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Riverwards IPA: brewing on a commercial scale

Updated on
*Bison Brew is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Riverwards IPA: brewing on a commercial scale

Updated on

I recently had the opportunity to design and brew a beer with my friend, and head brewer, John Wible at 2nd Story Brewing Company in Philly. Back in April of 2014, I won 2nd Best Of Show for batch #1 of HopWards in the Philly Homebrew Cup, the prize was the aforementioned brew day. John and I have brewed together in the past and chat about hoppy beer brewing quite regularly so I was looking forward to working with him on a commercial scale.

two brewers standing on a platform next to a mash tun and kettle
Ed/John, brewing is serious biz.

Once I got the inevitable question of “Can we use Brett or bacteria in your brewhouse?” out of the way (the answer was “hell no” btw) we settled on our shared passion for hoppy beers and set out to build an IPA recipe. Due to contracting and limited availability, it is not as easy to acquire some of the trendy hop varieties on a commercial scale as we can as homebrewers. Luckily though, John already had Citra, Amarillo, and Simcoe on hand so we could run with what would essentially be batch #2 of We Talkin ‘Bout Practice. I tweaked the grain bill quite a bit from that initial batch, using 10% Wheat and 10% Oats with the rest base malt, and dropping the sugar.

We blended equal parts Citra and Amarillo late in the boil, and even more in the whirlpool to achieve a tropical fruit juice character. To finish it off it was dry-hopped with a 40/40/20 ratio of Citra/Amarillo/Simcoe, adding the Simcoe in for a little bit of piney complexity to keep from being too one dimensional. The end goal is a super fruity, tropical juice forward IPA with a creamy texture and a subtle pineyness. 2nd Story uses Conan (from BSI) as their house yeast strain so pair that with the above and we the makings of some tasty IPA.

grain going through mill

I got to the brewery early in the morning, boots on, and let John know that I was ready to get my hands dirty. 2nd Story brewing is in the Old City section of Philadelphia, and if you’re familiar with the area you’ll know that space in these old buildings is at a premium. For the neighborhood, however, the brewpub is actually quite big, but the brewhouse itself is a bit tight especially with me and a few friends tweeting and snapping photos all day. A lot of thought went into laying out the brewhouse to maximize what limited space there is, its an impressive system.

mash in
Pretending to stir the mash, note the strike water and grist are already fully integrated. You can see the arm that the auger and HLT tubing meet and excrete the mash.

We started in the basement where we opened 1,000 pounds of grain sack by sack and fed it into the mill which is transferred up to the second-floor brewery via the auger. John already had our water measured out and heated to our strike temperature in the HLT before I got there, we hooked up a few hoses and started to mash in. This is the point where I was supremely impressed by the ingenuity of this system, the strike water, and milled grain are fully integrated as it is pumped and/or auger’d meeting in the same tubing that is then dropped right into the mash tun, video proof. Despite the obligatory mash stirring photo, there is absolutely no stirring necessary.

The brewhouse uses steam jackets to heat the kettle and HLT but the mash tun is just an insulated vessel with a loose-fitting lid. However, the false bottom and simple pick up tube on the mash tun is very efficient at leaving virtually all grain particles behind leaving no reason to recirculate. After the mash was complete we used the grant to prime the pump, then pumped right into the boil kettle. With such a large volume of wort in a huge boil kettle, it is hard to see the rate at which the runnings are flowing. With a smaller volume of liquid in the grant, you can more easily monitor the flow rate coming out of the mash so you can match the flow of the sparge with some consistency.

wort grant and diverter panel
That’s the grant, on left is the panel you connect stainless tubing to transfer liquid via all vessels so there is not a web of hoses all over the floor. Another bit of genius engineering due to space constraints.

As the first runnings filled the boil kettle we turned on the lower jacket to bring the wort to a boil and added the FWH addition of CTZ. After the whole kettle was filled we fired up the second (upper) jacket and we reached the boil in short order. Another bit of ingenuity that impressed me was all of the steam coming off of the boil (its a lot) is captured and condensed back into water then moved over to the HLT to be used for cleaning, so awesome.

brewer adding 60 min hops
I had to change my shirt, it got soiled.

After a 60 minute boil, we turned the jackets off and sent the wort through the chiller and back into the kettle to bring the wort temp down to 185F for our whirlpool addition of Citra/Amarillo then rested for 45 minutes. When the whirlpool rest was complete the wort was pumped through the glycol chiller and chilled to 55F, aerated inline, then through the yeast brink and into the FV, all closed system as you can see on the right. But before the wort was aerated and pitched John filled a few of my fermenters with chilled/unpitched wort for me to use various yeast strains and methods at home. There will be multiple follow up posts on all of the different ways I split the 20 gallons he allowed me to take, from 100% Brett to a barrel-aged version using my Tired Hands Emptiness culture, this wort will produce many a variation.

Filling a homebrew bucket from a commercial brewers hose
Gimme that wort John, the aromas filling the brewpub at this point were amazing.
brewer shoveling grain during grain out
Grain gets shoveled onto the floor, then down an 8″ pipe that leads to the basement and into trash bins. You can barely see the green pipe between my legs.

There were a few takeaways from the day for me most importantly that the process itself is not much different than what we all do at home, only bigger and surprisingly easier due to pimped out equipment. Grain out and cleaning the mash tun was a ton of work, hot, sticky, and messy but as a one-time thing, it was actually kind of fun. It was a truly great experience, and I am grateful to John and the Philly Homebrew Club for offering up the opportunity to win the prize. I look forward to winning again in 2015 and making John introduce some Brett to his brewhouse :). As of this posting Riverwards IPA is still on tap, despite my best efforts to drink the entire tank, so if you’re local go buy a pint and say hi to John.

Tasting notes to follow.

mash tun
You want me to get inside the mash tun to clean it?

2/12/15 – Tasting Notes: NOT-Brett Trois Riverwards IPA

Photos courtesy of my buddy Bill Shouldis, you can see the full album here.

Riverwards IPA

Brew day: 12/4/2014

Recipe Specifications


Boil Size: 7.25 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.85 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.25 gal
Estimated OG: 1.060 SG
Measured OG: 1.060 SG
Measured FG: 1.012 SG
ABV: 6.3%
Estimated Color: 4.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 42 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


78.8% – 10lbs 4oz – Viking 2-Row Pale Malt (3.1 SRM)
10.6% – 1lbs 6oz – Great Western White Wheat Malt
10.6% – 1lbs 6oz – Flaked Oats


Boil: 60min – 0.25 oz CTZ [17.00 %] – 16.1 IBUs
Boil: 15min – 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil: 5min – 1.25 oz Amarillo [8.90 %] – 7.7 IBUs
Boil: 5min – 1.25 oz Citra [14.50 %] – 12.5 BUs
45 Minute Whirlpool 185f – 1.50 oz Amarillo [8.90 %] – 1.7 IBUs
30 Minute Whirlpool 185f – 1.50 oz Citra [14.50 %] – 2.2 IBUs
Dry Hop: 5 days – 2.50 oz Amarillo [8.50 %]
Dry Hop: 5 days – 2.50 oz Citra [12.00 %]
Dry Hop: 5 days – 1.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %]


Imperial Organic Yeast A20 Citrus


Sacch rest – 60 min @ 150 F


Fly Sparge 4.60 gallons 170f


Filtered Philadelphia Tap water.

The commercial batch actually had an OG of 1.056 since John’s pitch of Conan achieves 80%+ AA and finished at 1.007, but the above is how I brew the recipe on a homebrew system.


5 gallons at home was pitched with 500ml of fresh “Brett” Trois slurry, ironically 2 days before the news broke that it may not be a strain of Brettanomyces. 13 gallons was pitched with my Tired Hands Emptiness culture, and racked into my 1-year-old Dad’s Hat barrel blended with 2 gallons of 1-year-old Farmer in the Rye.

The final 2 gallons was split into 1-gallon fermenters split with 2 brett blends that Richard from Mark of the Yeast. There will be a post on all of these variations as they materialize, with the barrel-aged version last of course.

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