50 Days Happier: Day 8 – Dreaming for a Fermentation Studio

In the last two 50 Days Happier posts, I wrote about my multitasking kitchen and adjacent laundry room.  This (unfortunately, REALLY ineffective multitasking) is 99% a product of the fact that much of my homebrewery lives in and around our kitchen.  In the last couple of weeks, I’ve finally gotten frustrated enough to move most of the larger items to the basement.  I can’t tell you how hard this was emotionally.  (In fact, I wont tell you because I honestly feel a little weird about it.)  Let’s just say it was rough.

I also dropped a couple of hints about the potential solution to this problem in the last two posts. In my introduction to the challenge, I mentioned that 50 Days Happier would not be all about getting rid of things. Equally as important for me is taking the opportunity to reflect on what is most important to me, finding ways to prioritize those things, and taking the steps I need to take to align how I think and how I live.

Homebrewing is undoubtedly important to me.  Beer and brewing have been the anchor of my academic career.  Homebrewing is the form of leisure in which I have invested most of my time and resources–the equipment that makes up my homebrewery is worth more than both of my vehicles combined. And I still harbor dreams of embarking on some sort of small commercial brewing venture before I die. In order to give homebrewing its due, I really need to give my homebrewery its own space.

We do have an unfinished basement, but as renters, the kind of finishing I would need to do to make the space usable for homebrewing is completely out of the question. Lucky for me, a colleague who is steadily becoming a close friend, has a room in her basement that is alarmingly perfect for a small homebrewery.

While her unused basement laundry room is also unfinished, it has some amazing things going for it:

  • It’s more finished than our basement (i.e. concrete and not dirt floors).
  • It has direct access to the outside. (I don’t have to disturb anyone unless they want to be disturbed.)
  • It has two windows. (Perfect for ventilation.)
  • Basement temperatures are very fermentation friendly.
  • It has hot and cold water. (For cleaning and brewing respectively).
  • It has 110V and 220V electric. (Enough to power my electric brewing rig, lights and my fermentation fridge.)
110V and 220V electric. Ideal for running my electric homebrewery and other electronic peripherals.

Most importantly, the space is close to home and work and in the home of someone who is open and welcoming and creative and down with having a brewery/beer cave in her basement.

Making the Investment

As I considered this move, a lot of doubts crossed my mind.  I will still have to make a pretty hefty investment of time and money to get the space “brew ready.”  More to the point, I can’t just mooch off a friend and so I will be paying (an admittedly super modest) rent for use of the space.  I have asked myself a number of times whether or not it’s worth it for a few kegs of homebrew.

After some serious deliberation, I realize that this is something that I want to MAKE worth it.  While I don’t have a ton (or a penny) of extra cash, rent will be easy to cover.  I spend more time sitting in bars by myself (I call these times “remote office hours”), working on my computer, than I would really like to admit. A couple of drinks and a meal here and there add up quickly and all I really need to do is cut out a couple of these outings per month to cover rent for the new space.

I am also the faculty advisor for the Randolph College Zymurgy Team. While I am happy to have students on the “team” over to the house for brew days, the set-up isn’t ideal and my house is a bit of a hike from campus. The new space would be far more amenable to hosting the group, my colleague is sort of known for opening her home to students, and she happens to live virtually across the street from campus.

(There are some other potentially long term advantages, but I think you get the idea.)

Big Dreams for the Fermentation Studio

Miles and I headed over to the space so that I could take some measurements. He immediately approved of the location after discovering rope hanging from a tree branch just outside the studio door.

The first thing I will have to address is a deep cleaning and covering up some things. I’ll give this former laundry room a good scrubbing and (assuming my generous host is cool with it) hit it with a bright white coat of paint.

The concrete floors and wall will get a good scrubbing and maybe even a coat of paint.

The ceiling is unfinished and will need to be covered. I am hoping I can use a temporary/removable solution in the short term.  I’ve seen a number of solutions on Pinterest that may work, but this will take some thought and planning.  (If anyone has ideas, please leave a comment!)

Exposed insulation in the ceiling will be one of the first things I address. Fiberglass dust in the kettle doesn’t sound great.

The room is shaped something like a fat ‘L’ (or like a rectangle with one quarter missing.  The narrowest space created is about 5.5 x 6 feet.  It also the location of one of the windows and close to both the water, drain, and electricity. So, this will be where my brewing equipment will be located.

The perfect “nook” for my brewing equipment. I’ll put the brew table/stand against the back wall. Water and electricity are accessible on the right.

I will have to make a DIY vent hood to direct steam from the kettle out of the window. Lucky for me, plenty of industrious homebrewers have documented similar projects online.

Thinking I can retrofit this table into a table into a stand/table for my kettle, mash ton, pumps, and chiller.

Finally, I’ll need to install a laundry/utility sink in the space, which shouldn’t be too terribly difficult.

Laundry/Utility sink will be the last “must have” for the space.

Beyond these “must have” upgrades, the space will need to store my collection of kegs and carboys, gadgets and tools, ingredients and supplies.  I also plan to bring my fermentation refrigerator over.  In my more ambitious moments, I think about building a small bar/tasting area–but we’ll have to see about that.

The project is a bit daunting, but I am excited to get started and (at a minimum) get things moved over to clear out some space in the house.  Not sure when I’ll be able to make progress on this project, but I’ll be excited to post updates when the time comes!



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