In the spirit of self-sufficiency we have designed, bought, and installed a boat brewery aboard. Over the past couple years we have moved ever closer to being self-sufficient and relying less on overpriced grocery stores in foreign ports. We catch our protein, bake our own bread, make yogurt, grow sprouts and wheat grass, press coconut milk, and now we can brew our own beer!
While back in the states we visited my uncle, Jess, who lives in Boise, Idaho. He mentioned he has been brewing beer in his garage; we requested to see the operation and sample the goods. He is an excellent brewer and all five of the beers he had on tap were outstanding. I told him how much we have been paying for beer in the islands ($4 US per can!) and he asked why we don’t brew on the boat. A light came on that I was unable to turn off. He helped us brainstorm some of the issues specific to brewing aboard such as keeping the fermentation temp down, storage issues, keg size, etc. Upon returning to Hawaii I ordered all the gear necessary for brewing and kegging beer. We now have a complete brewing setup including, kettle, chiller, fermenting carboy, stainless kegs (one for beer and one for carbonated water), CO2 tanks, regulators and a stainless steel double tap tower for dispensing the magical final product. We were able to fit a 5 gallon and and 2.5 gallon keg in the fridge no problem. Our fridge used to be a cold box so it has a lot of space in the bottom that was previously used to store blocks of ice. It was a dead space in the fridge where we stored cans of beer, when we could afford to buy it. Conveniently the depth made it possible to fit a 5 gallon low-profile ball lock keg!
We brewed our first batch a week ago, let it ferment in the soft cooler (to lower the temp by 10 degrees so it’s in the 65-70 degree range required for fermentation), and then kegged it. After a night in the fridge to cool it down to 35-40 degrees, we hooked it up to CO2 and force carbonated. I had my doubts about the quality of the first batch but one sip and a huge smile later, we can confidently say we successfully brewed a high-quality wheat ale on a boat in the tropics! Our buddy Jessie is visiting us this week so he has already made a dent in our supply. Looks like we’ll need to stock a lot of raw ingredients!
I plan to write a detailed page about our onboard brewing system because the info out there specific to brewing aboard a boat in the tropics is limited to non-existent. We need to share this with our fellow sailors so you too can start brewing high-quality beer aboard!
Here are some pics of the brewing system and process: