water profile.

The first days of January I change all the filters in the brewery and make the first batch of the year, that’s was the only good batch of that month, I regularly change the filter every month, but this time when I change one of the filters at the end of the month practically it was alive, some kind of fungus or something was growth in the surface of the filter. I really not know if this really was our problem because I know that the boil would kill almost everything in the process but I also know that exist some thermo-resistant bacteria that maybe it survive the boil (but I really think that is a very low possibility that a bacteria or fungus survive, if anyone have an idea about this I listen to him), after this problem now i check all the filters before every brewing day and of course we change our recipes and put a lot of hops in them, but we really doesn’t know exactly what is the source of the contamination.

After that terrible period we have no more contamination and we are making beer with a low IBU (witbier for example) for our standards without a single lost batch, now we are happy again, but we learn the lesson.

The message of this is, no matter how skilled you are, a contamination it would attack in any moment and I think that is important to all brewer to have an a contamination once in his brewing career or at least taste contaminated beer sometime, because is a hard way to learn more of the brewing process and to become a better brewer.

(originally posted at http://17crew.com/forums/index.php?topic=1779.0)

Here is the photo!!

olddansprimeraPart IV

As in the earlier parts, before I write my story I need to explain a little more about how all it works here in Venezuela. My country it’s a little different in many ways, I think that almost all members of 17crew live in development countries, so when you talk about the law you are talking about some serious things. As I explain before the laws here in Venezuela it was written by the big commercial breweries and try to change a law it would take several years. In example similar to the homebrew beer legal problems it is a legal situation with the craft production of a liquor called ¨Cocuy de Penca¨ it is basically a craft tequila, this tequila it is made in some deserted zones in Venezuela by people with very low economic resources and its illegal, several years ago the army search for this illegal places and destroy it, recently it’s a movement to legalize this Cocuy de Penca, the battle I think that have something like 15 years long and today is still illegal.

But you can find this Cocuy in almost every liquor store in Venezuela. At this moment I think that they are very close to make legal this craft tequila. I explain this because the people who read this post will think how we can sell beer without any legal permission.

Usually the governments understand that these old laws are obsolete and they try to not harm these little craft movements. So, in some way this happens with the craft beer movement, at the moment we are illegal but we are so small that the government doesn’t pay attention to us.

Ok, after the horrible contamination on January of 2012, we change our bottles, now we bottle the beer in 750 ml bottles (like the champagne bottles), because in some way it´s easier to buy these bottles and the bottling it´s easier too.

In mid 2012 we are selling our beer in 3 bars in Caracas and we are at top capacity, it was very difficult to make the beer, bottling and finally shipping it, and remember that we have our original works, so we don´t have any time at all, we cook and bottle in weekends and in the night, these was really a nightmare, in part because our equipment it was handmade, very inefficient and slow, of course we use homebrewing equipment to make large batches of beer.

So we need bigger equipment, but in this particularly moment we produce just to cover the expenses of the brewery, so we can´t do anything to build the expansion.

The Circus

In late 2012, we has at this time a name in the underground beer culture in Caracas, we established our brand in some bars in Caracas, we bought a draft system in amazon to make promotional events.

In that moment the movement has an exponential growth and the circus of homebrewery arrived to Venezuela, everywhere it was people making craft beer, the wine sommeliers come to us to make degustation’s of this new estrange liquid in the finest restaurants of Caracas, some newspaper magazines make articles about us and other homebrewers, it was and it is something crazy and some recent graduated filmmakers wants to make an little documentary about this movement (I will put the trailer link in this post, the full documentary will be out soon) because it was something new in a country were all the investment was gone as a result of the bad economy and problems, they think ¨look, this estrange guys trying to make a business in a country where no one wants to invest¨.

So the circus was in, and the movement growing but it was a movement without any organization, some brewers tried to go to the congress, but practically they laugh at us because we are just a group of crazy people making weird beers, and you remember the corruption problem in the country? Well we have no money so they have no interest in help us.

In this moment a group of homebrewer has the idea of the foundation of an association of craft brewers to fight for this movement and at the end legalize the craft beer in Venezuela, as usual it was a difficult path that it will take several months to make real this idea.

Finally we see a profit

In all these time we practically put all our works money into the brewery, and happily we earn our first Bolivar or our first dollar, in the next months because we has a lots of stock, of malts, yeast and hops, we see the benefits of our hard work.

Remember that we have all these handmade equipment? Well we decide to invest instead of take that profit to our pockets and we want at that time to invest in a better equipment, but we have again another problem and it was again the dollar problem!!!! we can’t afford to buy a new machine it’s too expensive, so in our never-ending quest to search the brewing knowledge I find a great book that help us to design a nanobrewery machine, this book was Technology Brewing and Malting by Wolfgang Kunze (https://www.vlb-berlin.org/en/publications/specialist-publications/technology-brewing-and-malting), in this book you can find everything related to brewing and malting process, and detailed information about equipment.

So as I said we begun with a new dream, this dream was the design of a brewery machine here in Venezuela.

The rest of 2012 was a great year but the best of this story it will happens in 2013!!!!!

(Originally posted at http://17crew.com/forums/index.php?topic=1786.0)

Part V

2013 it was a great year to us and for all the homebrewer in Venezuela. One of the important tasks to us in the last two years it was the continuously education of the customer to enjoy a craft beer, remember that the Venezuelan beer drinker only knows one kind of beer, so we practically has to convince every customer of the benefits of the craft beer and explain why the price is different from the commercial beer.

This was a very difficult work to do because in Venezuela the minimum wage in 2013, it´s something like 300 dollars per month at government exchange rate (but this is an unreal minimum wage, in 2014 with this crisis the not official minimum wage it´s something about 70 dollars per month), and we are selling a bottle of 750 ml on 3,5 dollars.

So we are selling a very expensive beer if you compare the prices with the prices of normal beer. To make this possible we has made a lot of promotional events, goes to the bars and restaurant, an explain to the costumer why this craft beer it´s so expensive and explains why it’s a better beer. Another important thing that we do is the training of the bar and restaurants owners and employees about the different kinds of beer how to offer this new product, how to serve the beer, what kind of glass to use, etc. This is a very important thing to do, because if the bar doesn’t know how to sell your beer, the beer it’s not going to sell itself. So we are very strictly in this particular point, because a bad way offering a beer is bad advertising, so if the bar or restaurant doesn’t make a good work we stop the shipping of the beer to that bar.

This maybe it sound a little drastic but to us it´s working, because the production of craft beer here is too small, so find a bottle it’s very difficult, so the people looks for the beer in all the bars and restaurants that sell craft beer and if in some moment the bar doesn’t have craft beer the people leave the place, so these places notice that and in time has learned how to sell our beers.

Designing and waiting

In January 2013, we decide to make a bigger equipment, bring equipment from outside Venezuela is impossible to us so we have to think how make it here. So we design a 160 l (42 gal) system, a hot liquor tank, an electric mash tun and boil kettle, and finally the conical fermenters.

Well we saw lots of videos and read a great quantity of information to try to replicate some things; we want something simple but efficient and functional. In February we find a company that can make these systems and we start the designing of the first part of the one year journey to complete our system.

First the boil kettle, we want a simple boil kettle build on stainless steel 304 with a 160 l capacity. This one was the easy one, is an electric insulated boil kettle; in about two months we have our new boil kettle and a week later our first conical fermenter.

The guy that construct our systems have a lot of experience building vessels to the pharmaceutical and food industry, but in the brewery business is like us, it´s just a beginner.

The boil kettle was perfect some minor details but it works and these details were solved later in time, the conicalfermenter has details too but nothing critical. We receive the boil kettle in april and two weeks later we start the use of our new system, we have to solve the problem of the temporally mash tun and pay the first part of the next step of our project: the hot liquor tank and the complicated mash tun.

In this moment on the country the money exchange control and the government policies has destroy almost all the national production of everything, and as result find the stainless steel and all the parts needed to build our mash tun was a very difficult thing. We bought the pumps and some connection on the US but practically our project was on standby.

A year later we are still waiting for our mash tun and hot liquor tank and it looks that soon will be delivered, but we are still waiting (and the crisis its worse now).

So we have a partial new system but we managed to work in an efficient way with this half system and upgrade our production from 160 L to a 400 L to 600 L per month.

On july of 2013 finally the ACAV (Asociacion de Cerveceros Artesanales de Venezuela/ Venezuela Craft Beer Association) was founded, and all the homebrewers made a big party where almost all the homebrewer offer their products, it was a 70 or 80 people party and we have lots of good beer from different parts of the country, it was an amazing day because we meet each other talk about beer grains, hops, techniques and finally the ACAV its real.

In this moment i´m one of the directors of the ACAV, and we make a progression in the legal situation and make possible lots of events of beer culture in Venezuela.

The Holy Grains

As you can remember, we use an unknown malted barley, we don’t know where it come from or what kind of malt it is, I suspect that it could be a Pilsen malt or a Pale malt but at that time it was impossible to know that. So I start a private eye investigation to know what we are using and it was difficult at that moment because all the people who sells these malt lived outside of Caracas and when you talk to them they not know anything about the malt that they were selling and they don’t want to tell us where they find this malt.

After almost a year of investigation I found the true!!! These malt originally was used to feed farm animals in some parts of Venezuela and someone notice that this malt could be used to make beer and begins to use it and sell it to the new homebrewers in the country. Ok but were it come from?, because this explain some part of the mystery but not all. So, time later I discover the next part of the mystery.

These malt it comes from the seaport silos were the biggest commercial brewery here in Venezuela receive the malt that they use to make the beer, when the truck take the malt from the silos it can´t take all the contents in it, so always it’s a percentage of malt that the trucks can’t take to the brewery, the seaports authority´s send a group of employees to take these grains and they put it in bags and someone sell it almost free to the people that have farms (something like 0,1 dollars per lb) and finally they sell these to us.

So after a long time we know that we are using Pilsen malt but we doesn’t know yet where it comes from and what brand it is, I suspect the they bring these malt from Germany but i´m not sure.

At this point we are making a nice beer but it was a very mediocre beer, because we are like we are flying blind, we don´t know what malts are we using and we are making our specialty malts, so we are some kind of beeralchemist trying to covert anything in liquid gold.

In Agust of 2013, we have the opportunity to buy malts with other homebrewers in the US, it was a very expensive thing to do with black market dollars but it was something we need to do, in order to make a better beer, to find the dollars I talk to a good friend of mine that live in Panama and he is going to visit Venezuela in that moment and i sell to him Bolivares and he will keep my dollars in Panama, when we make the malts order he pay from his bank and finally we have almost got our good malts.

But when the malts arrive Miami here in Venezuela explodes a big problem with the importation companies, in that time we bring all our ingredients from US using a door to door service, but here in Venezuela they don´t pay any taxes and they don’t have any legal permission, so as the legal craftbeer problem the door to door companies it was use by all the people in Venezuela but they are illegal. So the government tried to control these companies and all the order that enter the country using this method it will be confiscated. So our malts were in a warehouse in Miami for almost two months.

As always occurs in Venezuela after one and a half month the door to door companies use the corruption method to start again the business, and a time later we finally have our malts.

Now for the first time in our brewery history we begins to make the beer with the malts and specifications that we want, the next batches was everytime better and better and the custumer notice the difference.

(originally posted at http://17crew.com/forums/index.php?topic=1794.0)

Part VI

I think that this it will be the last part of this story, reading again the other partsifind some errors in the dates but almost all it was ok, the timeline of events it´s in the right order.

I hope that all you enjoy this reading as I enjoy write this long story.

Hard Work and take a brewing course

On July 2013 one of our brewers friends was in a bookstore making some documents copies and on one desk he saw a lot of photocopies with a great brewing material and he start to look this material and then a guy appears and ask ¨what are you doing with my copies!!¨ our friend talk to him explaining that he is a homebrewer and make beer in his house. Finally he discovers that this guy it is one of the most important brew masters in one of the Venezuela big commercial breweries. In the coming months our friend speak a lot with this master brewer and in September we and other brewers meet this master brewer, he explain to us that he is almost retired from the company, we set this meeting to ask him if he wants to give us the first brewing course of the ACAV, and a month later a group of homebrewers was attending again to the school, but this time it was to a brewing school.

We learn a lot in this course all the brewers make a selection of interesting topics, and explain to him the importance of make an adaptation of this information to be applied on a homebrewery scale. We attend every Saturday and listen all day the stories and the very complex information that gives to us our teacher.

We discover all the mistakes that we have in our breweries,techniques, etc. And in that moment begun a lot of hard work to make changes in our methods and breweries to improve our beers. Not all the information was useful sometimes we discover that the ideas of our teacher it was the ideas of these big breweries, he explain to us that as brewers you have to make a tropical kind of beer (without flavor and color, because that is the beer of the Venezuelan people), and to finally make this beer you have to substitute some ingredients to reduces the expenses and make a big profit. So we have to make a selection of the information we want to use in our breweries and the information to be forgot. We as a brewery, make the beer that like to us not the beer that it will like to everyone and sell a lot, we think that in this way we can have control on the final quality of the beer and make always a good beer, maybe make it an expensive beer but at least it will be a good beer.

Thanks to our teacher and in some way to the problems in our country (because of the delay in the construction of our mash tun) we make some modifications in our future mash tun and in our little brewery to make it more efficient and better. We learn the importance of a lots of things but one that I think it´s the more important it was the in line aeration system. Our teacher explain to us that this is the best way to aerate the wort before we put the yeast, we explain to him the methods used by us in or breweries (usually a diffusion stone in the bottom of the fermenters), and he said to us that these kind of aeration it was ok, but it was one of the most inefficient way to aerate our wort. So i put my brain to work and design a little hand-made in line aeration system, and it works perfectly, the results was amazing. Normally after we cool the wort the activity in the fermenter it start in 5 to 6 hours after the we put yeast, with our new in line aeration we saw activity in less than 2 hours after we put the yeast. This is a little example of one of the things that we learn in this course.

Sometime you can find a lot of information on the internet and that it´s great and helps to make a better beer, but sometimes i think that it´s important to make this kind of quick courses or to learn directly from another brewers, the things that you can learn it will help you a lot.

In late 2013 the movement of craft beer was amazing, the ACAV have near 70 members and only in Caracas you can find 15 brands of craft beers.

As a consequence of our new acquired fame, the big breweries association, make us an invitation to see what kind of rare animals are us, they invited us (the ACAV) to the brewery of POLAR in Caracas, this is one of the smallest breweries that POLAR has here in Venezuela, but it´s big enough to us. This visit was great, 30 homebrewers attends to the visit and we saw the entire brewery with the master brewer there, after the visit they invite us to lunch in a pub that they have there and all talk about beer. We always are very cautious with the big breweries, we know that they doesn’t wants us here in the country, and recently someone told me in secret that one of these breweries are making experiments to launch beers like ours at a very low cost. Will have to see if in the future they can make good beers and if this it will kill our movement.

In November the craft brewers take part in a gastronomic fair in Caracas, this was an important one, and the public goes crazy with our beers, they never imagine that this exists in Venezuela, it was a four-day event and every day it´s a new group of brewers offering their beers. This impulse in a good way our movement and brings all of us a lot of great reviews.

In this fair side by side to us was the two big breweries stands and it was obvious one thing, their stands it was empty and ours was full of people asking for the process and drinking our beers, and this was very curious because our beer was very expensive if you compare with the price of their beer.

After the gastronomic fair, the ACAV received two proposals, and these proposals were very similar and came from these two big breweries. They want to make a big event of beer culture in Caracas.

We analyses these proposals and we select the better one, because it was a more equilibrated one, they give to each one of the hombrewer the same stand space room that the big brewery it will have, they will pay for everything and we can have our beer logos and our promotional stuff, and more important is that this big brewery accept to have in the event the two small breweries that they in the past has try to destroy, of course this it was not an easy task, the ACAV put their rules, ¨if you want us in an event you have to accept all of us as equals¨, the only brewery out of the event is the other big brewery of Venezuela.

This event is still on planning, but I think that in april 2014 it will be here in Caracas a great beer culture event.

Well as you can see every year is better than the previous year, 2013 give us lots of opportunities, and gives also a great learning and good things.

Right now 2014 it´s a very difficult year, in February the political crisis collapse the country and after 2 months of protests and 41 people was killed in the streets as a result of the repression suffer by the government police, the situation In Venezuela is very difficult and complicated, we don’t know what it will happen in the future, but we try to make the things right and build a better country we hope that someday we finally can have a united Venezuela.

Practically in February as a result of the protest we have no sales, but we continued the production of our beer. We work in two new final recipes, a belgian style witbier and a english robust porter.

On march we made our historical sales number (this is one of the things that I can´t understand of Venezuela, the country is on fire and in a deep economic crisis and the people are drinking more beer than ever), and finally we finish the 7 months experiments on our witbier and porter recipes. The witbier was a big success all the people love it and the porter we just put it this weekend on the bars and we are waiting to see the response of the people on the bars and restaurans (the porter it will be difficult to sell here because is a very strong flavor beer, and you know what the Venezuelan wants on beer hehe).

In this moment we are working in our IPA recipe and working with another of the craft breweries here in Caracas to make two beers between breweries this year.

Our mash tun and hot liquor tank are still not finished; we hope that in the next weeks we can have our brewery ready.

Final words

Maybe all of you thinks that we have a big microbrewery here in Venezuela but the real things is that our brewery is very small, I’m sure that some of the people in this forum have more space than we have here, our brewery it´s just a small modified room in my house.

Our equipment it´s not professional equipment, almost anything we make it here in Venezuela and have a lot of problems and errors. I think that if our brewery was in the US we just be two homebrewers with a fancy equipment. And here in Venezuela I fell like just a homebrewer.

We make between 400 L to 600 L every month and try to sell it. We make the beer, the bottling and the shipping and sometimes we sell it directly to the people, we are just two guys working hard.

I think that our beer is good for the standards here in Venezuela but I really don´t know if we could be qualified as a good beer in other countries with a more advance craft beer culture, we always try to learn new things and I’m sure that in this forum exists people with more experience that we have.

We still are fighting to make the craft beer legal here and we work hard for that. More beer cultures events will help to educate people in the country about craft beer.

This year we talk to some friends and we are making a project to make a microbrewery in a future in other place in South America or the Caribbean, we are saving money to make possible this new dream, and keep fighting with our brewery for the good beer in Venezuela.

Finally I hope that these words helps someone to make his brewery dreams comes true, because if we here in Venezuela with all the problems that we have every day, we try to make it possible and make it real I think that any person in the world can make it too.

Well my friends this it´s all the story, thanks for reading it!!!

I´m always like to talk about beer, you can find us on twitter @olddans, or send me an email aramarth@gmail.com.

Thanks!!!!! And Prost!!!!

Daniel López.

The End.
(originally posted at http://17crew.com/forums/index.php?topic=1806.0)

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