16 Jun Brewing A Business: Windmill Brewing, Pt. 2
This is part two of a series following the development of Windmill Brewing, located in Dyer, Ind., which plans to open its doors in early summer, 2015. Read Part One Here
Six months after receiving approval from the town of Dyer, Ind., Justin Verburg can practically taste his beer on tap at Windmill Brewing.
Verburg’s goal of opening a coffee and alehouse is nearly complete, and despite an unfinished taproom, Windmill Brewing is open for business. With a freshly approved state permit, Verburg intends to start brewing immediately.
Beer cannot yet be sold by the glass, but Verburg hopes to move toward distributing early, selling beer by the growler and to local restaurants to develop business prior to opening the taproom.
“It will be nice to be able to brew while we’re putting the finishing touches on our taproom,” Verburg said. “This will give us an opportunity to ramp up production and fill all those shiny fermenters to ensure we don’t run out of beer!”
When he purchased the brewing setup, Verburg was leery of the 3 bbl, non-jacketed fermenters that came with the brewing package. But before long, he was fortunate enough to find an inexpensive upgrade.
Windmill Brewing managed to find some seven bbl jacketed fermenters at roughly half the average price, with all the bells and whistles that brewers dream about. “They’re dual-zone jacketed, have dry hop ports, rotating racking arms, dual thermowells, shadowless manways,” he said. “They have pretty much every option you could want.”
To orchestrate the many aspects of his brewery, Verburg has also drawn from his computer and electronics background to develop his brewery’s control panel from scratch. “That will contain all the necessary electronics for individually controlling the temperature in each fermenter or brite tank, and create automated fermentation schedules,” he said.
And with this higher-end technology Verburg intends to try his hand at lagering as well. With all the research at his disposal, Verburg finally has the equipment to try it.
The taproom, while focused heavily on beer, will also have a very strong coffee focus. “Coffee and beer complement each other really well, and we definitely plan on integrating coffee into some of our beers,” Verburg said.
For Verburg, roasting and brewing coffee is as much of an art as brewing beer, and rather than combining the two in the form of a very dark and heavy beer, he hopes to aim for lighter styles of beer with coffee infusions.
“I really prefer coffees (with) bright, floral acidic sides,” Verburg said, “so I could see us incorporating one into a blonde or pale ale – maybe even a sour.” Ideally, Verburg plans to make a coffee base which he would build the rest of the beer around, rather than haphazardly throwing coffee into the process.
Because of the importance of freshness when it comes to coffee beans, it’s likely that coffee wouldn’t be infused with the beer until late in fermentation–or even through an infusion just prior to serving, giving the option to add a dash of coffee or have a beer straight.
Combining coffee – which is typically very dark in color – with a light beer seems counterintuitive. But Verburg reassures that some very light roasts will extract a very light, brown color. And since a tiny bit of coffee goes a long way, the coffee will make a very noticeable impact on a light beer without making a drastic difference in color.
“We’re not just looking for the usual coffee stout or Russian Imperial made with espresso beans,” Verburg said. “We want to explore the lighter side of coffee too, and see what unique creations we can make with that.”
Verburg hopes that while having both coffee and beer will appeal to two different groups of people, it will also become a quick stop along a daily commute.
“With our location,” Verburg said, “we’d love to be the place people swing by in the morning on their way to work for a great cup of coffee and to check out what beers are coming up later that day. Then they can swing by on the way home for a pint or they can grab a growler to take home.”
And now, with federal and state approval in hand, Windmill can start brewing beer for takeout. Meanwhile, Verburg anticipates opening the taproom and serving beer by the glass within the month.
After a very arduous process of gaining local zoning approval, the owners of Windmill Brewing were eager to begin filing for their state and federal approvals to open the brewery. Unlike most startup breweries, Verburg received federal approval before state, which he attributes mostly to inexperience.
“We filed both at the same time,” Verburg said, “but the federal permit is almost 100 percent online where you can track it. Indiana’s process is exclusively through mail, with very little insight into where exactly the permit is in process.”
Windmill’s owners realized that their state approval was a few weeks behind schedule according to the state’s website, and after calling the state to check on their progress, they were quickly given the permit number that they needed to continue their approval process.
“We don’t know how long that permit had been ready to go, so that may have delayed things a few weeks,” Verburg said. Despite the setback, Verburg chooses to dwell on the future rather than the delays.
And at the moment, Verburg’s future revolves around brewing beer for takeout while simultaneously working toward opening a taproom. “The biggest struggle remains dealing with all of the various regulatory requirements–particularly building codes,” he said.
“And since we opted to do a lot of the work ourselves,” he added, “we’ve had to become experts in everything from electrical and plumbing codes to handicap accessibility.” While this ultimately saves money for the brewery, bringing the taproom up to codes is a painstaking process.
Once the taproom is open, Windmill Brewing will be able to serve its beer by the glass, as well as its carefully crafted coffee. For food, the brewery will provide takeout and delivery menus from local restaurants, and will allow outside food into the restaurant.
“I can’t really say anything has been ‘surprisingly easy,’” Verburg said about opening a brewery. Nevertheless, he says, “things are going well.”