Discretion Brewing’s 20-barrel system has the capacity to brew twice as much beer and is more energy-efficient than the old 10-barrel system, and you can see it all in action March 11 when Discretion celebrates 10 years in business.
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Discretion Brewing has upgraded its brewhouse just in time for the Soquel establishment to celebrate its 10th anniversary. The new 20-barrel system has the capacity to brew twice as much beer and is more energy-efficient than the old 10-barrel system, which Discretion has used since it opened in 2013. “It has a lot of features that will help us, help our product and help our customers,” says Rob Genco, who co-owns the brewery with his wife, Kathleen.
The new 20-barrel system is now the second largest in Santa Cruz County, after Humble Sea Brewing’s 30-barrel system, and will allow Discretion to brew up to 60 barrels of beer in a day and a half. Other local breweries have systems that brew seven to 10 barrels at a time. (A barrel is equal to 31 gallons or two full-size kegs.)
One way the new system is more efficient is the way it heats water. The old brewing system used a hot-water tank to store hot water for brewing, while the new system has six parallel on-demand gas water heaters that quickly heat water to the correct temperature as needed. Now, it’s not necessary to store hot water until the brewery needs it. “As soon as we turn it off, it’s done. If you’re not brewing you’re not heating water, which is great,” Rob Genco says.
With the on-demand gas water heaters, the temperature is easier to control as well. More precise temperature control wastes less energy and produces better beer, explains Genco.
The system cools more efficiently, too. In brewing, before yeast is added, the hot wort, which contains all the grain extracts, must be cooled down rapidly to a temperature that won’t kill the delicate yeast. The new two-stage heat exchanger doesn’t require a reserve of cold water to circulate around the beer. And the new mill grinds grain more efficiently and precisely, which results in better, cleaner flavor.
“It’s just a beautiful system,” says Genco. “Our whole design is to be more energy-efficient and hourly efficient. Now, we can brew a lot more beer with the same number of people.” This will be particularly useful during the summer months when demand for Discretion’s lager styles like Shimmer Pils pilsner and Ten Million Flowers, a honey-orange kolsch, is high.
The upgrade is more than three years in the making. Discretion purchased the brewhouse from Altamont Beer Works in Livermore at the end of 2019, but paused the installation at the onset of the pandemic. A year ago, the Gencos moved the project forward again but faced construction delays and supply shortages.
It has finally been completed, just in time for Discretion to celebrate its 10th anniversary on Saturday, March 11, with an all-day party of live music, a photo booth and a kids play-and-explore area hosted by Monterey Bay nonprofit Save Our Shores. Two special beers — Submarine Canyon, an IPA brewed with Meyer lemon and sea salt, and Anniversary 2023, a Vienna lager — will be available on draft and in cans. Find more info at discretionbrewing.com.