All too often, as beer lovers, we focus solely on the finished product. We only pay attention to the beer in its proper glass, an experience of taste alone. There is a myriad of creative forces at work, though, bringing the beer into creation. The process is, essentially, alchemical: beer is much greater than the sum of its parts, and the brewery is, quite literally, where the closest thing to magic found in nature occurs. Don't forget that brewing is essentially a religious rite in some cultures. Even in the United States, the brewer himself (or herself) is becoming more and more of a revered figure, a high priest of the craft beer movement. We can't forget the brewery, though, or the brew system, which has evolved into something sleek and stylish. It's important. Therefore, when a group of strangers got together in a fire-warmed garage recently, worshiping at the altar of the brewery itself, and the processes that unfold within it, that feeling was wordlessly understood.
Meet the Wort Monster, the brainchild of Glenn Winters, a homebrewer who decided to take his craft to the next level. He was brewing on the prototypical five gallon system, comprised of the largest pot that would fit on the stove, some six gallon fermenters, and not a whole lot else. Glenn noticed that upgrading to a more substantial system was extremely cost prohibitive, especially for the folks just making a hobby of brewing. The most ubiquitous home brewery and pilot system is the Brew-Magic from Sabco, which is a mere 15 gallons and costs almost $7,000. This price does not even include fermenters. Glenn knew there was a better way. Calling on his background both in sales and metal manufacturing, he decided to build his own brew system from scratch. The system he designed, with input from Jon Post at The Beer Diviner, is novel. In a word, the Wort Monster is flexible. It will adapt to your particular style of brewing, rather than the other way around. It is also designed to be cost-effective. The fermenters, for instance, are made of food-quality plastic with stainless steel inserts. This keeps costs to a minimum while maintaining the high sanitary standards of any serious brewer.
Also worth noting is that Glenn has sourced as much of his product in the United States and, particularly, from within New York, as possible. This not only ensures that local manufacturers get the business they deserve, but it also cuts out the mystery factor of a system coming from, say, China. "It's as much New York as I could feasibly make it." Glenn says. "The plastic fermenters are molded on Long Island. They are assembled in Buffalo. The computer hardware is made in Western New York. And it's all put together in Northern Jersey. You know, New York!" He says with a laugh. His enthusiasm is warranted. If the farm brewery law is encouraging local ingredients in the beers, it's an intriguing footnote to see a locally-sourced brewery. American-made products have always been a source of pride, and bringing back a strong industrial and manufacturing base can revitalize struggling Rust Belt economies. It unfolds before our eyes: beer's tendrils dig deeper into the economic pulse of New York and the country as a whole.
There is a revolution afoot. In a way, Glenn Winters is a modern-day Gutenberg, bringing a fruitful and affordable technology to a world craving innovation. The Wort Monster is his printing press, enabling homebrewers of all stripes to design and brew better beers. The market trends, the new beers, the new ideas in beer aren't originating within the large and established breweries. They have too much at stake to risk a bad batch. They are too beholden to "consistency" -- the requirement that their beer become a commodity, with specific returns on a specific investment. That's okay, though. They are good at what they do, and I appreciate the beer they make as much as the next guy. I just tend to revel in possibility. A little bit of this, maybe. A little bit of that. That's the fun of brewing, I think.