New Brewhouse Helps Jackrabbit Catch Up to Demand and Plants ProBrew firmly in California
WEST SACRAMENTO, CA — “It’s a common story; I don’t even like to tell it,” says Erle Mankin, co-owner of Jackrabbit Brewing. “Four guys were homebrewing together and decided to start a brewery.”
That brewery, initially a 7 bbl system producing a couple hundred barrels, is now expected to produce about 1,800 bbl in 2020 for distribution across northern California.
West Sacramento has a population of around 50,000 people, but Mankin describes the area as peppered throughout with open fields in which, on any given day, one can see their namesake jackrabbits cavorting. They have a picture from the day they scouted out their current location, when they arrived to find a jackrabbit sitting right in front of the door as if to give its approval and blessing.
There’s some kind of magic going on, because eventually the brewers found they couldn’t keep their fermenters full (4 x 15 bbl and 2 x 30 bbl) with the growing demand in their area. Not to mention it took two to four brew cycles over two days of double shifts with the 7bbl brewhouse to fill the fermenters in the first place.
That old system had plenty of idiosyncrasies, too. They had retro-fitted old dairy equipment (another way their story feels typical to them) to serve their purposes, and their old brew kettle was actually three separate barrel drums welded together and heated with individual burners beneath each. Every part of the process, of course, was manual, from mash in to grain out. Cleaning a three-in-one kettle was no picnic, either.
ProBrew Shows Up in the Nick of Time
Around the time they were feeling fed up with the old system and seeing orders continue to pile up, ProBrew’s West Coast Director of Sales, Chad Urlaub happened to walk through their doors. “They’re right in my backyard here in Sacramento,” Urlaub notes, “and being a local producer is really cool. It was a chance meeting, and they basically said, ‘Yeah, we’re ready to kick this thing out the door.’”
Mankin and the Jackrabbit folks liked the idea of a system actually designed for brewing beer. Urlaub worked closely with them to determine just which features they did and didn’t need.
Urlaub says that breweries accustomed to manual systems often don’t realize just how much is possible at their price point, so a lot of his job is helping them play with different configurations and options: “This is more a process of showing the customer what our automation and technology can do step-by-step, how that will benefit their operation in the long run, and guiding them to better understand what they do and don’t want.’
“Anything is more automated than before,” Mankin jokes, but he is pleased with the fact that they could get a brewhouse they wanted at the price point they needed. “Chad worked with us on all ther details and got us everything we wanted, and he didn’t push back when we started cutting frills.”
They didn’t cut out all the frills, of course. One feature they like is the grist case mounted over the mash tun, an innovation necessitated by the tight space they had to work in. “They couldn’t even have stairs to their brew deck,” Urlaub explains, “so we had to change that to a ladder, but designing to fit into a small space was definitely not a first for us.”
They also like to show off their wort grant. “The sexy wort grant, that’s like a sight glass—that’s a great plus,” says Mankin. “When other brewers come and collaborate with us or come over and visit with us since we’ve installed the system, they want to see that bubbling.”
“We paired it with an oversized hot liquor tank,” he continues, “which we were very happy with. We pushed for that, wanting more water. You can never have too much hot water on demand.”
The biggest value thus far has been the time and efficiency gains from larger batches with higher yields. Now they can fill a 30 bbl fermenter in a single day and begin to catch up to the market demand they’ve been seeing.
“Today, there’s probably 1,300, 1,400 barrels of need out there,” Mankin estimates. “This year we should get to 1,800 [barrels]. Some of the foundation we set last year is paying dividends.”
“We’re excited to be the first ProBrew brewhouse in California,” Mankin says. “We’re hoping Chad can do some more selling and send some people over here to check out our system and we can say nice things about ProBrew.”
ProBrew has already continued to grow their California customer with a new 4-vessel, 30 bbl brewhouse scheduled to ship to Flying Embers in Los Angeles mid-April this year. Stay tuned for that exciting brewery and kombuchery (fun new word) in an upcoming issue of ProBrew News!